Sunao Katabuchi directed and co-wrote this beautifully painted, emotionally muted anime adaptation of Hiroshima native Fumiyo Kōno’s manga series of the same name. The story’s origin as a serial shows; what dramatic shape there is here stems largely from events outside the characters’ control. This happens, and then this happens... It tells the ostensibly quotidian story of Suzu, a Hiroshima native and talented artist who allows herself to be married off to a young man from nearby Kure. (Here and elsewhere, the details and dynamics are obscure; Suzu is told at the outset that she can turn the guy down, but later on, more than one character suggests that she was forced to wed.) Suzu is presented as a daydreamer, forever blushing and dipping her head as she realizes her many social mistakes, but her actions say otherwise. It’s no accident that Katabuchi’s figures have such proportionally large hands: much emphasis is given to Suzu’s cooking, sewing, drawing, gardening, etc. Her life is treated as thoroughly unexceptional — a man who knew her in youth says he wants her to “stay ordinary and sane in this world until the end” — except of course it isn’t. Besides a heart full of (hesitant) love and a soul full of (bashful) virtue, she has the artist’s drive to capture the passing world. And because World War II rages in the (far) background through much of the film, we know that her world’s passing is immanent. (2016) — Matthew Lickona
This movie is not currently in theaters.