Grave of the Fireflies

April 4, 2011
Grave of the Fireflies is not a great animated film; a more fitting description would be that it is one fine piece of cinematic perfection. The film is a war drama detailing the story of two orphaned siblings, Seita and Setsuko, forced to endure the hardships of WWII Japan. The children are orphaned after their mother dies from fatal wounds sustained during a fire raid and the children are forced to live on their own. The movie lives up to its title, problems keep piling on for the two children as they try hopelessly to escape their predicament. There is no glimmer of light in sight for these two; however, this is what makes the movie so poignant. Rarely is a war film told from the perspective of the innocents, the people who were forced to live through a war they had no involvement in. Though Seita and Setsuko are living through an insurmountable predicament, they share an unconditional love that gives them reason to keep going on. There are sweet moments shared between the two throughout the film, moments of ease before another disaster rattles their worlds. What are remarkable about this film are the seemingly inconsequential shots used in the film that don’t progress the film but add a sense of realism. It just shows the amount of care that director Isao Takahata put into making this film. There are some people who may be quick to point out that the film is an anime; an art scrutinized for the particular style it is associated with. The characters in Grave of the Fireflies look, by no means, realistic but the execution and the way the characterization of the two siblings is handled feel incredibly human. Setsuko’s mannerisms and movements are like that of an actual little girl. The painstaking detail of the film is a remarkable feat, rarely has animation been able to express characters that were so alive. The audience sees Seita and Setsuko as real individuals; we see them not as animated characters but people with real emotions. This film is a heart-wrenching, emotional roller-coaster that shows just how powerful animation can be. There is a delicacy that animation can convey that live-action is not capable of doing. Animation is not merely a child’s form of entertainment; it is films like Grave of the Fireflies show that animation should be taken as a serious art form.

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