It was fun doing soundtrack analysis for The Promised Neverland, so I’m back at it again! Technically, the piece featured today is more of an insert song, but it encapsulates the movie so well that I really couldn’t choose anything else.
“Migite no Uta” (みぎてのうた; “The Right Hand’s Song”) is the official theme song of the anime film In This Corner of the World. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the movie depicts WWII from the perspective of a young woman named Suzu, who moves from Hiroshima to the neighbouring Kure when she marries into a new family.
While this post is going to contain some spoilers for the movie, I can’t help but think that it won’t affect your enjoyment too much if you haven’t seen it. After all, if you know anything about that part of history…the setting of Hiroshima itself foreshadows doom. Yet, the film refuses to wallow in this tragedy–a spirit which the song featured in this post embodies well.
Without further ado:
Contrast and Balance
“The Right Hand’s Song” is a song about what was lost and what still remains, or rather, what has remained long enough to transform. As an artist who sees leaping rabbits in waves and colourful fireworks in a sky full of fighter planes and missiles, Suzu is devastated when her dominant right hand, along with what it held, are lost to a bomb. The song’s title is a tribute to her right hand and all the undrawn pictures gone with it.
In the OST album, there are two short pieces that echo this one’s title: “Suzu’s Right Hand” (すずさんの右手) and “The World Drawn by the Left Hand” (左手で描く世界). The first piece crescendos from drawn-out melancholic notes to a point of symphonic catharsis, like a skilled artist transforming grey scenery into inspiration, while the second one sounds hazy and more dissonant, like a novice painter muddying the colours on a palette.
In this interview (a great read for any Japanese readers out there), the artist, Kotringo, mentions that achieving a sense of balance was the greatest challenge for her in composing this song. Because it’s an insert song, there has to be a delicate balance between music and dialogue, both in terms of volume and tension. As for the song itself, she was careful about not making the tone too heavy or too light. While the title and parts of the lyrics invoke the tragic losses, the musical director wanted it to convey a sense of salvation at the end of the film.
The soothing, whispery song is played right before the ending credits. The war is over and the infamous bombs have left permanent damage, but Suzu reunites with her husband Shusaku on the bridge where they first met, and drops the movie title: “Thanks for finding me in this corner of the world.” What follows this is a short but difficult-to-watch montage of a nameless girl losing her mother from severe radiation exposure. She bonds with Suzu and Shusaku over an onigiri and is taken under their wing.
There’s so much contrast here between tragedy and what’s left of happiness, and in a way, the song is what bridges the girl’s story to that of Suzu and Shusaku, and suggests that resilience can give birth to new warmth.
The lyrics of “The Right Hand’s Song” are taken directly from lines in the final chapter of the original manga, titled “A Letter of Happiness.” The manga makes a pretty interesting narrative choice in the end by having someone (presumably Suzu) write a letter to an undisclosed recipient. Based on the content, one can speculate that it’s Suzu writing to her (presumably dead) childhood crush, but nothing stops us from interpreting this as a fourth-wall-breaking message for us, the readers. Cool note: the hand used to write the letter is the right hand, and the pencil turns into a watercolour brush by the end and “colours in” the last few panels.
“I’m sorry. You who just read this letter will die,” says the letter. This harsher line is omitted by the song, but the lyrics still preserve the letter’s memento mori message with its list of all the things about living that will be missed: listening to idle chatter, hearing about the dreams of the loved one sleeping next to you, walking on familiar streets…
And yet it ends on a humbly uplifting note:
“In this ever-changing world,
Love dwells in fragments.
Now it becomes a part of you too.”
The ending song of the movie, “Dandelion” (たんぽぽ) carries this theme on and further develops the imagery from the final verse. I absolutely adore the simple story told by the end credit animation, best represented by this endearing penultimate image:
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In these uncertain times, I hope that you too find kindness around and within you, in whichever corner of the world that you occupy. Kotringo makes more blissful, breezy music, so do give her a listen if you liked some of the songs in this post.
Again, if you haven’t seen this film, I can’t recommend it enough. To date, watching it was the most emotional experience I’ve had with any anime film. I know I owe Grave of the Fireflies a re-watch too…
Have you seen In This Corner of the World? Is there an insert song that you can’t forget about? If you read this manga, do you have alternative interpretations for its final chapter? I always check comments.