Grave of the Fireflies is a Japanese animated Film by the iconic Studio Ghibli. Some consider it, the greatest animated movie of all time. If you recon that Bambi was emotional as animation gets, Let me start my saying that grave of the fireflies is like depression distilled into 90 minutes. This film evokes emotion like no other and is known as a real tear jerker.
Grave of the fireflies is based on Akiyuki Nosaka's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. It chronicles the lives of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, following the fire-bombing of their town during the end of second world war. Following this we witness their struggle for survival, both parent-less and homeless we observe their tragedy with unsentimental intimacy. Despite the somber tone, the movie is contrasted with magical moments of natural beauty and childlike delight, thus making the tale even more harrowing.
This film is a work of art unlike no other, most modern animated films use computer generated models like Toy Story or Up. Yet studio Ghibli has stuck to hand drawn animation, this gives the film a sense of its own style. The character design are also able to make well of a sense of realism, it captures the sense of humanity frame by frame, the animation makes it feel like I’m experiencing someone else’s memories.
The English voice dubbing is surprising good in this film, the voice actors are able to convey emotion as well as capture the spirit of the characters. This is very rare anime in general, most dubs while accurate in terms of story are never able to capture the feel of the character they are portraying.
As the story goes, grave of the fireflies is a shower of emotion, the film pellets you with constantly with sadness and despair. But the film is well structed, well-paced and well told. I think if this were a western film, there would moments of light heartedness to give some sort of refuge from the deluge of sadness, yet this film has no breaks, it captures the raw devastation and the brutality war.
Some people consider this an antiwar film due to its grim nature and graphic imagery, but I disagree. I feel like this is more of a personal story which just happens to be set during war time. I feel that this film isn’t really pushing any agenda or message, it’s just a biopic. This is along the lines what the director Isao Takahata has commented on the film.
The characters being the siblings are very well fleshed out, along with the rest of the cast. They act how most people would react in such a situation, maybe that is because this film is based on real events or perhaps that it is directed by Isao Takahata as opposed to Hayao Miyazaki. but still this really is a lone example where animation is used to such a degree to exhibit such a topic. The only comparison I have is of classic Walt Disney films, they have always anthropomorphised creatures then explored such themes. Yet Takahata is able to capture such realism with animation and use it to his advantage, that it really is amazing.
This might come off as obvious but this movie is a definite must watch. Just as 101 Dalmatians and lion king are classics, Grave of the Fireflies deserves to be on that list. It is the greatest animated movie that I have ever scene and is worthy of a perfect 10 out of 10.