Film Review of Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies

You need to trust an animated film. It possesses a childlike nature; the fabric of which is unfeigned and vulnerable. We don’t live life in such vivid and beaming colors. Assimilating landscapes that are bold enough to capture the vestibules of our mind. Our imagination is mimicked (perhaps even limited) by own perceptibility. And this symphonizes how we think of others – people, nature, buildings, trees, roads, places we’ve never been, places too briefly seen to be remembered. I haven’t experienced a film as realistically and candidly as the Grave of the Fireflies.

Based on a semi-autobiographical novel, the story is about Setsuko and Seita. It transcends hostility in the way history perceives it. How it writes famine, war, survival, bloodshed, desertion, and invasion as mere words. But the living and breathing of it are left behind in the dust. As we are specks of dust, such suffering and loss is what makes each dust an entire universe. So Carl Sagan writes, “We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.”

This film is poetic and artistic. It’s not defined by its spatial dimensions. You see it as a tragic painting and, all at the same time, you hear it as you would a transformative tale. There’s no past that shows you what has passed or no future that bears witness to what’s left. The pain is in the here and now; so voluminous and defined, it lingers even after the film ends.

Grave of the Fireflies has substance and essence. It reaches to such intense complexities of the heart. The seed that remains, no matter how gorged and depleted it has become by what falls from above… sowing its own beauty and virtue.