There aren’t many films nowadays that have the ability to reduce me to tears within the first (approximately) 3 minutes of watching it, but Grave of the Fireflies succeeds, and with flying colours at that. To most people, they wont feel this sadness until towards the end of the film, however after you have seen it a few times, the feeling comes a little too early. This film deserves every little bit of praise that it receives, even known to one reviewer as “one of the greatest war films of all time”, and if you disagree then shame on you.
However, don’t let my rubbish ability to control my emotions put you off. As one of Studio Ghibli’s most respected films, it is remarkably easy to see why. Released as a double feature with Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro in Japanese cinemas in 1988, it had an surprisingly poor first response from the public. As My Neighbour Totoro was initially raking in younger audiences with the soft and cuddly characters, Grave of the Fireflies was simply turning them away with a more depressing look on life.
Originally a novel by author Akiyuki Nosaka, it was seen upon as a mini autobiography of him and his sisters at the time of the war in Japan, where one of his sisters died of malnutrition. He writes about the troubles that his family faced and the pain of war, which is captured perfectly in Takahata’s film.
The narrative focuses on two siblings, older brother Seita and young sister Setsuko, as they fight for survival during the Kobe bombings of World War 2. As the audiences is captured by the relationship of the two, we are shown flashbacks showing the two’s fate and how it eventually came to be that way. This, like many other films that use the technique (eg, Moulin Rouge), have a strong and powerful way of fixing an audience straight away, as your more likely to watch it all to find out what happens in the end.
If your assumption of this film is now to stay as far away as possible, mainly because of my synopsis, then change your mind. As it still is one of the most heartwarming films that I have ever seen, and . Imdb even considers the film to be no.190 out of the best 250 films EVER made. So if that isnt enough to persuade you to watch it, or just to love it a little bit more than you should already do, then im not doing a good job.