Movies Are Boring—’Grave of the Fireflies’
The anti-war animated classic that’s not anti-war
Directed by Isao Takahata, 1988 anime classic Grave of the Fireflies. It’s the story of Seita and Setsuko, young Japanese siblings struggling to survive during the final months of World War II.
Grave of the Fireflies is from Studio Ghibli, which was also responsible for the classics Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and the recent The Wind Rises.
Studio Ghibli favors folk tales with mature subtexts. In Pom Poko, a war between tribes of magical tanukis—a kind of Japanese raccoon dog—is a metaphor for the devastating environmental consequences of unrestrained urbanization.
Grave of Fireflies, by contrast, feels like a folk tale … but there’s really no subtext. The film’s themes, drama and pain are all right there on the surface.
Westerners tend to view the movie as anti-war. Takahata has explicitly stated that this was not his intent. Grave of the Fireflies is about responsibility, family and the repercussions of pride, Takahata said.
Grave of the Fireflies is one of those movies everyone should see at least once. But maybe not more than once.