Grave of the Fireflies is a beautiful and deeply saddening anime that is a testament to the human spirit that shines ever brighter in the face of adversity. No giant mechs or magic girls here, this movie is about two orphaned children trying to survive in Japan as World War II comes to a close. What is so beautiful about the movie is that, though in the beginning you see the boy die in a dirty subway station from starvation and appear as a ghost with his little sister, the entire movie retains a sense of hope, that perhaps they'll make it, perhaps they'll be Ok. This makes the inevitable conclusion to the movie even sadder. An example of how great an art-form anime can really be and the emotions it conveys, I haven't yet had a friend to whom I've showed this movie that wasn't weeping at the end, men and women. Based on the award-winning autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka, Grave of the Fireflies is a movie that shows the tragedies of war to both young and old. Everyone should see this, not just otaku

Hotaru No Haka (Grave of the Fireflies in English) is one of the greatest films ever conceived. Once you see this movie, you will realized just how much bullshit is present in other movies.

Written and directed by Takahata Isao and released in 1988, Hotaru No Haka is based on Nosaka Akiyuki's 1967 award-winning semi-autobiography. The movie is uncommonly true to the book. The setting is Japan near the close of World War II. In March, 1945, American bomber planes begin to attack Japan and cause tremendous destruction to major cities in an effort to demoralize the Japanese people. Fourteen-year-old Seita and his four-year-old sister Setsuko, after losing their mother and home, are forced to survive on their own. The film revolves around their internal and external conflicts and offers a realistic depiction of the tragic impact of war.

The film is depressing. Very, very depressing. Well, perhaps ``sobering'' is a more appropriate word. Anyway, the incredible maturity and emotion in the writing is complemented by the exquisite quality of the animation (did I mention it's animated?). There is as much precise detail in the character movements and expressions as in the drawings of the B-29 bombers.

Hotaru No Haka is an amazing film, and if it doesn't change your life, maybe it'll at least teach you that anime isn't all tentacle rape and robots.

Credits:

  • Original story: Nosaka Akiyuki
  • Production design and executive production: Sato Ryoichi
  • Screenplay and direction: Takahata Isao
  • Character design: Kondo Yoshifumi
  • Art direction: Yamamoto Nizo
  • Production: Hara Toru
  • Color design: Yasuda Michiyo
  • Music: Mamiya Yoshio

Central Park Media released the video (subbed) in the U.S.

One of several Studio Ghibli films directed not by Hayao Miyazaki but rather Isao Takahata. He has a different style than the ultimately optimistic Miyazaki. I feel as though Takahata lost something in his childhood and is trying to tell us about his loss (Only Yesterday is a more direct example of this), while Miyazaki has retained the best of his youth and convinces audiences to keep a part of themselves young as well.

Both filmmakers are talented and I'm so glad they both have had the change to tell us their stories.

"Grave of the Fireflies" is not so much about war as about society and how people will look the other way and allow other people to suffer. The idea of war is simply an extension of this idea- we can kill people and feel no qualms, so long as they are far away and never exposed to it. There is a lot of evidence for this- from the opening scene, where the main character is dying in the train station- nobody tries to help him, they simply react in fear at being exposed to his circumstances, then they continue walking as if nothing had happened. Also throughout the movie we are given glimpses of other, luckier, peoples lives and we see that they have not lost anything.

I think that Starrynight's comment about Takahata having lost something in his childhood is undoubtedly correct, the feeling that one gets in the opening of the movie is one of loss, as we see the children riding on the now-nonexistent subway through the now-destroyed city.

The main character, Seita, seems almost constantly baffled as to how circumstances could so much for the worse. He is very optimistic, always putting a good face on circumstances and never asking for help from others if he can avoid it. He keeps the fact of his mother's death from his sister for as long as possible.

Seita's aunt is probably the "worst" character in the entire movie, as she and her family eat a great portion of Seita and Setsuko's leftover food and then lets them leave her home. Again, this is because Seita told her that he didn't need her help- and she looks the other way and allows him to leave. Yet at the same time she is the most practical person in the movie. Whereas Seita dies mainly because of his pride and refusal to apologize to his aunt- he takes up robbery rather than returning to her home.

Although many say that this movie can be appreciated by anyone, I think that it would obviously have special significance to Japanese people, particularly to those raised in the post-WWII years simply because such a story is something they or somebody close to them has lived.

Naturally, there is a recurring firefly motif in the film- IMO the fireflies represent life, which is both beautiful and fragile at the same time.

I wish that more analysis would be done on this movie as I personally do not know enough about the subject to do a thorough explanation of the themes in the movie- at present all I hear is "that movie was really sad and also really good", but nobody seems to be able to figure out why...I don't know that the director was necessary trying to play this movie to make a sob story, as I think that if anything the movie was understated in being sad, a fact which begs the question "Was the director of this movie trying to make a "sad" film?" This movie is known for being a sad story, but I for one did not cry at any time during watching it. Instead I think that it could be thought of as a comment on life and its transient nature.

Also as a final note, the cave where the kids lived in the movie is located in Nishinomiya, Japan- one of my classmates has to walk by it every day on his way home from school. Creepy, huh?

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