Cult Classic: Grave of the Fireflies

21 Sep

Let me set the scene for you. My sister and I read about Jensen’s Indie Movie Night in the local paper, and, of course, were very interested. So Monday night we show up to the address listed, expecting some sort of slightly pretentious, super cozy theater that probably doubles as a coffee shop, and instead find a guitar store. We nervously go into the shop and the man at the counter asks how he can help us. “Um, is a movie playing here?” Yes. “Grave of the Fireflies?” He doesn’t know. He shows us into a dark room with a projector and about twenty folding chairs, only two of which are occupied. Awkwardly we find two seats in the front and sit in them, then realize we are sitting directly in front of the only other audience members, and move down a couple of chairs. As he is setting up the projector, Guitar-Store-Clerk Man asks, “What are we watching tonight?” and is answered by Girl-Behind-Us Girl “Grave of the Fireflies. An anime film.” “So, you mean, like Pokémon?” he asks as he puts in what is obviously a bootleg DVD. “No, not anything like Pokémon.” How right she was. As the movie starts she says, “Oh and it’s directed by Hayao Miyazaki.”

I turned to my sister and said, “I’m pretty sure this isn’t a Miyazaki film.” Unfortunately I was not able to prove this during the opening credits, as they were all in Japanese with no English translation. When I got home I was able to look up the information online and find out that it was directed Isao Takahata, who was in the business long before, and helped inspire, Mr. Miyazaki. But even without this concrete proof while watching, there are three aspects of the film that confirmed my suspicions: the lack of magic, the subtle differences in character animation, and the fact that it was tremendously tragic. So tragic, in fact, that I am finding it burdensome to write about now.

Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies centers on a Japanese brother and sister, Seita and Setsuko, who are orphaned during World War II. Not wanting to give too much of the plot away, I will simply say that the film depicts their fight for survival during a time of bombardments and famine, which at times stoops to levels of desperation that no children (or person of any age, for that matter) should ever have to go through. It succeeds as a coming of age story, a story of the bond between siblings, of despair, of war… it is a masterpiece. Not only is it one of the best animated films I have ever seen, it is one of the best (anti-) war films I have ever seen. It holds at the top with Schindler’s List for its similar depiction of the tragedy of war and the humans who live through it. It is real, it is raw, it is bittersweet. Watch it. But maybe not on a night when you feel in the mood to watch something like Pokémon.

Still recovering,



2 Responses to “Cult Classic: Grave of the Fireflies”

  1. Val September 21, 2009 at 1:50 pm #

    I’ve actually seen this movie!!! I agree, it was very tragic, very heavy. Wasn’t expecting that at all.

    Great review, Fetus.

  2. Charlie Bucket September 25, 2009 at 4:33 pm #

    I can’t wait to watch!

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