Grave of the Fireflies is a Japanese animation film directed by Isao Takahata. I think this is my one of my first Japanese animation films (I do not watch movies haha). I have heard about this movie though, and I had the impression that it is a very sad film (it is).
Basically, it is a story of a pair of Japanese siblings (trying to) survive World War II. This film starts with the scene of a dying Seita: and he dies alone with sores all over his body, homeless. The film then uses kind of a ‘flashback’ method to tell the story, with Seita’s spirit sometimes appearing in the various scenes.
The starting of the story telling was beautifully sad… As a janitor cleans the station, he sees Seita’s bodies and checks for any possessions, and I feel this is not because he wanted to find any ID on Seita, but rather he had wanted to steal from whatever Seita had on him – a candy tin filled with ashes. Thinking it was worth nothing, he flung it into the open, and as it fell into the grass, Seita’s sister’s spirit came out of the tin, together with fireflies of the field, lighting up the screen.
In this film, even though it was said that the US army was the one who was bombing Japan, it did not show active battle scenes, for example from the film We Were Soldiers (2002), where the battle scenes are evident:
In Grave of the Fireflies, war was more of the backstory, to set the context of the film. The film focuses on the effects war has, especially on the pair of siblings. Both siblings were not directly killed by the bombings, but died as a result of the war. It was a heartbreaking movie, as the innocence of Setsuko was shining through the darkness of the film’s theme. Even though her childhood joy was robbed, her innocence just made the story sooooo sad. 😦 For instance she had not understood the emotional ache her brother was experiencing, but Setsuko assumed it was a physical pain that the doctor could heal. Also, the motif of Setsuko’s candy tin was seen throughout the film.
Likewise, Seita was forced to grow out of his childhood/ teenage phase prematurely has he had to take on the role of a guardian towards his little sister. The emotional weights he felt must have been tremendous.
Something interesting (and sad) to know is that this film was inspired by a true story. Akiyuki Nosaka is the author of the semi-autobiographical short story, Grave of the Fireflies in 1967. He lost his sister to the war, and this story was a “guilt ridden apology to his sisters”. Nosaka shared in an interview that “My(His) sister’s death is an exact match with the novel. It was one week after the end of the war.”
Personally, I do feel if Seita had not left his aunt’s house (swallowed his pride and apologised), his sister most likely would not have died. When he left his aunt’s house, he was putting his needs above his sister’s, who had depended solely on him for survival. (His aunt was so terrible though!) (Then again he was just a teenager! And an innocent victim of war)
What do you think? 🙂
Wars are certainly terrible, I do hope World War III will not happen.
Peace, and love, everyone! ♥