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From Studio Ghibli, home of Spirited Away, and director Isao Takahata comes this epic animated feature. Originally released in Japan in 1988 but never before available in the UK, G r a v e o f t h e F i r e f l i e s has rightly earned a reputation as an anime classic. Set in Japan during World War II, the film focuses on Seita and his little sister Setsuko. After their mother is killed in an air raid, and with their father serving in the navy, they are forced to fight for survival in the devastated Japanese countryside. Food and shelter are scarce, and even their own relatives are too concerned with their own survival. All they have is each other and their belief that life must carry on. Takahata and his team, including character animator Yoshifumi Kondo (who has subsequently worked on other acclaimed Ghibli films from director Hayao Miyazaki) have created a visually stunning and emotionally powerful film that meditates on the devastating consequences of war and has rightly earned a reputation as an anime classic.
The characters are just as grounded in reality as the setting. There is no idealised hero here. Seita is a boy struggling with responsibilities no child should face, he strives to look after his sister as best he can in a situation beyond his means to control. This film is all the more powerful because of the real characters. The cold reaction of people to the children's misfortune is uncomfortable to watch, but probably more real than we would care to admit.
Even with such a grim subject matter it still manages to be beautiful and even magical in places. I'd be lying if I said this was my favourite Ghibli film, but very few animated films have emotionally affected me as much as Grave of the Fireflies.
Recommended with a sad heart.
The film itself deals with the facts of war and doesn't get bogged down by any hint of a political agenda; it is about individual, innocent lives effected/caught up in the theatre of war. Quite simply it is a story about a brave young lad (Seita) who is forced (for whatever reason) to care and do the best he can for his enchanting little sister (Setsuko); share with them their losses, hopes, fears and as a previous reviewer put it appreciate the futility of war. The futility of war permeates throughout the movie, quite frankly when I think of this film I feel deep anger and deep sadness and with it a sprinkle of affection towards the two heroes Seita and Setsuko....not many films have been able render these fellings in me quite like 'Grave of the Fireflies'.
In the year 1945, close to the end of World War II, Japan is being bombarded through air raids. A young boy named Senta and his little sister, Setsuko, have to run to the shelter and in the process they get separated from their mother. When they finally find her again she is seriously injured and does not last long in her attempts at survival. Now the kids only have an aunt to support them and guide them through the turmoil. But the grownup performs this task with little enthusiasm, so the children are basically left to survive by themselves. That is when we get to see the power of love between the siblings, and the contrast with the disinterest of the rest of the people in the village regarding the well-being of the kids.
I am sure that this is one of the great masterpieces of the genre, since it presents a whole array of emotions, running from despair to hope without limits, through its excellent script and crafty graphics. In my case it will probably serve as a benchmark to rate all other future anime dramas in the future. If you have never watched any anime and are trying to decide where to start, I guarantee you that there is no better place than right here!
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