Friday, 16 March 2012

Grave of the Fireflies (1988) - ★★★★★

Director: Isao Takahata
Writers: Isao Takahata (screenplay), Akiyuki Nosaka (novel)

Grave of the Fireflies is to animated movies what Schindler's List is to live-action films. The best way to describe this movie is heart-wrenching. Made in 1988, Grave of the Fireflies is one of Studio Ghibli's earliest movies. This is arguably the greatest tear-jerker of all time. The anti-war argument speaks loud and clear through the telling of the lives of two innocent children. The first time I saw this movie, I cried for an hour. Every time I hear its score, I still cry.

Set in Japan during WWII, it is about the struggles and love of two siblings that were left homeless and parentless after the bombing of Tokyo. Seito, a teenage boy, and Setsuko, his toddler sister, display such a strong affection for each other that is rarely seen in most western animated movies. The film centers around their love for each other and the willingness they would go to-to help each other through adversity. All they have left in the world are each other, making this movie all the more gut-wrenching as you follow their story.

In the beginning, you see Seito dying in an underground station where people treat him like he's just another homeless person, which is understandable because at the time there were many fatalities from poverty. After he passes, one of the dead collectors throws his tin of fruit drops into a field, which causes a swarm of beautiful fireflies to awaken. Then we see his sister appear amongst them, waiting for Seito to come with her. This scene has the most haunting music, which clearly makes one assume that it's supposed to be sad, yet we shouldn't be sad at all, because they are happy to be reunited. It would have to be in the Top 10 greatest scenes in cinematic history. So symbolic, so poetic, and above all, so sad.

The emotion only became greater from there. It just got sadder and more unbearable to watch as it went on, which was the aim of the movie, to pull at one's heartstrings. I believe Isao Takahata is a genius. The love and friendship between the two really drove one to love the characters, while the moral of the story was wonderful. It taught me that sometimes in your darkest moments, turning to one of your loved ones will be the light that will help you through it. In my honest opinion, this is better than any of Hayao Miyazaki's works with Studio Ghibli.


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