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on 25 October 2016
No matter who we may blame for a war, there's no disputing the fact that people suffer the consequences in very similar ways and films such as this can apply to all of us if we're unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of conflict. As a result it is very easy to identify with and "inhabit" the two siblings, Seito and Setsuka, enduring a life of extreme hardship as they are handed between carers and finally left to their own devices in a country where the fabric of society itself is unravelling as even the adults feel vulnerable and abandon the children to their fates.

Although the opening telegraphs the finale, there's a sad truth in the storytelling that makes you concerned about knowing how these two young people came to their end in such terrible circumstances and, without being heavy-handed, the film shows us the preciousness of our early years and the magic that ought to be within that time, and sets it directly in opposition to the horrors going on around these children. When Setsuka asks why fireflies should die so soon, it is a genuinely heartbreaking moment that the biggest-budget blockbuster would find very hard to emulate, because its "childlike" simplicity reaches right inside us. As by now we are inhabiting the children's experiences it actually hits quite hard and I at least was left with a real sensation of helplessness that must have matched Setsuka's.

There's no way to compare this with other Ghibli films except in the storytelling and the animation, and the absorbing and at times genuinely threatening storyline. These elements can be found elsewhere too, such as in Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, but here the Ghibli storytelling genius makes a far darker story that leaves us wondering why we do so much to threaten the wellbeing of people when, as I said earlier, we all suffer in the same way.

Fabulous film with its point very well made.
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on 11 June 2013
I've seen this film three times now, but watching it in a cinema recently, on a double-bill with the superb MY NEIGHBOUR TOTORO for the pair's 25th Anniversary Release, and you soon realise just how great, and how amazing this film is!

Following two orphaned children, who grow-up in a scenario no one would wish on their worst enemy - in the aftermath of a nuclear bombing, with little money, food or belongings to help them - this is quite simply one of the most distressing, harrowing, and haunting films ever made.

Nothing can prepare you for the finale!

When I saw this at the cinema, every single adult patron left the auditorium with tears in their eyes. Many were openly crying, hugging their partners, seeking some kind of emotional comfort, because the film's power is such, that even the most hard-hearted of adults could not be left untouched by the film's themes of resilience and striving to survive against all odds. Even thinking about it now, causes me to tear-up. It really is that powerful!

Simply put, this may be the best animated film ever made! You will, at times, forget you are watching animated, hand-drawn imagery, due to the mesmerising and emotional charge that the film holds on its audience. And I defy anyone, male or female, young or old, not to shed at least a few tears by the end of the film's 90-minute running time. Many others, however, will be in complete and unrestrained anguish by the finale!

If ever a film should be shown to teach older children about the horrors of war, then this is it! As near to animation perfection as you can get! No wonder that Roger Ebert (Rest In Peace) cited this as one of his all-time favourite films, in his entire cinematic reviewing career!

Unforgettable. Harrowing. Raw. This film will live within you, for days after you've finished it. A must-see film like no other, and another Studio Ghibli gem!
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on 19 December 2010
If you think all animated films are cartoons, then this will be the film to change your mind, this is a deeply touching movie that happens to be animated, this film is closer to Shindler's list than to any Disney film, also if you are expecting a 'Spirited Away [DVD]' or a 'Kiki's Delivery Service [DVD]' then you will be surprised, this is not a fantastical journey, there are no talking cats, or troublesome witches, this is a serious drama with a real thought provoking message.

I have to say that this has got to be the most emotional film I have EVER seen! Never has a film made me fill up quite this much, not even when I watched Watership down in primary school, when I was eight.

I am at a loss... I was So drained from watching this! This made a 30yo skinhead 'bloke' cry, I had to really force my self to watch the end of this film not because it has any faults in the style or plot, but rather from the outset you know what is going to happen and I realised that the story had drawn me in so deeply and I knew what it was going to do to me...

Glad I did watch to the end, it is rare to find a film of this genre that can move so many people to tears, it is a film that can really tug at your emotional chords with such precision and vigour, I really don't think I will be able to see fruit sweets again without flashbacks!
An absolutely astounding film.

I may suggest that perhaps you rent this title, unless like me you like lending DVD's out, I think a lot of the 5-star reviewers would also agree, that this is not a film I can see me ever watching again, like I said this is one of the greatest films I have ever watched, but it was so good, that the film will always be with me, I will never be able to forget Seito and Sweet Setsuko, the little sister I think we all wished we had... But this is a must see for any fan of cinema, not just Ghibli, this is a master class in cinema, in drawing your audience in, making them empathise with the characters and ultimately making them genuinely feel something.

