Weekly Movie Rec: Grave of the Fireflies

Between this and the Up/Dead Island video, I’m just really bumming you guys out this week. Roger Ebert has called Grave of the Fireflies the saddest movie ever made, and upon that recommendation, I promptly went and watched it for myself.

It’s a Studio Ghibli feature, and as you know they’re behind classics like Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Tortoro and so on, but this is not Hayao Miyazaki directing this time around. Isao Takahata is the man in charge, and he paints a beautifully tragic picture of life for a young boy and his little sister in World War II-era Japan. As Americans (well the 60% of our readers that are Americans) we only really have one perspective on WWII, and seeing what life was like on the other side is really eye opening.

The film is pretty nonstop tragedy, with only a few brief moments of joy. It’s extremely well made, but might be a bit too intense for some. My roommate’s girlfriend came in during the last ten minutes, and even seeing nothing that came before it, she was bawling her eyes out soon enough. It’s a masterpiece of emotion told through animation, and it stands up even after 20+ years of advancements in the field. Watch at your own risk, but Grave of the Fireflies really is a must see.


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  1. Agreed. Excellent movie but it will break your heart.
    Anyone interested in watching it, I highly recommend you stay the hell away from the English dub and watch it with the english subtitles instead. The movie is about kids and the english dub uses adult actors pretending to be kids whereas the japanese actors were actual children that were significantly better actors.

  2. So, so good. I went through a phase when I was about 15 when I watched this over and over again until my mom took it away because she was seriously worried I was going to damage my psyche.

  3. You lost me at “…upon that recommendation, I promptly went and watched it for myself”, Paul

    Ebert is terrible and obvious and I can’t take anyone who’s opinion that ‘videogames are not art’ seriously. Even prior to his idiotic statement, there are too many other critics who are worth reading to even consider that guy’s opinions valid. Pajiba?

    Having ‘U MAD’ed that, this film is amazing. My mom loved it and I do too.

  4. The scene that breaks my heart the most strongly occurs after the boy has taken his little sister to a doctor. The doctor coldly diagnoses ‘starvation’ as her problem. Leaving the clinic, the duo comes upon an ice-delivery cart parked in the road. Seeing some ice has landed in the road, the boy kneels, carefully scoops it all up, & then feeds it to his sister (who by this point doesn’t care).

    The simple heart-tugging humanity of this scene had me BAWLING the 1st dozen or so times I’ve watched. Definitely agree this is a must-see film!

  5. It’s kind of based on a true story. I believe the author of the book the movie is based on lost his sister during the war and always blamed himself for it, so he went and wrote “Grave of Fireflies” as a way to deal with his grief.

  6. grave of the fireflies belongs on any shortlist of must-watch WWII films. props for the rec.

    also, a commenter above mentioned Barefoot Gen. bit more intro for anyone who’s curious: i read it in its original manga form but it’s since been adapted into live-action films, animated films, and even a live-action tv mini-series. it’s an unflinchingly realistic (and also semi-autobiographical) look at the aftermath and effects of the hiroshima bombing on ordinary citizens. the series is definitely worth a read (can’t speak for the adaptations), but be forewarned that it can come across as rather xenophobic and racist at parts.

  7. while it is a good movie, one can argue that it was japans fault for causing some segments of wwii. this movie blatantly makes it seem like it was japan being the victims with america portrayed as inhumane

  8. @753

    If you really look at the death toll between Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Americans were pretty humane.

    America basically went into overkill mode with those bombs, why do you think we haven’t used them again? It really bugs the hell out of me that people still have a WWII mentality about countries like Japan and Germany. You think that just because the Japanese government decided to pull that shit that the entire country was behind it? Way to group people together. “You’re the same ethnicity as my enemy and therefore my enemy”

    Anyone who has no say in what war tactics their government uses is a victim. There are victims in every country. Nice sweeping gesture mentality there.

    As for the movie, I’ve heard exactly what’s been said here. I want to watch it, but I don’t know if I could get through it.

  9. There’s no doubt that this is an incredible and difficult film to watch. You WILL cry. And the second viewing is even tougher. Knowing all that awaits those children just kills you. As a friend of mine said, ‘It’s the greatest film I can never watch again.’

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