Grave of the Fireflies: A Japanese Anime Masterpiece

Grave of the Fireflies: A Japanese Anime Masterpiece

Grave of the Fireflies is a Japanese anime masterpiece, an animated drama film written and directed by Isao Takahata, with animation production work provided by Studio Ghibli.  Grave of the Fireflies tells the story of two children from Japan’s port city of Kobe, who have been made homeless by the WWII American firebombing of the city.  The film is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Nosaka Akiyuki, who was a boy at the time of the firebombs, whose sister did die of hunger and whose life has been shadowed by guilt.

Roger Ebert considers Grave of the Fireflies to be one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever made and has described the film as “an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation….Grave of the Fireflies” is a powerful dramatic film that happens to be animated, and I know what the critic Ernest Rister means when he compares it to “Schindler’s List” and says, “It is the most profoundly human animated film I’ve ever seen.”

The film tells a simple story of survival. The boy and his sister must find a place to stay and food to eat.  But in wartime their relatives are neither kind nor generous, and and the boy soon is left to fend for both himself and his young sister.  He has some money and can buy food, but soon there is no food to buy.  His sister grows weaker and weaker.  Their story is told not as melodrama, but rather in the simple and  direct manner of the neo-realist tradition.  And there is time for silence in it.  One of the film’s greatest gifts is its patience; shots are held so that we can think about them; characters are glimpsed in their private moments; atmosphere and nature are given time to establish themselves.

Grave of the Fireflies: A Japanese Anime Masterpiece

Roger Ebert on Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

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