Reviewby Kim Morrissy,
In This Corner (and Other Corners) of the World
Suzu is a quiet and ordinary -- if not a bit of clumsy and daydreaming -- girl growing up in the outskirts of the city of Hiroshima in mid-1930s. She loves drawing sketches with pencils -- a hobby she is really good at. Following her parents' arrangement in 1943, 18-year-old Suzu is married to a young man living in Kure, a neighboring city with a large naval base, in which he works as a civilian secretary for the military tribunal. There she faces a new life, a new family, as well as many new challenges and hardships, particularly with the worsening life conditions due to the Pacific War. Yet Suzu manages to find happiness and peace in her daily life. This expanded version of the 2016 film also tells the story of Suzu's friendship with Rin Shiraki, a woman from the red-light district.
In This Corner of the World is a modern classic, having received accolades and awards since it first debuted in 2016. Even without the release of an expanded version, it's definitely the kind of film that you'd want to watch more than once in order to soak in all the emotional nuance and historical detail. In This Corner (and Other Corners) of the World is a good excuse to rewatch a great film, even if its additions don't dramatically change the story.
The biggest new addition is a subplot between the protagonist Suzu and Rin, a sex worker. Rin was featured passingly in the original film, when Suzu gets lost in the red-light district on the way back home from a shopping trip. Their relationship is greatly expanded on here, as they form a friendship and Suzu discovers a surprising connection between them. It's the closest thing this story gets to a romantic drama, and it does help ground Suzu's desires and motivations in something beyond prosaic concerns. In This Corner of the World isn't just a period piece - it's also a coming-of-age story about a girl who discovers what she really wants in her own life through the trials and tribulations of war. The extra 30 minutes that this film adds makes that theme more prominent.
It's genuinely impressive how seamlessly Rin's subplot is woven throughout the film. The overall plot plays out identically to the original, with a Rin part added once every two or three scenes or so after her introduction. The fallout from the war gives the subplot an air of unfinished business, which seems fitting given the tone of the film. Some lines of dialogue feel a bit too on-the-nose regarding the themes of this film, but the addition of some genuinely touching sequences regarding the conditions of sex workers during the war makes up for that. It's also worth noting that this subplot was originally part of the manga by Fumiyo Kouno that this film is based on, but which didn't make the cut the first time around. Because it was always an important part of the original tale, not a single note of it feels out of place when adapted to the screen.
Besides the addition of Rin's subplot, there are other bits and pieces throughout the film that have changed: little flourishes of animation and small connecting scenes. I'm sure that enthusiasts will comb through both versions to find more differences that don't stand out upon a casual viewing, but in the end, the overall experience feels much the same. As far as I can tell, no original footage was removed; only new footage was added. The only significant downside is that this version inflates the run time of a film that was already rather long to begin with, so it's possible that you'll feel some fatigue by the end of it. Personally, however, my attention never waned once throughout the entire film.
For those who haven't seen the original film, this is a perfect place to jump in. It's that kind of slow-paced yet engrossing family drama that makes you feel as if you've watched an entire saga play out by the end of it. Suzu starts out as an air-headed girl who struggles to pay attention to the things around her, but even she can't ignore the gradually worsening conditions caused by the Pacific War. The whole story is told with a light touch and stoic cheerfulness until the point when that's no longer possible. But even then, life goes on. This film has some of the most touching and profound displays of human emotion that you'll ever see.
The art style and character designs are simple, but there's a sense of warmth in the presentation that's evident throughout every scene. The character animation is down-to-earth and restrained for the most part, which serves to make the key scenes featuring some more experimental art styles to stand out even more. This film is breathtaking in every part that matters, and some of the extra scenes added to the expanded version emphasize that aspect even more. Historical buildings and the Hiroshima countryside are depicted with loving attention to detail, which makes subsequent viewings rewarding to watch.
Although I'd love to see director Sunao Katabuchi tackle new projects in the future, I can totally understand his impulse to polish his masterwork to make it stand out even more. That said, I'm comfortable with recommending either version for a first-time viewer. The Rin subplot wasn't so essential that it needed to be in the original film, and all the extra animations feel like icing on the cake for what was already a beautiful film. If you loved the original, you'll appreciate the opportunity to revisit this charming tale, and if it's your first time, then strap yourself in for an experience with one of the world's finest masterpieces of animated storytelling. It's great cinema either way.
Overall : A+
Story : A+
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ Rin's subplot fits in seamlessly, a good excuse to rewatch a great film
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