Graveyard of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓 Hotaru no Haka) (1988) Review


Graveyard of the Fireflies (1988)

“In spite of it all, a lovely day”

Promotional movie poster (Japan)

Promotional movie poster (Japan)

Note: This was late due to internet problems and the fact we had a surprise last Sunday, so this is technically an extra one.

One of Japan’s finest anti-war animation next to “Barefoot Genji” set in the last years and aftermathof WWII, the story involving two siblings and their struggle to live day by day after the loss of their mother in a firebombing, as food becomes scarce and people become selfish.

The film opens to a dying Seita, after days of malnutrition and much struggling with the economically struggling Japan, resulting from the unconditional surrender and end of WWII. Seita does whatever it takes to

Other than theme on the horrors of war, Setsuko acts as the innocence left within all the sadness, unaware of death and relying on her older brother to tell her that everything will be alright. We feel as helpless as the characters succumb to their untimely deaths, leaving us with a sense of hopelessness. She also symbolizes reason (the youth; the future of tomorrow) and the clinging hope. Seita represents perseverance and virtually what little remains of good left in the world of empathetical adults. The fireflies are where the film got it’s title; symbolizing the fragile existence and fate (we all die eventually).

One of the few (in the blogger’s opinion) Japanese “animes” that someone who dislikes the idea of otaku culture would not turn away from (the blogger admits he especially dislikes the “mainstream” otakus for not having better taste in what they watch). It speaks for the side of Japanese people in a war-torn era in contrast to the Allies (Americans, British, Russians) and not limiting to French, Polish, and even Thailand. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki transformed Japan’s generation after the baby boomer generation into existentialist ones, with the introduction and rise of the video game industry and other ways Japan has used to deal with the traumas of war and more horrifying decades of birth defects and radiation poisoning, much like Germany and the events of the Holocaust. We are made to sympathize with the common victims of war: everyday people like us who have little to nothing to do with the war other than a growing hate for attackers who take away loved ones and their homes.

Photo credited to Kawano Katsuhito (from DeviantArt)

Since the Sakuma Drops (fruit drops brand) played a motif in the film, a commemorative tin was made with the image of Setsuko on it over the years.

Another tear-jerking (have a napkin, in case) animation that questions the necessity of both war and the ethical morals shifted by it. Recommended for even the faint of heart, there are moments that mass graves or a dead body is used effectively as to express death amongst the living and there are times when even the scenes of frolicking on the beach between the siblings acts as a moment of comfort and carefree, away from the war; this is what makes the film beautiful in all its simplicity. This film is not one to be missed by any war film buffs nor the casual movie-goers.

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One Response to “Graveyard of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓 Hotaru no Haka) (1988) Review”

  1. Sounds too depressing for me.

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