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T.H.E.M. Animé Café Awards

1st Place

[ café reviews ]

Hotaru No Haka
(Grave of the Fireflies)
(a.k.a. Tombstone of the Fireflies)

[ production info ]

Copyright: © 1988 Shinchosha Co. (Japan), © 1992 Central Park Media (North America)
Length: 88 minutes
Genre: historical drama
Rating: NR, Parental Guidance Suggested
Format: DVD (Original Japanese Dialog/English Subtitle/English Dub), LD (Original Japanese Dialog), VHS (Original Japanese Dialog/English Subtitle/English Dub)

Original story by: Akiyuki Nosaka (Shincho bunko version) Production Designer and Executive Producer: Ryoichi Sato Written and Directed by: Isao Takahata Character Design: Yoshifumi Kondo Art Director: Nizo Yamamoto Producer:Toru Hara Color Design of Characters: Michiyo Yasuda Executive Producer of English Version: John O'Donnell English Translation: Neil Nadelman

Note: The video is available in Central Park Media's Mangarama format. The animé is wide-screen, and the subtitles are shown in the black space at the bottom, thereby giving you the whole picture, uncluttered by text.

[ rated pg ]

intense situations

Parental Guidance Advised - Violence, sexuality, and vulgar language are inappropriate to this sobering theme, and, as such, do not appear. "Fireflies" is paradoxically captivating but agonizing; it is virtually impossible for viewers of any age to be left unmoved. Some scenes may be emotionally intense for young audiences, and as you might guess, there are several scenes involving the dead or dying.

[ plot summary ]

It is post-war Japan, just weeks before American troops arrive for occupation. In the city of Kobe, a boy lies dying in a train station. By his body lies a small metal candy container. A janitor, not sure what to make of its ashy contents, pitches it into the night. As fireflies float softly around it, the ghostly figures of the boy and his little sister emerge...

Thus begins the story of 14-year old Seita and his four year old sister, Setsuko. Left orphaned and homeless after a fire-bombing raid on their city, they are forced to survive on their own in a society where rations are scare, and hopes often turn to despair. Finding life with relatives unbearable, they struggle to survive on their own in an abandoned bomb shelter in the country.

[ capsule review ]

Occasionally, perhaps every ten years, you see a movie so powerful, so moving that it permanently etches images into your memory. Not since I saw Isabelle Adjani's haunted face at the end of Camille Claudelle have I seen a movie, live or animated, that so stirred my imagination. This is not your typical three hanky, Old Yeller type movie. This film is of the three ton variety. I first had a chance to screen Hotaru No Haka in its original Japanese form some three/four years ago with my girlfriend. My girlfriend, who does not understand a word of Japanese, left the room in tears before the show was even half over. This is easily the most emotionally draining, most thought-provoking, most complete movie I have ever watched. The struggle to survive by Seita and his younger sister Setsuko pulls no punches about the horrors of wars, nor does it forget to show the importance of human compassion. Not a single frame is wasted; not a single word redundant. Even the opening scenes when we segué from a littered train station to an open field with Seita and Setsuko is visual poetry. In an industry where clichés like "tour-de-force" and "masterpiece" are overused, we finally have a work that embodies those very terms, and more. If you ever come across a person (such as one of my previous art instructors) who tells you that animation is not a medium for conveying fine art, show them this movie. And be prepared to not see them for a long time after that.
- AN

Grave of the Fireflies is one of those movies that permanently etches itself into your memory. One of the most difficult movies in any genre to watch, it is also one of the best written. Based in part by the director's own life during WWII, this movie neither glorifies nor softens the pictures of war.

The movie itself reminded me of the images and the displays at the A-Bomb museum in Hiroshima and the images' effects when I first saw them, even though the atomic-bombings were but a minor part of the story. I was reminded of the feel of the museum, rather than its content. While the vividness of the images fade over time, the impact they made will not be forgotten. Grave of the Fireflies is a movie that you don't want to watch when you're in the mood for anything light or frivolous. Likewise, it's not a movie that you would want to show at an animé fest unless you want to clear the room with everyone in tears. However, it is an excellent movie and is well worth seeing, but at the same time it is not a movie that you will want to watch often.

[ café rating ]

Original: Subbed: Dubbed:
Story: 5 stars 5 stars N/A
Direction: 5 stars 5 stars N/A
Acting: 5 stars 5 stars N/A
Animation: 5 stars 5 stars N/A
Music: 4 stars 4 stars N/A
Translation: N/A 5 stars N/A
Overall Rating: 5 stars 5 stars N/A

[ café trivia ]

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