Set in the final months of WWII, Grave of the Fireflies is about two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, who have to survive the horror of war. However, the movie itself doesn’t revolve around the warfare rather it focuses on the impact the event had on the two characters. They live with their aunt for a while who then resent them when food supply become an issue. To survive, Seita (a ninth grade boy) have to take care of his five-year old sister, Setsuko in an abandoned bomb shelter. Here, the two rely on each other – Setsuko rely on her big brother for food and protection, while Seita rely on his little sister for a reason to live. Amidst the tragedy, we can see how the two still find ways to enjoy their days by running on the beach or playing with fireflies in the shelter.
Directed by Isao Takahata and produced by the fame Studio Ghibli, the movie is captivating with vivid colours that depicts the war and Japanese town of Kobe nicely. Under 90 minutes, I must say that Grave of the Fireflies is well-written and directed with no useless scenes. Of course I wouldn’t enjoy it as much if not for the lead characters’ dynamic which were wonderfully depicted and overwhelmingly realistic. (read: a very sad movie)
Based on a semi-autobiographical short story by Akiyuki Nosaka, the movie is released twenty years after the story’s publication. The author’s argument being that he feels it is impossible to translate his experience into a live-action. However, Studio Ghibli’s storyboard is persuasive and they won him over. For that we have to be thankful, because Grave of the Fireflies make way for more serious and complex future animations. Or to quote my favourite movie critic, the late Roger Ebert, “Grave of the Fireflies” is an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation.
PS: Better to watch the movie with subtitles.