Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka)

Genre: Heavy Drama
Parental Guidance Recommended
1988 Takahata Isao (director), Nosaka Akiyuki (novel author), Studio Ghibli

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Cover Description:
It is post-war Japan, just weeks before American troops arrive for occupation. In city of Kobe, a boy lies dying in a train station. By his body lies a small metal candy container. A janitor, not sure what to make of its ashy contents, pitches it into the night. As fireflies float softly around it, the ghostly figures of the boy and his little sister emerge.

Flashback to a short time earlier. Orphaned and homeless from a fire-bomb attack on their city, 14-year-old Seita and his 4-year-old sister Setsuko set out to survive on their own in the face of a society no longer able to help them. Forced into living in an abandoned bomb shelter in the Japanese countryside, they slowly come to realize that they cannot escape the hardships of war or even find enough food on which to survive.

I cried... >>> by skysenshi (09.18.2001 ed. 12.27.2004)

A critically acclaimed Isao Takahata masterpiece, Hotaru no Haka, will definitely break your heart the way many 1970's anime used to do. At first I found it so depressing that I had to fall asleep. Moments later, I was already excusing myself and then returning only to my seat with boxes of tissues in hand.

The artwork isn't much, though its quality is something I've come to expect from Ghibli productions. Despite this, you'd come to realize that the artwork in itself is a tool on its own. You will not have any doubts that you're watching something tragic. The choice of colors, the background music, and back drops in themselves already put you in tears.

From the first five minutes, Hotaru no Haka does not paint a pretty sight. Here you will see a skinny boy who is left for dead and he tells of how he struggled to survive and how he eventually passed away. Nevertheless, many reviewers have said -- and I tend to agree -- that even though this title speaks a lot about tragedy and death, it is brimming with life. You experience the harshness of human emotion, greed, and need from the very people that play major roles in this scenario: the heartless aunt, the uncaring doctor, the annoying little brat who later becomes victim to malnutrition. These elements teach a lot about the essence of humanity, especially to people like me who have ancestors that have fallen to Japanese guns and bayonets during the World War II.

Was it a good watch? It is. It definitely is. I could count the few depressing movies that I'd gladly give a high score to. Hotaru no Haka is one of them. There's only one thing about it that sets it apart from the other movies I've given a high rating to: I don't plan to watch this again. EVER.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 9; Characters 7; Sounds 9

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