a.k.a. Hotaru no Haka
Toward the latter years of World War II, the tide had turned against the Japanese. American air raids threaten the livelihood of 14-year-old Seita and his infant sister Setsuko. Fleeing their village as it burns to a cinder, the two face the harsh realities of a war they want no part of. Their family and neighbors are of no assistance, and they soon realize that the milk of charity runs sour during times of great destruction. Exhausted by starvation and listlessness, their future appears nonexistent… a dark inevitability marked by diminishing hope.
summary by Kain
Highs: Engaging story; lifelike animation; sweeping music score; ambiance in giant handfuls
Lows: Absolutely none
The greatest anime of all time. Bar none. I could write pages of accolades and still not do it justice. The fact that it’s based on Nosaka Akiyuki’s semi-autobiographical novel “Hotaru no Haka” makes the humanity of this anime all the more prominent. Without giving too much away, Nosaka had written the novel 20 years after World War II to purge the demons that haunted his soul. And oh does it show here.
While the artwork is showing its age (it is an 18-year-old movie), the animation is among the best I have ever seen. Take note of the graceful body movements and facial gestures. This movie proves that subtlety is the best policy. Every piece of music in this film is simply beautiful and adds so much to the atmosphere. The subdued watercolors further emphasize the hopelessness that engulfs the main characters.
There’s one scene in particular that had me utterly floored with its message: Setsuko and Seita catch fireflies and place them under the mosquito netting to illuminate their home. The lights remind Seita of flashy Japanese naval processions his father took part of. The next morning Setsuko is seen burying the dead insects, and whispers, “Why do the fireflies die so quickly?” This moment is burned in my mind as one of anime’s greatest.
The Collector’s Series DVD is out. Get it without hesitation. Oh, and make sure to watch it twice. The first run-through engulfs you so much with its brilliance that you may miss important moments of symbolism. You heard it here first.
Grave of the Fireflies can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.