In This Corner of the World: A History Lesson on Hope & Healing | OWLS “Warmth”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s twelfth monthly topic, “Warmth,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard review of In This Corner of the World into a sympathetic discussion on the hardships of war and loss, and how love gives us the strength to continue being compassionate through even the worst of times.

It’s the season of joy, thankfulness, and love. This month’s topic is “Warmth.” Whether it is spending time with family members during the holiday season or with that special someone during New Year’s Eve, we will be discussing moments in anime and pop culture media that convey a feeling of happiness in our hearts. During times of struggles, we look towards the things that matter to us as a source of strength, hope, and happiness. We hope you enjoy this round of posts and that you, too, will have a wonderful holiday season!

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I’ve nothing else to say for the intro! Thank you Lyn for twelve consecutively thoughtful topics to ponder each month—I’ve enjoyed writing for all of them!


A brief spoiler-free discussion on the fall 2016 anime film “In This Corner of the World,” produced by studio MAPPA, directed by Sunao Katabuchi (“Black Lagoon”), based on Fumiyo Kouno’s award-winning manga of the same name.

New Life, New Opportunities

In 1944, life for Suzu Urano starts slipping through her tiny calloused fingers. For one, she is married to Shuusaku Houjou, a reserved young clerk, and is sent off to the small town of Kure in Hiroshima where her husband works at the local naval base. Now living with the Houjou family, Suzu must adjust to her new life, which is made especially difficult since she quickly becomes an essential meal-making, chore-doing crutch for the family. She does all of the daily housework during the tough wartime conditions, and the familial disconnect Suzu experiences between her sister-in-law—timed with the regular air raids—makes both the political and household climates feel like battlefields.

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When intense bombings by the U.S. military finally reach Kure in 1945, devastation to Hiroshima and its townsfolk, as well as its culture, forever shake the nation, and Suzu’s life is permanently impacted by the tragedies. “Much is gained by living in Kure, but with war, many things cherished are also lost.” It is only through the greatest perseverance and courage that Suzu manages to continue caring for those around her, and to truly live life to the fullest.

“Torn apart by war. Brought together by love.”

By its end, In This Corner of the World is a somber ode to history, wherein the tragedies of WWII’s Hiroshima bombing are experienced firsthand by the main characters. But before the bomb is dropped, the entire first half of the film winds us back to the 1920s, Suzu’s peaceful childhood. It starts this way to not only show Suzu’s developing story from beginning to end, but also to create the picturesque vision of pre-war times in Japan, specifically Hiroshima and its surrounding towns. As every 5 or 10-minute interval—marked by on-screen dates—brings us closer to that horrific day, August 6, 1945, your stomach starts churning in dreadful anticipation; you know what’s about to happen, and you’re almost left disbelieving how Suzu’s whole life could just fall apart in an instant.

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Akin to African author Achebe’s world-renowned novel, Things Fall Apart, which was written to show that life, law, and liberty already existed before the white man saw the need to organize, colonize, and, get this, “save” Africa, Fumiyo Kouno’s story serves to inform the viewer about the other side of the Pacific. You are put through the trials and tribulations of Suzu’s daily life, from learning to properly make a meal using rations to understanding the familial benefits of marriage, in order to hopefully understand that despite their differing customs, both the attackers and the attacked have things they want to protect.

I set up a pretty overwhelming historical background here, but the film really isn’t that political at all. Rather, its a drama centered around one little girl’s average life during WWII, and how no matter the global circumstances plaguing a household cause ruin and chaos, life goes on. That’s right, life will always go on. There are always things to be fixed, clothes to be washed, and food to be cooked. Suzu understand this, and that’s why she faces each painstaking day blessed that there’s still a roof above her family’s head. In This Corner of the World, though rife with tragedy, is ultimately a heartwarming tale of Suzu’s prevailing love and healing hands.

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A Hero at Home: Suzu Urano

Characterized as tiny, optimistic, and a bit aloof at times, Suzu Urano goes through great lengths to help in anyway she can, even if her assistance comically ends up backfiring in the end. She’s also incredibly creative, shown in both her beautiful landscape sketches and paintings, as well as when she wields her knowledge of samurai food rationing to construct some, at the very least, “interesting” dishes. Her artistic talents act as a sort of sanctuary for her, and it is through her simple yet gorgeous works that she meets many new friends and even potential lovers. But like all artistic endeavors, chores come first, and slowly you start to see the hobbies that she once did for herself fade away to make room for aiding the family.

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On top of working her hardest around the house (her efforts eventually exceeding those of everyone around her), Suzu is a girl, a soon-to-be-woman who undergoes all of the same treatments that Japanese women received during the 1900s. From stricter expectations in the kitchen and household to family-controlled courtship, rarely is Suzu the master of her own fate. Yet somehow, Suzu makes the best of what is given to her, for merely being allowed to experience the tranquility and joys of everyday life in Kure is enough to give her hope and purpose. Honestly, what a woman!