This film has changed me, I don't know how, but it has, I think it has put a lot in my life in to perspective, and 2 months on from seeing this film I have just shed another tear for it.

This really is a must see/buy, it is dubbed which I know is important to some people, but I think seeing this in its original Japanese added something for me, I think a number of people would disagree with me, but few would say that you shouldn't watch it. Do note though that if I were you I would make sure I had a comedy film to follow this, or at least a more light hearted film, as you do not want to end your night with the emotions that this will draw from you.
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on 2 August 2016
Easily the most depressing animation I've ever seen. Also probably the best Studio Ghibli- because it has something deeply real at its heart. Next to Totoro, which deals with loneliness and loss in a similar although far more playful and positive way. It was painful to watch, a serious grind, but with it in the rearview mirror I find myself thinking about it a lot. What would any of us do in a similar situation- with our parents gone, our world destroyed, and nowhere safe to lay our head.

Too sad. Also beautiful and incredibly haunting.
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on 23 January 2017
Wnile we were watching this my husband said - why had I got such a sad film? But the detail and artwork are beautiful, and the sad story surely echoes so much suffering that goes on not just in wartime, but all the time somewhere in the world. This story showed how two children left to fend for themselves tried to cope, and how adults who should have known better, let them down.Some helped of course, but not their own family. It showed how every side gets hurt in wartime, especially children and animals - I liked that the film makers showed a terrified horse and cat running from the fires and bombs - they so often get forgotten yet they have an even harder fight in war, especially if their families and homes have been destroyed. What I could not understand was why the boy did not get money from his mother's account to buy food when they were starving. I know food was rationed, but the film did not explain how he knew his mother had money and why he only got money out much later when it was too late. Was he too young to get it? Had there to be a delay before claiming? The film failed to explain this hence it loses a star as this was a very important piece of information to aid understanding as to why they got to such a low state. I also found it unlikely that a child as young as 4 was able to sew, which Setsuko is shown as doing. Nevertheless, like most other viewers I was also quite tearful by the end of the tale, and the fine details, like pond skaters, that were shown, were breath-taking. Don't watch it if you need cheering up!
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on 23 September 2015
This is the most affecting move I have ever seen. It's poetic and at the same time gut wrenching. I've subsequently gone on and bought a book of short stories by the same author who wrote this story to atone for the guilt he had when orphaned in the Kobe bombings.. his little sister died of malnutrition and he survived Only by looking closer did I learn that Japan suffered terrible fire bombings in the last months of the war- all but 5 city's were raised to the ground.. More than 100,000 died in a night when Tokyo was wiped off the map..there was no sympathy by the world due the atrocities their army committed- it was revenge . Essential viewing - maybe if people were made to watch this they would be a little less keen to go to war.
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on 30 November 2017
Absolutely beautiful film, though the Amazon Video version is to my mind spoiled by the fact it is English audio language only and I regret purchasing it here. Buy it on itunes instead - same price but apparently subbed rather than dubbed.

UPDATE: I'm not sure when it happened but I'm now getting the subbed version when I watch this film. This is the way to watch it but changing the content that someone has previously purchased seems a little peculiar to me (settings still claim 'Audio:English'), and I've since purchased another version elsewhere (see above).

tldr: Great film, improved since it now seems to play subbed rather than dubbed. Not 100% on Amazon Video's reliability however
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on 17 January 2017
Thanks to the company for shipping this out swiftly and pain free.
To put the recommendation at the beginning - I'd say switch off the English dub and go with the subtitles instead. The voices seemed out of kilter with the characters and the subtitles keeps you glued to the screen.
The story is tragic, and shows a strength that isn't much recognised in western movies. Death is mourned maturely whilst pity and support aren't given out plentifully to the most vulnerable (the main characters), so whilst as grim as the situation is - there's no softness or gushiness about it. Instead it's the determination of the older brother and his maturity that makes the movie for me. His quiet and steady strength in the face of setbacks has us rooting for him throughout. There's more pride and admiration than pity I'd say.
Being an early animation, the actual quality of the picture is rather rudimentary by what we may be used to seeing in anime, yet it feels like it shouldn't be any other way. It's driven by story and not by it's sights.
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on 26 August 2017
Profoundly exhausting. Leaves me in pieces everytime does not get easier the more I watch.

This copy gave an alternate ending, i think there are a couple of alternate endings. I prefer the one whoch leaves my black heart dead and aching.

Highly reccommend!
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on 1 October 2017
This is in complete contrast to Takahata's typical anime but nonetheless just as magical even allowing for an overly depressing subject matter. It does stir up many different emotions including an occasional if not rare uplifting one.

I highly recommend this title is included in your Studio Gibli collection.
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