I will admit it, I was a mess after watching this. I can't think for the life of me how I managed to finish this animated feature without making an effort to close my eyes, and when it finally ended I found myself blubbering completely like I've just lost a dear friend. That was how severe the impact this anime had on my senses. It actually reduced me into a salty puddle of tears and I never expected that to happen.
GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES
This anime literally stunned me
I've been hearing a lot about this Studio Ghibli anime way before I've watched it and how it can affect its viewers by its gloomy themes. Although this is not a Hayao Miyazaki feature, you have to give credit to its director Isao Takahata for capturing the pathos of Akiyuki Nosaka's novel, where the anime was based from. The backdrop was set in Japan during the second World War, as we follow the story of 14-year old Seita and his younger sister Setsuko. You'll be glued to the screen as you helplessly watch them fight a losing battle against life's cruel odds and dodge the unfortunate curveballs their destiny throws at them.
MY PERSONAL REACTIONS
I must warn you that if you're going to watch this animated feature, you should prepare yourself emotionally first.
Try to be more objective and stay focused throughout the whole duration of the movie, at least it will soften the blow somehow. I'm just saying this so you won't have the same terrible experience like I had. I was one of the few unlucky viewers, who only had the faintest idea of how really absorbing and heartbreaking this story can get. Simply put, I wasn't ready. It was very difficult to watch them try to survive with the meager possessions they had. Seita only had his youthful spirit and determination to earn enough money so that he can at least bring food to the table. When he's unlucky with the odd-jobs he gets, the only food he can give his sister are these gumdrops from a tin can.
But what if there will be no more jobs for him?
What if the war gets worse?
What if the tin can runs out of gumdrops?
I can't finish that last question.
I just might ruin the film's whole essence if I continued on. I was so affected that I almost choked-up during this film's final moments. How else can you react when you're subjected to such scenes of pain and anguish? Ugh.
It doesn't help that we saw how Seita struggled just to put food in their bellies. It doesn't help that we saw how he stayed true to his promise to his dying mom that he will be a good brother to little Setsuko and he would take care of her when they're left on their own. It doesn't help that you saw Setsuko's cute little face light up when she saw fireflies for the first time. It doesn't help because you just don't want a sad ending for these two brave souls...
Then you see them suffer.
Then you can't help but question what is fair in this world anymore. This is not what I picture out when I think of the word fair. What does that word mean today anyway? For a reality check, just look at my country as an example. It's a sad way of things when you see it everyday on the streets or in high-rise buildings. You know it's always the same unpleasant picture: how the oppressed stay oppressed and how the powerful get richer and get corrupted by their power. I never felt that the world was fair... Ever.
Grave of the Fireflies is not your ordinary animated film. There are no talking animals. There are no flashy production numbers and no magic powers that can change their destiny. Suffice to say, this movie had a staying quality. The screen already went black and I was still trembling. It was an intense feeling: a complex mixture of loss and utter depression. I felt so numb.
And you thought Pearl Harbor was depressing?
I dare you to watch this movie and think again.