JTurner's Movie Review of Grave of the Fireflies ( Hotaru no haka )

Rating of

Grave of the Fireflies ( Hotaru no haka )

Heartbreaking. An absolute masterpiece.
JTurner - wrote on 05/31/09

Truly one of Studio Ghibli's greatest crowning achievements, GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES is a brilliant masterpiece fully deserving of a place in any of the best movies ever made. Directed by Isao Takahata, the film follows two Japanese children struggling to survive in the aftermath of World War II. Having lost their home and mother, they at first stay with a bitter, self-serving relative, but ultimately decide to run away to a cave. Both try by all means to live off of vegetables or whatever food they can afford to trade and/or steal, to no avail. Normally one would think of this subject as more appropriate for live-action, but GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES proves that it can be told through the art of animation as well. This is no mindless showcase of gorgeous visuals--although the artistic merits of the movie are, as with Ghibli productions, sumptuous and at times breathtaking--but a display of real characters struggling with very tangible emotions. And the most amazing accomplishment about this movie is how much we grow to care for the children--their inseparable bond of love and companionship is the heart and soul behind the movie. (It makes the final scenes, too, all the more saddening.) There are long stretches of silence on the soundtrack, with music used very sparingly, yet the movie is all the more powerful for it. The most effective moment is where we hear a scratchy rendition of "Home, Sweet Home" over a montage of Setsuko playing by the shelter. It's a simplistic, sweet, yet very saddening moment that not only works in the context of the movie, but on its own as well. Even in a genre as multi-faceted as Japanese Anime, there are few films that literally everyone really MUST see. GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES is one such movie.

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