Friday, November 3, 2017

In this Corner of the World Review

Chronicling the daily life of Suzu Urano during World War Two as she grows up in Eba a town located near Hiroshima attending school and helping in her family seaweed cultivation business. Until at the age of Eighteen she receives a marriage proposal from Shuusaku Houjou a forgotten childhood acquaintance from the port city of Kure. Quickly having to learn how to adapt not only to the new dynamic of marrying into another family but also the progressively grimmer realities of civilian life from Allied bombing raids to food rationing. All while the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima hangs over the story like the Sword of Damocles. It would be far too easy to damn this series with the faint praise of platitudes such as "life-affirming" or "poignant and lyrical" making any analysis of the work come off as back cover copy or a pull quote for later editions. Yet this series more than it's stark realities and historical accuracy is a story about Suzu and her growth as a human being it would be really easy to simply make this about Suzu and her Sex but that would do a disservice to universal truths of the story. Suzu at times comes off as another Sazae Fuguta though more with a touch of the romantic dreamer in her often times having to juggle her own personal desires with the realities of war, being newly married and being unable to have children with her husband due to the poor nutrition and stress of wartime combined with having an often acerbic sister-in-law Keiko who could been a one dimensional archetype but came off as more wounded and lashing out due to painful life circumstances under the Patriarchal and Militrisitc culture of Wartime Japan . This kind of even-handed realistic character writing is what makes the series so special every character has multiple layers including flaws and weaknesses. Suzu may be plucky but she is just as likely to question whether she will ever fit in or be able to be a good wife or what the War ultimately had any greater purpose. As to the question of the presentation of the War, this is neither an Anti-War story like Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen or a retelling of historical fact like Shigeru Mizuki's Showa: A History of Japan. Instead, it simply presents the daily life a family during wartime with that War sometimes costing them dearly. Kouno-Sensei is less interested in making a political statement the justice or injustice of The War or highhandedly and condescendingly condemning past generations than she is in letting the proverbial dead speak.Just as content to show daily life and the relationships and small kindnesses Suzu forms with her new family as well as other citizens of her home city. From learning how to make white rice out of brown rice to now long forgotten marriage customs. At times this feels more like a slice of life Manga than a Manga about World War II and that is a good thing as life during wartime is often just that life. The daily necessities of making food mending clothing interacting with other humans while also having to adjust to the austerities imposed by war. This makes the overall theme of the seeming futility and absurdity of Japan's Imperialistic venture all the more trenchant and somber while ending on a simple and profoundly true appeal to simple human kindness. In this Corner of the World is less interested in trying to score political points than it is in getting you to love it's characters and succeeding exponentially. Showing a deep understanding of the characters inner lives while also making the city feel like home for the audience with a decidedly old-fashioned art style that grows progressively more and more "modern" looking as the series progresses. Going from backgrounds and character design that look more at home in 1930s Newspaper Comic strips to wordless expertly framed scenes that make great use of Manga as a visual storytelling medium. I can not recommend this book enough it is an emotional feast giving bitter, sweet, and bittersweet servings of life and humanity to the audience reading it made me want to be a better person and grow more in my understanding and emotional comprehension of empathy for others. Heartfelt and nourishing like the stories of Kenji Miyazawa

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