Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies
Author: Nosaka Akiyuki
Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most beautifully done and tragic films I have ever seen, anime or otherwise. One of the great antiwar films, Grave of the Fireflies far surpasses other antiwar anime, both in story and in visual style. The film as a poetic feel to it in parts, and the ending brought tears to my eyes.
Grave of the Fireflies is the story of Seita and his young sister, Setsuko, victims of WWII. Orphaned by a US firebombing raid that destroys their home and kills their mother, they go to stay with distant relatives in the countryside. Although their father is a Naval Officer, they can't contact him and don't even know if he is alive or dead. While things seem to be looking up for them, their new guardians soon turn against them, accusing Seita of being lazy, and selling their mothers clothes for food. This sequence may seem a little rushed, but it does a good job of showing the hardships faced by civilians in a war, even if they are well off and have a nice home. Seita, however, doesn't fully understand the difficulties being faced by everyone, and rebels against his guardians' harshness. As the relationship becomes more and more strained, Seita decides that he and his sister would be better on their own.
Settling in an old bomb shelter near a lake, Seita and Setsuko at first act as if they are on a grand adventure, away at a summer camp with no adults to tell them what to do. However, their fun doesn't last, and the turning point of the film is when Setsuko has a funeral for fireflies the two had caught the night before. Asking why something so innocent and pretty have die so soon, Setsuko poses the central question of the film, and we begin to see the hardships of war.
The ending is one of the saddest and most moving scenes I've seen, and captures the spirit of brother-sister love perfectly. While the film may be too depressing for some, it is a masterwork of anime. The animation and art are stylistically subdued, but perfectly done, and the voice acting is very good in the dub. I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys moving stories and tragedies. Even non-anime fans will enjoy this film.
On another note, Grave of the Fireflies is a product of Hayao Miyazaki's animation workshop, Studio Ghibli. It was released in Japan as a double feature with My Neighbor Totoro, neither of which were expected to do well. Roger Ebert has an excellent review of the film as well, and it's one of the few anime pieces he hasn't disliked. http://www.suntimes.com/ebert/greatmovies/ebert19.html
Grave of the Fireflies (DVD)