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This is a beautifully animated, deeply engaging film by director/screenwriter Sunao Katabuchi. Set in Japan, the story centres predominantly around the life of Suzu, beginning with her carefree childhood where she exhibits early signs of artistic prowess. The plot is sectioned into timelines with titles showing time and place. This first part takes place several years before WWII in a town near Hiroshima, and so a tone of eerie foreboding is set. As war approaches and Suzu enters her teens she is married off by arrangement and moves to Kure, a naval port about 15 miles from Hiroshima.

Much of the plot takes place over the two years from 1944 through 1945 against a foreground of family saga and backdrop of merciless bombings, privation and tragedy.

No punches are pulled and there are some visceral, truly heart-wrenching moments, yet there is also humour, humanity, courage. The artwork is exquisite and cinematic devices during some scenes are impressive.

★★★1/2

Reviewed by Rita Bratovich.