Monday, July 29, 2013

Film Review: Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Grave of the Fireflies (Review)
Japan/1988
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...an animated benchmark that surpasses most live-action films that attempt to capture the same subject."

During the final months of World War 2, Seita and his younger sister, Setsuko, survive the bombing of the city of Kobe. Supporting each other through the harsh reality of war, the two siblings continue through constant firebombings, caring yet nagging relatives, malnutrition, and much, much more.

Grave of the Fireflies is a wartime drama. It's not a biased film nor is it a film that preaches - don't expect an emphasis on the enemies or any antiwar themes. As a wartime film, Grave of the Fireflies focuses much more on the experience of survival, hope, and general humanity. It's a very powerful and compelling story from beginning to end. There are moments that will make you smile, and other moments that may make you cry. Regardless, it's a story filled with deep, genuine emotion. The last 10 minutes, or so, of the film end painfully; it's bittersweet, but the pain overpowers the sweetness.

The characters have a real impact and are greatly developed. The relationship between the two lead siblings feels authentic, which makes it much more effective. There are some dislikable characters, but people like that do exist - and I enjoy the blunt truth the film represents regarding this point. Seita is really developed as a caring older brother, a family man who would do anything for his little sister. Setsuko is incredibly adorable and easily likable from beginning to end; a character that ultimately makes for one of the most memorable endings of all time. I thoroughly believe this wartime drama is as effective as it is because of its focus on characters and relationships, as well as its focus on family, hope, society and survival - with an open-for-interpretation war theme.

The voice acting is fantastic from the entire Japanese cast. To emit such genuine emotion through audio is an accomplishment for this incredible voice-over cast. The animation is great and works well with the film; the vivid use of color is amazing and compelling, especially during the stunningly beautiful firefly scenes. The music is beautiful, and a great guide for your emotions; a very memorable soundtrack I'd listen to on its own. I watched this on Blu-ray, and picture and audio quality is great - definitely the version to own for fans, and the version to watch for first time viewers.

Overall, Grave of the Fireflies is a superb drama - a compelling, bittersweet anime; an animated benchmark that surpasses most live-action films that attempt to capture the same subject. This is a must-watch film, whether you enjoy anime or not.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Some disturbing images concerning the aftermath of war, as well as malnutrition.

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