Grave of the Fireflies 1988

Grave of the Fireflies 1988

Directed By: Isao Takahata

Genre: Drama, Animated War Film.
1967 semi-autobiographical 
short story of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka

Is this an Anti-War Movie?

In the beginning of the Movie Seita said he died the night of Sept. 21 1945 and his spirit later reunited with his younger sister Setsuko which sets the mood of the film, the bluntness of the first scene is enough for its viewer to understand that the story will depict a tragic ending of the central characters, but somehow is now at peace for they are both spirits and will no longer feel any sufferings. As the two wandered around they showed us the journey of their lives before they end up being what they are right now.

These kids lost their parents during the war left with nobody but themselves. The effect of the war is unfathomable even the most innocent has no exemption to its destructible nature, though the movie’s theme is undeniably about war because it took place during the WW2 but it focuses more in the lives of Seita and Setsuko and their mission to survive without an adult supervision few months before Japan surrenders and admit its defeat.

What is so amazingly sad about this Movie?

We know from the beginning they will never make it alive, given the fact that Seita has died because of starvation in the train station, in his eyes his death has shown grief and hopelessness of losing his parents and his sister and the only solution is to surrender his life and rest. What makes the movie so remarkably sad was the death of his younger sister Setsuko, in my opinion, it could have been prevented if adults around them act the way they are supposed to, but this crisis has brought out the worst of their nature. Seita tried his best to take care of his sister, the love he gave her is unconditional that he can even make his hands dirty just to feed her, but his love is not enough to prevent starvation and death.

Who is to blame?

Everybody has their own fair share to their sad ending, and the worse was the pride of Seita, it has contributed a large amount of quantity to their bitter end, their aunt was a heartless human being and never showed compassion to these two young kids saying harsh words that made Seita decide to leave in the process and went on to a suicide mission and attack without any weapon, they should have gone to a shelter or a refugee camp rather than isolated themselves out of the system without food and water, he should have asked help rather than making an unwise decision in resorting in stealing food, or at least try to find a job but well he was still young, and taking all the responsibilities in producing food and shelter is very tough.

What is the message of the Movie?

The overwhelming event of their lives that devastated them has taken away their innocence so early in their age specially Setsuko who is just 4 years old when all these happened. She tried to live normally, appreciate small things that gave her simple joy even though the world around her is already shuttered. The life of the fireflies gave a great impact in her innocence for it only last temporarily and dies producing darkness. Fireflies symbolize hope when everything around them is nothing but darkness, but it also symbolizes death. At her young age to experience the horror of losing a mother is overbearing enough they also lost their entire house.

Takahata’s directorial style of telling the story in animation has emotionally tortured the viewer, although he tried to make it less painful for the viewer to let us know that Seita and Setsuko is dead from the beginning of the film and that the rest of the story will be narrated in series of flashbacks still his intention to make it less painful and emotionally torturing is not successful enough because the brutality of their suffering especially Setsuko’s health deteriorates before your very eyes with no food supply to save her from her dying condition and adults around them acting erroneously towards the situation resulting on a death of a child.

The atmosphere of the film may be entirely different as the usual animated story that we expect a lighter tone mood in it, but this is a semi-autobiography of Nosaka the author of the book with the same title in honor of his sister Keiko who died in malnutrition, and there is no other way to execute the story so nicely done than to portray it in animation. This flawless and beautifully narrated film was Takahata’s first for Studio Ghibli, though it is depressingly, powerful and amazingly sad story, its charm will remain in your heart forever.

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