During WWII, frequent air raids terrorized the peaceful towns of Japan. Amidst hails of napalm canisters, two children struggle to survive. Armed with a can of candy and a meager sum of money, the siblings rely on each other to stay alive.
Anime has a special place in my heart. From the heart-pumping action scenes in Naruto to slap stick comedies like Azumanga Daioh, I enjoy it in all its glory. Which is why I am excited to finally review one. Many of you may have heard of Studio Ghibli, the creator of household names such as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. These films were praised for its astounding visuals that whisked audiences away to another world. Grave of the Fireflies however takes on a very different approach. Grounded in reality with its tragic characters, the movie sports a much slower pace and somber tone.
One stellar aspect of the movie was its portrayal humanity. Straight from the get go, we can see the dark side of mankind. As Seito slowly dies in an unknown train station, the crowd simply walks by, unnerved by his dirty appearance. This careless disregard for life is seen throughout the film. His aunt who takes him and his sister in slowly starts to mistreat them after making full use of them. When they decide to leave, she makes no attempt to stop them, happy to be free of a financial burden. However it is not all doom and gloom. When the two etch out a little happiness for themselves, I felt myself silently cheering them on even though I knew of their upcoming demise.
The motif of the film would be the little tiny can that accompanies them throughout their journey. In the beginning, the can is full of sweets and their hopes were still high even after losing their mother. Yet each time the can is pulled out, its contents get thinner as the duo get more malnourished. By the end when his sister died, the can was empty only to be replaced with her ashes. At this point, Seito had lost the will to live, allowing himself to succumb to malnutrition.
The icing on the cake for this movie however was its musical score. While the animation has not held up that well through the passage of time, the music is still sublime. There were times were there the simplest scenes had a much stronger impact after the song kicked in. An example is how when the mother is pronounced dead, a sad tune accompanies the scene as the two siblings cope with it in their own way.
Studio Ghibli has always produced animated masterpieces and this one is no different. 9/10.
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