I did not read any reviews beforehand save for the one that's on the box, and I was slightly surprised when the movie started with a voice announcing that he died, and showing the main character's corpse. Normally this would turn off any viewer, but what comes after intrigues me, and ultimately, crushed what remained inside me that I claimed to be compassion - and later rebuilt another. This movie is not sweet, it is not happy. Even when the brother and sister go around gathering fireflies to light their bomb shelter, it was not sweet. It was saddening; nowadays when you have no other lighting option you'd just go around a store and grab some candles and pay for it. These young souls had to gather fireflies, which in my personal experience are hard to catch.
And isn't it just like what they are experiencing? Something that they needed the most but it is so hard to catch or achieve, and when they did, it only lasted for a while.
And as for those who criticise the brother's unwillingness to beg/plead to his aunt, the Japanese mindset (sorry if this makes me sound ignorant) is educated in such a way that pride comes first, need comes second. That should explain it. What's more, these are children taught not to do any self-degrading things on themselves.
This is not a war movie, nor it is an anti-war movie, or even an anti-America protest in its subtlest form. This is a story well-told, a story that will grab you and won't let go, ever. In war, during and after, nothing means anymore. Not even those who claimed to be the heroes, the uplifter of Justice. When everything around you is blood and mire, only survival matters. And this story is about two little souls who tried to rise against it and failed.
In the end, doesn't the title explain everything, readers?
Fireflies are beautiful things, they shine in the dark;
But when they die nobody knows where their graves are,
Nor do they care.
Sure, I've seen almost all of Miyazaki. My kids love them and I love, for instance, the playfulness of Totoro and how Kiki finds her self confidence. And then there is the technical brilliance of, say, Spirited Away.
But Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies is a cut above. It shattered me emotionally, yet somehow uplifted me spiritually. I don't see it as a sad movie, devoid of hope, as someone wrote here. It is a beautiful tragedy with a message to tell. It is a film for adults and it hits on many levels and I am still seeing meaning in it after three times viewing it.
The hope comes from the love of the brother and sister for each other and their dignity. Despite their many hardships they are, with a few exceptions where Saita completely breaks down, well mannered. Meanwhile, everyone they meet cares only for themselves, or at least shows a rude ambivilance towards the two. The contrast is incredible. Yet, judgement is not passed upon them. It is left to us to judge. Nor is judgement passed on the enemy, whom the closest we get to, is seeing them as they streak overhead in their bombers.
Also, the hope is shown by the "spirit" Saita and Satsuko who shadow the real characters at important crossroads in their lives and in the very last scene as ghosts watching over modern Japan.
But the movie is not about Japan or World War Two or even War itself. It is about compassion and the human spirit. As a film, it is most like Schindler's List and the same emotion and depths of emotion I felt in that movie I feel with Fireflies. Everyone should see this movie.
I've seen this film some days ago, and now i continue thinking about the story of this film.
I felt love, happy, sad and pain when i watched the film.
The history is about 2 children that are in the middle of the War in Japan (WORLD WAR 2) and they have to survive without parents and without money.
Only i tell you that I have NEVER cried so many like in this film.
You must to see it!!!!!!!!
pd1=I think that should be obligatory to view at school.
pd2=I'd like that all governings of the world watched this film.
pd3=I recommend it for people older than 14 or 15 years. (It's too sad for the children)