It's a gentle slice-of-life story, about a girl called Suzu from Hiroshima who gets married and goes to live with his husband's family. They're all nice (except for his widowed older sister). Suzu likes drawing and daydreaming. This is a film about ordinary people getting on with their lives.
However the film's time span goes from 1933 (Suzu as a young girl) to roughly 1946. The whole world knows about a certain event on 6 August 1945, although the film's bigger than that. It never loses its charm, but it's a meticulous depiction of what life was like at an increasingly bad time. Young men in the army will assume they've got a life expectancy to be measured in weeks, so any meeting is effectively a goodbye. They're likely to be right. The film also makes it clear at the end that our heroes don't understand radiation poisoning and so the audience has a better idea than the characters about who's not got long left. Expect air raids, death, life-changing injuries, dwindling rations and stoic domesticity. "Eat it while it's warm. The house burned, but the potatoes cooked."
The attitudes and beliefs are interesting. "A light of hope for world peace." They think they're the good guys, as do most of us. When Emperor Hirohito announces Japan's surrender in the Jewel Voice Broadcast, Suzu's furious. She'd thought Japan was in the right. Hadn't they promised to fight to the last man? Why did everyone suffer and put up with so much, then?
The film never goes off to war, but it's there in the background and occasionally it comes to us. Americans drop bombs. Even at quiet times, though, the locals can see the ships in the harbour, including a German U-boat... but remember that the military police are watching you.
This was a crowdfunded film, incidentally, but it's based on an award-winning manga and it beat Your Name at the Japan Academy to win Best Animation of the Year. (Those are two of the three international breakout anime films of 2016, with the other being A Silent Voice. I think this film's the lowest-profile of the three, though.) It's also had live-action adaptations, while this film's been promised an extended edition that's thirty minutes longer, called In This Corner (and Other Corners) of the World.
This is an honest film about a tough subject, but it's not gruelling. It's not Grave of the Fireflies. It's got a sense of humour and a simple, relaxing art style. Sunao Katabuchi also directed Mai Mai Miracle (which was lovely) and I must watch his Princess Arete. I'll be giving this film to Dad for his birthday.