Set in Hiroshima, this movies follows the life of a young girl Suzu, from the time she is a child all the way into adolescence and adulthood.
After she marries, war falls over Japan and life changes drastically. Despite that, Suzu’s jovial and happy-go-lucky nature hardly falters.
If I were to only use one word to describe Suzu’s character, it would be “blur”. The wide-eyed and adorably unaware young girl sails through her childhood, causing many incidents that left people sighing and shaking their heads. Suzu is the kind of girl who has to ask for her own address even though it is clearly written on the door; the adult who loses her way while running errands.
With the war comes a shortage of food, leading to food rationing exercises. Despite the poor circumstances they are in, she tries to make the most out of everything and does her best to come up with ways to cook better meals for her family. The distinct detachment between Suzu’s bleak surroundings and her bright personality makes it hard for viewers to reconcile with the idea of the impending calamity.
The movie is a real treat for art lovers. While digitally animated, a variety of hand-drawn styles are used to portray scenes, from pencil sketches to oil paintings. With the use of muted colours, the many heart-warming scenes instill a sense of nostalgia and help to soften certain harsh scenes as well.
The movie offers a refreshing perspective on WW2: through the eyes of Suzu, a young female. Instead of focusing solely on the harsh realities of the war, the plot focuses on the day-to-day life of civilians with humour and joy injected into many parts of the movie. With the plot centering more on cooking meals and doing household chores, you almost forget that it’s a war movie. (Almost). The plot gradually grows dismal, and the bitter reality of the war becomes more apparent with each scene. However, the delivery of brutish scenes are in such a way that while it adequately expresses the gravity of the situation, it is not repulsive and remains palatable. Rather than shoving the horrible scene of the bombing straight into the viewer’s face, we see an abstract painting with bright colours- the only way Suzu could process and make whole of the situation.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT! Highlight the following portion to read.
Nonetheless, this is still a war movie and has its fair share of tragedy. Suzu loses her niece and her right hand to a bomb blast. With that, she loses her favourite pastime and is plagued with guilt as her sister-in-law blames her for the death of her niece. Along with that, scenes of the sufferings of the civilians in the aftermath of the bombing- such as the man who was burnt to the extent that his own mother could not recognise him, will render one feeling nothing but anguish and helpless at the situation.
It was hard to swallow the scenes where Suzu gets extremely upset at Japan’s surrender. The outburst of emotions from Suzu was an especially poignant scene, as this was a stark contrast with her usual affable disposition. The aftermath of the bombing was dealt with much sensitivity- as people grieved for what was lost, they were able to pick themselves up and move on. Ultimately, the film ends on a positive note, with everyone hopeful and looking forward, despite the grim repercussions of war.
I will recommend this to anyone out there looking for a war movie that is not too heavy. This is not as gut– wrenching as Grave of the Fireflies, but no doubt still an impactful movie with strong anti-war sentiments. This slice of life movie is definitely worth watching.
Verdict: we rate this 4 WA out 5!