Going into "In This Corner of the World" ("Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni"), Sunao Katabuchi's animation about a girl's coming of age in prewar Hiroshima and wartime Kure, I was vaguely expecting an anti-war film like Isao Takahata's classic "Grave of the Fireflies" ("Hotaru no Haka," 1988), with its heart-rending story of a boy struggling and failing to care for his younger sister in the midst of wartime chaos.

However, "In This Corner of the World," based on Hiroshima native Fumiyo Kono's manga of the same title, is quite different in attitude and approach. Similar to another film based on a Kono comic, Kiyoshi Sasabe's 2007 live-action "Yunagi Town, Sakura Country" ("Yunagi no Machi, Sakura no Kuni"), "In This Corner of the World" tells the story of the Hiroshima atomic bombing indirectly, while anchoring it firmly in period reality. But whereas the former film views the bombing largely from the perspective of today's younger generation, the latter looks ahead from the standpoint of a prewar Japan idyllically peaceful and a wartime Japan resolutely fighting for victory. Then American bombs rain down — and defeat looms.

Similar to Keisuke Kinoshita's wartime films, "In This Corner of the World" idealizes its characters, who are more self-sacrificing and mutually cooperative than many of their Westernized (and, some would say, corrupted) present-day descendants. But also like Kinoshita, who became one of Japanese cinema's postwar masters, Katabuchi is at heart a humanist, not a propagandist. His characters express guilt, bitterness and other morale-lowering, if true-to-life, feelings that would soon have a censor of the era reaching for his red pencil.