Photo/IllutrationA scene from the anime hit “In This Corner of the World” faithfully depicts Hiroshima’s Nakajima Honmachi district before the 1945 atomic bombing. (Provided by Tokyo Theatres Company Inc.)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Anime movies usually draw a youngish crowd, but “In This Corner of the World” is also drawing in older folks as the unexpected long-running hit faithfully replicates the everyday life of people living in wartime Japan.

Fumiyo Kono, 48, author of the original comic book, is delighted with the movie's appeal.

“I want the audience to use it as an opportunity to share their experiences and talk with their family members, talking about what they experienced and what they didn’t during wartime,” she said.

Many comments posted by young people on Twitter refer to remarks made by their parents and grandparents about the film.

Kono hails from Hiroshima. The house occupied by the Hojos, into which the main protagonist, Suzu, moves after she marries the eldest son of the household, is modeled after Kono’s grandmother’s residence in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, where the story is set.

The “In This Corner of the World” manga series ran from 2007 to 2009. The story portrays the lives of people during wartime, such as cooking on a “kamado” charcoal-fueled grill, making “monpe” work pants, waiting in a long line for food rations, the hustle and bustle of a black market, cooking substitute meals with weeds and building a bomb shelter using scrap wood.

Kono published “Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms” in 2004 after she was encouraged by her editor to work on a story about the Hiroshima atomic bombing. The title won a Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, the Grand Prize award in the Manga Division at the Japan Media Arts Festival and other accolades. It was also adapted into a live-action feature film.

“Not only people in Hiroshima but also many others across the country showed how much they care about the atomic bombing. So I decided to work on a story about the war without focusing on the atomic bombing for my next project to give back,” the author said.

However, Kono hates tear-jerking war stories accentuated by the romance and struggles of a beautiful man and woman.

“I wanted to have a simulated experience of a normal life at the time,” she said.

It seems as if Kono cherishes the day-to-day lives of Suzu and her family by providing so many rich details. The townscapes lost to war damage and details of everyday lives are a result of the author’s scrupulous interviews and painstaking research.

Director Sunao Katabuchi, who was fascinated by the original manga series and spent six years making the anime, is a “research freak” to equal Kono. He collected more than 4,000 reference photos and visited Kure and Hiroshima nearly 30 times to conduct numerous interviews with elders who have recollections of the time.

The wide stretch of burnt ruins of Kure conjures up images of cities and towns devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami disaster in 2011.

Kono’s latest work, “Hi no Tori” (bird of the day), is a series of travel sketches featuring a rooster wandering in quake and tsunami-devastated areas in search of its missing wife. The series started its run in 2012, with Kono making almost bimonthly visits to devastated areas.

“I draw places still marked with damage and places that have been neatly rebuilt alike,” Kono said. “Children growing up in those places may feel nostalgic when they see this scenery some day.”