Grave of the Fireflies
(from box cover) It is post-war Japan, just weeks before American troops arrive for occupation. In city of Kobe, a boy lies dying in a train station. By his body lies a small metal candy container. A janitor, not sure what to make of its ashy contents, pitches it into the night. As fireflies float softly around it, the ghostly figures of the boy and his little sister emerge...
Flashback to a short time earlier. Orphaned and homeless from a fire-bomb attack on their city, 14-year-old Seita and his 4-year-old sister Setsuko set out to survive on their own in the face of a society no longer able to help them. Forced into living in an abandoned bomb shelter in the Japanese countryside, they slowly come to realize that they cannot escape the hardships of war or even find enough food on which to survive...
Grave of the Fireflies, I believe, is one of the most powerful movies that has ever been made: animated, live-action, or otherwise. This is an _extremely_ poignant story meticulously crafted to achieve maximum impact -- and what an impact it is. There are scenes that will undoubtedly burn themselves into your memory to haunt you for the next few days, weeks...maybe even years.
Every aspect of this film has been skillfully and artfully placed to help reach its level of universal power. The art and animation are simply gorgeous, capable of portraying sunny countryside and burned-down village alike in a style highly reminiscent of Studio Ghibli. You can almost taste the salt in the air at the seashore, smell the ash as the village burns down. Simple orchestral melodies sprinkled throughout enhance the viewing experience even further, resulting in an engrossing experience only rivaled by actually visiting these locales yourself.
Of course, there's more to Grave of the Fireflies than great cinematography -- much more. Grave features an all-too-believable story that will tear at anyone who calls him/herself human. Rather than resort to preaching to bring its anti-war message across, this film simply presents its evidence to you in all of its tragedy. Innocent Setsuko and intrepid Seita are two children that you'll swear you've met before, and watching them suffer through the aftermath of the fire-bombing will break your heart. Knowing their eventual fate beforehand does nothing to diminish the effectiveness of the story; in fact, it only intensifies the reality of each scene. The beginning unfolds evocatively, and the end closes by bringing the story full-circle, leaving viewers with more questions than answers as they wipe the tears from their eyes.
For the record: yes, it _is_ possible to see this movie through without shedding a tear, but you'd have to be one cynical and jaded fellow (yes, that's me). As dispassionate as I am, though, I can recognize the fact that Grave is truly a masterpiece that _everyone_ should see eventually. Bravo, bravo.
Recommended Audience: There is nothing in this title that is gratuitous or uncalled for. However, the themes and premise behind this story are probably not appropriate for younger audiences, who might be unduly frightened by some of the events that unfold. Children that might watch this should probably be accompanied with a parent who can sit down with them and talk about what they had just seen.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Grave of the Fireflies © 1988 Akiyuki Nosaka / Shinchosha Co.
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