The 1988 anime film from Studio Ghibli was written and directed by Isao Takahata. This is an adaptation of a book from Akiyuki Nosaka, and is semi-autobiographical, and it happens to be one of the most powerful movies you will ever see. This is not lighthearted fare, as it is about the life of two orphaned children at the end of World War II. Westerners do not know what this period of life was like for those who lived in Japan, and this poignant and tragic story does a fantastic job of illustrating that.
You Need to See Graves of the Fireflies
Roger Ebert said that Grave of the Fireflies was one of the best and most powerful antiwar movies made, and some have even compared it with Schindler’s List. The children in the film have lost their parents in the war. Their father was in the Imperial Navy, and their mother died in the firebombing in Kobe. The beginning of the movie actually starts with the death of one of the main characters. Much of the film is told through flashbacks, but it is never difficult to tell what’s happening.
The children are left to survive on their own. Even their extended family seems to want nothing to do with them. The aunt they try to live with is exceedingly cruel, and even sells their dead mother’s things to buy rice for herself. The two decide to head out and live in an abandoned bomb shelter. Things are no better for them there. It does a fantastic job of showing just how rough it was for many people, the children especially, in the aftermath of WWII.
As with all of the movies that come from Studio Ghibli, you will marvel at the quality of the hand-drawn animation. It is beautiful, and the artists truly managed to capture the horrors that these poor children had to endure.
Without spoiling too much, when people say that this is one of the saddest films they’ve ever seen, they are not exaggerating. It is sometimes painful and heartbreaking to watch, but it is one of those films that you must see. It also happens to be a great movie to show the uninformed people who think that anime is all about fantasy creatures and robots. This is powerful, moving, and will leave anyone with a heart with some tears.
Seek this film out if you haven’t seen it.