Original Title: Hotaru no haka
Directed and written by Isao Takahata
Base from the novel of Akiyuki Nosaka
Starring Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi and Akemi Yamaguchi
Movies are usually described as "moving", "powerful" and "nice", but Grave of the Fireflies is just one of the highly revered movies that perfectly fit those three aforementioned adjectives.
The sight of the two children caught in the peripheral effects of war makes Grave of the Fireflies a painful yet beautiful movie at the same time. It is indeed an allegory of the two children who struggled for survival after their parents got killed in the war. Produced in the late 80s, the animated one gave simple actions and focused on scenes that portrays beauty and innocence, enhancing the big differences from the harsh realities of life experienced by the two main characters.
Some viewers might think that an anti-American propaganda lies underneath Grave of the Fireflies, but the truth is otherwise. Although the children fell victims of war, there were no scenes in the movie that mentioned about Americans. Instead, it is a continuous battle of Japan albeit knowing the fact that they were already losing at that time. They were just too stubborn to admit their defeat or accept help.
The movie can be also interpreted as a condemnation of pride. Grave of the Fireflies is wholly based from a novel written by Akiyuki Nosaka who survived the war but whose younger sister died of starvation under his care. Those scenes depict Seita's unwillingness to seek help thus resorting to theft just to feed his sister, and penultimately, allowing his grief to consume and punish him - something that won't happen in real life - for that particular decision. The enemy in the movie is actually human weaknesses that come from war.
Despite being themed as a war movie, one will never see an actual war. It focuses more on the victims particularly on the two children. Grave of the Fireflies places a facet of the civilians that were totally affected by the war. Moreover, it was an effective movie as it pulled its painful and realistic themes but still remained in an understated manner. Likewise, it is too painful to watch, but equally difficult to take your eyes off.
With regards to the animation, it may seemed ordinary but it was surprisingly realistic. The acting was also extremely good. Setsuko's character is one of the most convincing pieces of acting for a child. The character was believable according to her age - neither too articulate nor too cute. The musical score provides more drama to some scenes as well.
Grave of the Fireflies is a touching and an extremely painful film to watch; I even cried a river after watching this movie! It is indeed an honest, direct, though provoking and worth watching by anyone. Prepare loads of tissue before you watch it!
RATING: 9.5 / 10