Grave of the Fireflies

Also known as: Hotaru No Naka
Release Year: 1988
Starring: Tsutomu Tatumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara, Akemi Yamaguchi
Directed by: Isao Takahata
Written by: Akiyuki Nosaka (novel) & Isao Takahata (screenplay)
IMDB: 8.2 (22,326 votes)
RT: 89% (18 reviews)

This is not an ordinary anime. This is a very special anime of which its story delivered its message like a dagger stabbed directly into your chest. Yes, the emotion was overwhelming. I didn’t feel entertained, but instead I felt heartbroken and depressed.

The story was set during the Allied bombings of Japan in World War II. It chronicled Seita and his sister Setsuko whose mother was killed during the bombings of Kobe. The children’s father was a navy officer who was later known to have died in service.

Seita initially took Setsuko to their aunt’s house and stayed there for a few days before they found it hard to stay longer because some quarrels arose with the aunt. Indeed at that time the food was scarce and it seemed to have driven the aunt to feel the burden of having to attend to another two children in the house. Without food and lack of proper shelter, the children grew weaker each day, especially Setsuko. In the end the inevitable happened, both of them died of starvation.

The message was clear, war destroys lives and most of those lives are innocent. The origin of the story was a semi-autobiographic novel of a survivor of the bombings of Japan. The author also lost his sister who died because of starvation.

There are two live-action movies with the same title. The first one was made in 2005, told from the perspective of the aunt (played by Nanako Matsushima) and their cousin. The second was recently released but I haven’t seen the recent version yet. The second, however, was said to be told exactly like the anime version.

Indeed, I’ve never seen any animated movie as powerful as this one. Honestly, I don’t have the stomach to watch it again due to the emotion factor. Yet, the 2005 live-action version was more “bearable”.

The final score for this amazing movie is 10.0. Definitely a must see.


Jaccstev said...

Grave of the Fireflies actually is not for the weak of heart, it's a moving, and sometimes extremely sensitive, piece about the harsh realities of wartime life, from a child's perspective. But even it's from a child's perspective, this movie is not exaggerated or over-simplified. Simply one of the most honestly told, beautiful, heart breaking films ever made and it's a shame that this undiscovered gem isn't known throughout the animation realm because This film have showed the true beauty of animation.

Eternal Future said...

I don't think it's not popular for an anime. Perhaps due to its content, the audience might prefer not to be reminded of it. Subsequent genre in anime post Grave of the Fireflies tend to have happy endings and more colorful in their contents. Way contrasting the Grave of the Fireflies. The point is, it lacks recognition and talk perhaps because not due to lack of exposure, but because of it was great and due to people getting depressed by it.

T.S. said...

Very nice review of an utterly powerful and emotional film. I'm always appreciative of reviewers who take on lesser known films and passionately advocate for them. Here's hoping more than a few people stop by and consider ordering Grave of the Fireflies after your thoughtful assessment!

Eternal Future said...

Thanks for the kind words. Actually I believe there are lots of low-profile movies with great quality compared to heavily marketed movies with so-so qualities. Usually these low-profile movies come from outside US. Those are the films that truly worth watching for.