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Suzu only speaks out once or twice in the entire film—remember, this is a film that chronicles Suzu’s ENTIRE life! She many not be honest to herself all the time, frequently disregarding her own happiness and well-being for the sake of her family and her nation’s pride, but Suzu knows how to fight the good fight, as well as when to keep pushing on through the toughest of hardships. Between watching her frugal attempts at fitting in with her husband’s family, her struggle to adjust to life in Kure, and the tragedies of war she later encounters, it feels as if you physically and emotionally cannot go through as much heartache that is thrust upon her and make it out ok. Yet Suzu manages to bandage up her scars and continue making herself useful to everyone. The warmth she brings to the war-torn world embodies the purest light of hope in a time of darkness.

Visually, the Softest Movie I’ve Ever Seen

“It was like Studio Ghibli meets the Peanuts and together they talk about some pretty serious stuff.” This was my immediate reaction to the film which I posted on Twitter, and I still stand by these words now. The backgrounds are painted so smoothly, giving off an immense sense of ease, and the magical watercolor touch just feels so right. Even the characters, for a lack of a better word, look so . . . “soft.” There’s a lack of detail in their physical features, but it’s their sometimes cute, sometimes sorrowful mannerisms and words that convey their true characters. Seeing characters this adorable almost feels wrong for the tone of the film’s second half where the air raids become prominent, but it somehow works altogether as one moving, breathing, snapshot of history.

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(If you watch the special feature clip “Hiroshima & Kure: Then & Now,” you’ll understand how and why it all looks so historically accurate; the attention to detail in re-creating several destroyed sites where famous architecture once stood was very commendable.)

The luscious animation is accompanied by equally gentle music, as kotringo’s (Rieko Miyoshi) soundtrack matches perfectly with the tone. At times uplifting, other times more tender or melancholic, tracks like “Kanashikute Yari Kirenai” or my personal favorite, the ED theme “Migite no Uta (みぎてのうた)” provide lovely messages to live by: “Even in this painful and broken world, there IS hope.”

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Learn From Fiction: Heartwarming Tenderness Comes From How We Live

It is stories like Suzu Urano’s that give us all the fuzziest feelings of contentment and comfort. But like all stories, they eventually end, and once they’re over, the books get placed back on the shelves, and the DVDs and Blu-rays are ejected from their players. And that’s it. It’s all just entertainment, anyway.

*If you’ve ever thought this, then you completely missed the point as to why certain works even exist in the first place.

All fiction is written with messages, no matter how significant or insignificant. With the case of In This Corner of the World, it’s to showcase the tragedies of war firsthand, and the devastation that comes with violence. That should’ve been apparent from the synopsis alone. Looking deeper, we can understand more big takeaways from the film:

  • Hardships exist everywhere—someone is always struggling
  • Protect family, for without it we are fundamentally alone
  • Gender roles can limit individuals from reaching their full potential
  • The youth of today ARE our future
  • With destruction comes the joy of rebirth
  • By rebuilding from the ground up, we build a stronger foundation than the one before it
  • Make the most of your life—you only get one, and it goes by incredibly fast
  • WE ALL have the choice to be happy or sad, rude or nice—live the way you want to
  • Be thankful for what the earth provides, and what you can do for it in return
  • And lastly, to quote The End of Evangelion, “Anywhere can be paradise, so long as you have the will to live”

Just LOOK AT ALL OF THOSE THINGS I CAME UP WITH. And that only took me a couple minutes of reflection.

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History will always be our greatest teacher

Authors, directors, artists, musicians—Creators improve on what skills they already have in order to teach us invaluable lessons about the human experience. They have the power to take all the world’s evil and tell us that life can be incredible, so long as we don’t repeat history’s mistakes. Don’t just watch a film: enjoy what it is trying to show you. Don’t just read a book: revel in the messages left in-between the lines. Take what you learn and monopolize on it! Essentially, BE the good in the world!

In This Corner of the World presents the catastrophic effects of humanity’s cruelty, savagery, and barbarity—yes, absolutely. But it also exists to tell us that through the ashes, we can rebuild; that we can be kind to others, even if they treat us harshly; that most of all, we have the choice to see the good in this wild, wicked, unfair world.

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As a race, we have this terrible tendency to appear on the wrong side of history (if you know what I mean). The title In This Corner of the World refers to both Suzu’s tiny Kure house on the hill AND a state of harmony achieved by acknowledging and balancing the positives and negatives that life throws at us. A heartbreaking historical ballad for those we have wronged, and the terrible things we have done, In This Corner of the World is here to say that life goes on, and that as long as we try to understand one another, hope and a warm heart will always allow us to move forward.

We can love. We can rebuild. We can move on. But we’ll never truly forget.

