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A quietly beautiful, saddening film
on 26 August 2004
This is a film apart from any other Ghibli film I have seen. Where as Miyazaki films (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke) are fantastical, this film is very much grounded in the gritty reality of our resent past. Set at the end of World War II it is the harrowing story of 2 children facing life in a war-ravaged Japan. Make no mistake, this film is not typical Ghibli escapism. The grim realities of war are never sugar coated, this film pulls no punches.
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.