July 24, 2017

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In This Corner of The World

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In This Corner of The World is a manga that portrays the lives of Suzu Urano, a woman who was born in Eba, Hiroshima city and moved to Kure, another city in the Hiroshima Prefecture to marry. Suzu is a sweet girl who likes drawing. Her soft and natural personality that invites warm interactions with people around her. The illustrations are drawn in a hand written style and you can feel the warmth of the characters from them. The story covers her life from 1933 to 1946. There is another prominent manga that takes place in Hiroshima,  Barefoot Gen, that depicted people’s lives under and after WWII. It reflects the horrific impact of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and the very tragic aftermath of the war. Compared to Barefoot Gen, In This Corner of The World is less tragic though it covers some tragedy of war, because the main focus is instead the everyday lives of citizens in Eba and Kure, and culture of the region. So, you can see things about the Hiroshima Prefecture that Barefoot Gen did not depict.

There are many works in Japan focused on the tragedies of WWII. Feeling a little unsatisfied with this trend, there are some authors who attempt to shed light on the ordinary daily lives of people during WWII. One example is novel, Little House by Kyoko Nakajima that describes a relatively wealthy family that adopts the modern style of living while in Tokyo. This story focuses on what was going on in the house from the perspective of a maid, Taki. Compared to Little House, In This Corner of the World depicts the quiet and ordinary lives of people at larger scale and involves a greater amount of people.  

In This Corner of The World is not only an enjoyable comic to read, but it also has historic value in that the details of the lives at that time are depicted in a different light.  For example, there are informative illustrations of the clothing and tools that were used during the war that helps you learn about the culture at that time.

Originally In This Corner of The World was published in a comic magazine, Manga Action from 2007 to 2009. The graphic novels consisting of three volumes, were published in 2009.

The comic was adapted into an animated film with the same title and released in October of 2016. The film has been very well received and attracted 1,900,000 people in audiences to the theaters and the box office reached 2.5 billion yen as of March 25th, 2017. The film of In This Corner of The World won numerous Japanese film awards including the best animated film of the year in the 40th Japanese Academy Awards in March of 2017. The dubbing by actress Non for Suzu is quite good. Non successfully described the plain, yet innocent inner beauty of Suzu, and was awarded the Shinsain Tokubetsu Sho ( roughly translates Special Recognition Award from Juries) in the 38th Yokohama Film Festival in February of 2017.

According to Eiga.com, In This Corner of The World is going to be released in North American theaters, summer of this year.

The director of the film, Sunao Katabuchi’s previous film, Mai Mai Miracle in 2009 gained a lot of attention after the success of In This Corner of The World. Katabuchi has previously worked with the internationally acclaimed Hayao Miyazaki in his film, Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Mai Mai Miracle

Mai Mai Miracle

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 This Corner of The World refers to Hiroshima,  but I believe that it also can mean Japan today. At the press conference on July 2015 that was held by Hayao Miyazaki, a French correspondent, Joel Legendre stated that many years ago when French correspondent asked Yukio Mishima what it mean to be Japanese, Mishima answered, ”invisible”. Legendre then posed a question to Hayao Miyazaki, ”what is it to be Japanese to you?”. Miyazaki answered that the Japanese are people who live on islands in corners of the world, and they should be able to live in peace within nature.

This is an answer Miyazaki gave off the top of his head. I do not think he was thinking of the comic, In This Corner of The World, so this is simply coincidence.

Therefore, I believe that people who live in corners of the world can be one definition of Japanese people proposed by some artists.

Source:

  1. http://www.oricon.co.jp/news/2085464/full/
  1. http://mainichi.jp/articles/20170327/dyo/00m/200/015000c
  2. http://eiga.com/news/20170201/12/

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