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self. – Aldous Huxley


This can be a hard film to watch, but it all depends on how seriously you decide to take it. It has several comedic points of value in it, as well as a very cute presentation style, but don’t let those two aspects close you off from In This Corner of the World‘s subtle brilliance and emotional depth. As a powerful, touching work of art, this film is awarded the “Caffe Mocha” seal of approval, a rating for those special titles that I consider to be a must-watch!

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This concludes my December 20th entry in the OWLS “Warmth” blog tour. Arria Cross of Fujinsei went right before me and expressed her sincere gratitude to all of her fellow readers, bloggers, and OWLS members in one emotional, heartwarming post. Now, look out for fellow aniblogger LitaKino (Lita Kino Anime Corner) with a surprise celebratory birthday video this Friday, December 22nd! Thank you so much for reading, from my first OWLS post in January to here at the end—I do hope you have enjoyed them, as I do really, really like writing them! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Evangelion’s Misato Provides a Home for the Lonely | OWLS “Sanctuary”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s  third monthly topic, “Sanctuary,” I decided to pull in all of the Evangelion sources that I could, original series and Rebuild alike, in order highlight that no matter where you may be in the apocalyptic future of Tokyo-3, captain Misato Katsuragi’s apartment will always remain a safe haven from the wrath of the heavens.

A sanctuary is a place of safety and stability. In anime, there are several different places and environments that characters call “home.” For this topic, we will be discussing locations and settings in anime.

Eva is a franchise that you might already know means the WORLD to me, so allowing myself to revisit its iconic universe is a real treat. Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion on Misato’s Apartment as it appears in the 26-episode 1995 series “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” the critical 1997 film “The End of Evangelion,” and the “Rebuild of Evangelion” film series, produced by Gainax and eventually Khara, all of which were written and directed by Hideaki Anno. 

First, A Welcoming Party

Eva opens up on an alternate present-day Tokyo where “Angels,” ironically named beasts of pure destruction, are in recent rise for some bizarre reason. Shinji Ikari, son of NERV commander Gendo Ikari, is called in to pilot the towering [neon] colored humanoid robot Evangelion Unit-01. NERV, an organization bent on the survival of the human race no matter the cost, may very well be the last battlefront in stopping these beings of terror, but it is ultimately up to Eva pilots like Shinji to determine whether humanity lives to see another day.

Shinji survives the first angel encounter against Sachiel. Barely. But the fact remains that he did actually save everyone, which is why his cold father ensures that Shinji remains on campus in case of another attack. No, the two don’t share the same living space, let alone sleep in the same house. Instead, they mutually agree that rooming together would be the worst possible outcome. Like a mother overprotective of her ducklings (this is funny because she has a pet penguin), the clumsy yet strong captain Misato Katsuragi takes Shinji under her wings and shelters the boy at her own apartment.

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Misato’s place is graphically located quite a ways away from NERV HQ, which is probably for the best considering that they are always on call, and that they already over-shoulder work everywhere else they go. It’s also crucial to note that we never see any interactions with the other apartment members in the complex, nor are the other lights on. It’s only Misato’s that is lit, like a lonely lighthouse guiding lost ships. After the two go out to pick up some welcome party snacks and view the majestic city sunset, the two share a memorably warm if not simple exchange before entering the household:

Misato: “Your things ought to have been delivered already, Shinji. I just moved here myself, ya know? *glancing back* Hey, come in.”

Shinji: “Uh, I don’t . . . want to intrude.”

Misato: “Shinji, this is your home now.”

Shinji: *hesitant pause, finally steps into the apartment, crossing the sliding door lining along the floor, and stares upward shyly* “I’m–I’m home.”

Misato: *closed eyes, smiling* “Welcome home.”

[the apartment door automatically slides shut, revealing the tag M.KATSURAGI]

Misato: “Ummm, as you can see, the place is just a little bit messy but uh, heh, go ahead and make yourself comfortable.”

This is your home now. Wow. Just by reading this you can already get a feel for both of our characters. Shinji is shy, not wishing to impose upon anyone his own troubles. Misato comes across as casual, relaxed, and friendly. But just as how she makes her cameo in a flashy blue sports car with nothing but a seductive picture to go by, the atmosphere quickly shifts from one of formality to an air of light-heartedness. Evangelion masterfully plays with moods depending on how the characters should be reacting to certain situations, and Misato’s apartment, in fact, could almost represent the peaceful and joyful side of the chaos. Now that we’re all acquainted, it’s time to get to know each other beyond the name tags.

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Make Yourself Comfortable

“Is this how you act in public? In front of your friends!?” You might have gotten this spiel by your parents if you’ve ever for a second acted, heaven forbid, without concern for public opinion or manners. Going back to the question, of COURSE I don’t act like this out there—this is home, and home is the one place where an individual should feel less pressured to “suck in their gut,” so to speak. Home is where I can let my guard down, and the characters in Eva do exactly that at the apartment. These moments make up the lighter side of a series otherwise known to offer psychological trauma and emotional turmoil.

