ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Grave of the Fireflies

Updated on August 31, 2016

A Powerful, Beautiful Movie That Packs an Emotional Punch

This is a movie that will make you sad and possibly break your heart more than a little. "Grave of the Fireflies" is an animated film released in 1988 that is based on a haunting, semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka. The talents of Studio Ghibli and the direction of Isao Takahata manage to transmit the story to the screen without any loss of impact that I could see.

"Grave of the Fireflies" pulls absolutely no punches and some scenes are truly horrifying, but it's done for authenticity, not shock value. It follows the struggles of two Japanese children trying to survive through the end of World War II after the fire bombing of Kobe in 1945. As throughout most of human history, individuals without power are tossed around by the whims and distant decisions of the mighty few like dandelion seeds scattered in the updraft of a wildfire. "Grave of the Fireflies" is full of simple, everyday things and touched with moments of bittersweet peace and normality set against a backdrop of a world of chaos and inhumanity.

This movie is animated but it is not intended for children. It contains deeply disturbing themes including war and starvation and exposes realities many would find extremely upsetting.

While this animated feature is about war, it contains no politics, no justifications, and no national pride. It shows only ordinary children caught in an incredible disaster of human making. The semi-autobiographical nature of the novel it's based on is clear and this film brings that out with a painful authenticity.

People think of bombs and sirens and screaming people when they think of war but that makes up only a very small portion of the film. Instead, it shows how such things destroy innocents and ordinary people much more slowly and cruelly in their aftermath.

Inside ten minutes I stopped seeing the characters as characters and started seeing them as children. When Seita tries to distract little Setsuko from a life crumbling around them it was all too easy to see Seita as any big brother desperately trying to care for his baby sister.

The humanity of Akiyuki Nosaka and his love for his little sister shine through this work and are as beautiful as they are painful. In the end, he's just a little boy doing the best he can when thrust into a situation even an adult would be powerless against.

The medium of animation allows this story to be told visually in ways that would be almost impossible in a live-action film without an enormous budget and massive use of CGI. The imagery and symbolism is positively poetic and the film itself is visually stunning despite animation that some might see as somewhat simplistic.

I love this film because, while it deals with an absolutely horrible aspect of human existence, it does so with a gentle, respectful tenderness. It shows the value of the love found in striving to care for another even when it ends in failure. It shows a type of fallible heroism and many aspects of the human experience as seen through the eyes of children that are seldom portrayed in film.

Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies

If you don't have a Blu-Ray player, you'll want a standard DVD version like this one. I don't think the animation needs the higher definition format, but Blu-Ray versions of the movie also exist if you prefer.

Netflix has Grave of the Fireflies as a DVD if you'd prefer to rent rather than purchase it. I've included this Amazon ad so as to provide an image for the page because I can't find any stills or images from the film that I can get permission to use.

 

I recommend having lots of Kleenex on hand and an extremely funny comedy to watch after watching "Grave of the Fireflies" as a sort of "antidote" to the devastating sadness of the film.

Have you watched Grave of the Fireflies?

See results

Which do you prefer? Subbed or dubbed?

In my opinion, this movie is best watched in the original Japanese with English (or in whatever language is your mother tongue) subtitles because the Japanese voice actors add so much emotion, tone, and inflection to the story. What do you think?

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Kylyssa profile imageAUTHOR

      Kylyssa Shay 

      2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      I think there are few films that remove the politics from war and deal with the effects of it in such a moving and human manner. I didn't know it was based on a true story until after I watched it the first time, but I wasn't surprised because there were so many parts of it that just hit you in the gut with disturbing realities despite being portrayed with animated characters and settings.

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      2 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Thank you for reminding me about this incredible story! I watched it with my daughter and we were both moved to tears. Your review is excellent, makes me want to watch it again, with the box of Kleenex of course!

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      3 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Thank you for this review, sensitively handled but with a realist's touch. And not too much detail to spoil possible future viewers. With things going astray in Syria and Iraq and refugees in many parts of Africa and the Middle East, this film would be a pertinent watch.

    • Lynda Makara profile image

      Lynda Makara 

      4 years ago from California

      This is one I haven't heard of before. Now I'm intrigued.

    • bpratt lm profile image

      bpratt lm 

      4 years ago

      I agree in watching movies in their original language :) It gives it a different vibe, I feel like a lot of the movie is lost in translation.

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      4 years ago from Northern California

      I've never watched anything in Japanese. This looks like a beautiful tribute to a difficult time.

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 

      4 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      I love Japanese anime, but I am not sure I'm in the mood for such a dark and sad story. Maybe later.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)