“Why must fireflies die so young?”
Well, Isao Takahata is one twisted dude. I decided to go to a thesaurus and find some strong words to use for talking about the movie. Here are some: disconsolate, agonizing, desolate, melancholic, lugubrious…
One of the saddest films I’ve ever seen, there really isn’t any reason a human being should watch this movie under any circumstances. It’s a fine movie and all, but just stay away. It gets to you in a way you don’t want. Just forget about it, and go about living your life as if it doesn’t exist. You’ll be happier that way.
I kid, of course, because this movie is fantastic, and I would urge anyone who feels up for it to watch this film. The animation is fantastic, even by today’s standards, and the storytelling is just perfect. The imagery, foreshadowing, dialogue, plot – it all builds into a slow, depressing tale of a brother and a sister just trying to deal with an indifferent world. Focusing in on the devastating firebombing of Japan in World War II, the film also makes a powerful statement about the moral cost of war and those who just want to live their lives.
Studio Ghibli pulls out fantastic work, as always. Every frame is a work of art, and the attention to detail is always impressive in Japanese animation, especially from this company. The English dubbed version I watched may have lost a bit of the film’s original power as dubbing often does, so I would perhaps encourage future viewers to watch the subtitled version, which I may check out in the future for comparison’s sake. Nonetheless, the story hits you right in the gut, and it is just a strong success of cinema.
Animated film has certain benefits of which this movie takes full advantage. The beautiful imagery and vulnerable moments are often the result of detailed artwork and a strong artistic direction from the animation team that live cinema often can’t capture. It paints the story to be something more magical through the use of animation, a feeling that couldn’t be achieved otherwise.
Grave of the Fireflies is a high point in Japanese animation rivaled only by the personal work of Hayao Miyazaki, who I will examine in the future with another Studio Ghibli, Spirited Away. I find that the animation style that comes from Japan captures a humanity to its characters that American animation never realizes in the same way, along with a sense of joy and energy. This is why Japanese animation is so popular all over the world and why Grave of the Fireflies remains one of the strongest pieces to ever come out of the movement.
But seriously, don’t watch this movie.
Films Left to Watch: 996