 

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Shinji, Misato, and eventually Asuka are free to lounge around with a temporary leave of stress that comes with saving the world. At first it was only a woman and her pet. Soon the dynamic opens up to invite a pseudo son (episode 2), followed by a pseudo daughter (Asuka in episode 9) and an anything-but father (Kaji). Even aunty Ritsuko comes along and plays house at one point!

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Like mentioned earlier, Evangelion is rife with iconography. Some early examples include:

  • Episode 2’s introduction of the song, Misato’s theme
  • Episode 2’s fridge reveal of nothing but ice, snacks, and lots of beer
  • Episode 2’s infamous toothpick scene (adding on with the straw scene in the Rebuild)
  • Episode 2’s recitaiton of “Unfamilar Ceiling” (sheesh, one would think that episode 2 is important for some reason)
  • Episode 9’s synchronization training through DDR and fashion
  • Episode 16’s “I’m bored, so kiss me” by Asuka

Little Shin’s Room ❤

Homes allow people to ponder and create. In the show, we see the characters questioning their own existence, their place in the world, and whether the actions they take are justifiable. The apartment also allows philosophies to be revealed, such as Misato’s “Not everything must be answered with a yes m’am,” or “Wash away your troubles—bathing cleans the mind and soul!” Speaking of bathing . . .

Differing personalities invite conflict, for not everything in Misato’s apartment is happy-go-lucky. Time spent alone allows the darkness to sneak back into their heads. We are permitted to see the characters at their worst, such as this disturbing 20-second bath tangent by Asuka, portrayed by the incredible Tiffany Grant. Whereas bath scenes are supposed to be tranquil and stacked with fan service, Eva, being Eva, turns this cliche on its head to emphasize that not all acts at home are frivolous. Sometimes we get into fights, and that’s natural. Easily, the worst-case scenario remains the pinnacle choking scene from The End of Evangelion, which brings an entirely different and off-putting light to the children’s home, both figuratively and literally.

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What’s So Special About An Apartment

Not much, actually, only that it’s not just a house—it’s a home. A sanctuary from work stress and the trivialities of daily life, if you will. Even though these types of apartments are numerous in Japan, Eva still goes the extra mile in presenting the physical space uniquely. For one, the cinematography is sharp. This is reflected by the angles used, enhancing censored scenes like Shinji’s toothpicks or items such as the bras and lingerie that hang from the ceiling. In this way, the show stays interesting and provides enjoyment for a second time through. Utilizing warm hues of yellow for lighting also provides a sense of ease, unlike the cold LED lights of a hospital or a laboratory (it is HUGE contrast to Rei’s apartment).

As much as it’s fun to break down the inter-workings of the minds of our favorite characters, or pick apart the cause and effect plots of our most beloved stories, taking a minute to admire the physical—locational settings—feels like a nice breath of fresh air.

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It feels like we’ve nearly covered it all, but in fact there’s so much more to the development of the apartment itself. How its atmosphere changes over the course of the story almost makes it seem as if it were a living, breathing entity. Home is a place to relax and be comforted by all the things, living or not, you cherish. It should be a place of intimacy, of quietude, a place to be yourself without anyone telling you how to live. I know not everyone has it this way, and I’m sorry, but I hope you have found your own little sanctuary somewhere in this wild world, or that someone like Misato has provided this comfort space for you.

To those who do settle down at the house, aren’t you the most “yourself” in the comfort of your own home or room? I know I am, and I hope that doesn’t change for at least a little while now. We all need our me-time, and there will never, ever, be something wrong with a lil’ peace and quiet. For those in solitude, just remember that even if you’re all alone without anyone to come home to, your own home will be waiting for you, eyes closed and smile wide, just as Misato was to Shinji. 

Welcome home.

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Take care of yourself. – Neon Genesis Evangelion episode 26 title


Evangelion in its entirety clearly means a LOT to me. You could almost say that it influenced the shape of my character. If you’re interested in more of my ramblings and personal thoughts, please, feel free to browse the archives for more of that Eva goodness!

This concludes my March 8th entry in the OWLS “Sanctuary” blog tour. Please check out Matt’s (Matt-in-the-Hat) post discussing how, in Sword Art Online, there exists sanctuary within gaming. He apparently used my Fairy Dance musings as some inspiration, which makes me all the more excited to check it out! I’ll now toss the ball to BeckNaja (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero), for she will be jumping into Haikyuu!! this Friday, March 10th. (But let’s be honest, when is she not engaged with the show? lol) Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, take care ~

– Takuto

Sleep tight, Misato . . . such a mess, at least she looks comfortable enough