It’s set in Hiroshima. It takes place during WW2. But this Japanese anime is not a story of nuclear annihilation. Rather, it’s a tale of survival; of a persevering young housewife, Suzu (voiced by Rena Nounen), who comes of age years before the bomb drops.
Adapted from a noughties manga by Sunao Katabuchi (a former Ghibli animator best known for 2009’s Mai Mai Miracle), it’s a tender, sobering film; a moving portrait of the stress endured by the female homefront. Suzu’s fight is not with the Allies – it’s with meagre rations, as she faces a daily battle to feed three generations of her family.
Katabuchi captures this hardship in a hand-drawn style that’s beguilingly beautiful. There’s a striking contrast between the foreground – all bright greens and gentle blues – and the cold greys of warfare in the distance. When air raids do come, the blacks and oranges are jolting.
The attacks finally break Suzu’s spirit. And when the horror becomes too much, the film ‘breaks’ as well, with white lines dancing across a black canvas, crumbling before they can form concrete shapes. The implication is clear: there’s no easy way to convey this kind of suffering.