Starring: Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Akemi Yamaguchi
Director: Isao Takahata
Running Time: 89 mins
Grave Of The Fireflies is a Japanese film that follows a boy and his younger sister’s struggle to survive in Japan towards the end of WWII, where the boy must fight the hardships caused by the war, while still preserving the innocence of his young sister.
This is an exceptional film. It’s not only an amazing display of the brilliance of director Isao Takahata, as well as the incredible beauty of Studio Ghibli’s animation, but it’s the most emotionally powerful film I’ve ever seen. With a story that develops so much throughout and had such a huge impact on me, I can’t ignore the stunning abilities of all who worked on this astonishing and devastating film.
Literally everything about this film is amazing, but we’ll start with what Studio Ghibli are most heralded for: the animation. Unlike some of its other more fantastical films, Grave Of The Fireflies is a real, gritty story, and so you’d expect that this style of animation wouldn’t be as effective as live action.
However, the beautiful elegance of the animation adds yet another level to how fantastic this is. Despite the horror of the devastation of the Second World War’s impact on all the people of Japan, there is a real beauty to this film. It’s so well-crafted, and you can see in every scene the amazing detail that’s gone into both the wonderful backdrops and the main characters’ faces, and it really makes for mesmerising watching throughout.
But what is by far the most impressive part of this film is its astonishing emotional power. The story about these two children’s loss of innocence at the hands of the war is devastating enough, but it’s the relentless hardships that they have to go through that have the biggest impact. This isn’t the sort of film where it’s just one moment that hits hard, it’s the build-up of so much hardship and turmoil over the course of the story that eventually brought me into floods of tears.
Capitalising on what is a consistently devastating but enthralling story, Grave Of The Fireflies comes to a head with a phenomenal ending. The last half an hour is heavy enough, but building even more on that is the last five minutes or so. Set to a beautifully melancholic score, the film ends on a painfully devastating note.
It may sound cheesy, but I was completely speechless at the end of Grave Of The Fireflies, not only because I was astounded by the visual beauty of the film, but also due to the staggering emotional power that builds and builds as the film goes on. It’s an exceptionally written and directed film, and gives a totally unique cinematic experience the likes of which I don’t think you’ll see anywhere else, and that’s why I have to give Grave Of The Fireflies an 8.8.