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Overall Rating
4.73

Awesome88.71%
Worth A Look: 3.23%
Average: 3.23%
Pretty Bad: 1.61%
Total Crap: 3.23%

2 reviews, 50 user ratings


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Grave of the Fireflies
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by Brian McKay

"The Most Human Cartoon You'll Ever See"
5 stars

I personally added this film to our database several months ago, after one of our visitors wrote in asking "Why hasn't this incredible film been reviewed on your site yet?" Having never heard of it, I quickly looked it up, read the plot summary, and decided that it certainly sounded deserving of inclusion. Now I just wish that I'd gotten around to watching it sooner.

Based on the semi-autobiographical novel Hotaru no Haka, by Akiyuki Nosaka, Grave of the fireflies is the moving and at times horrifying account of two orphans struggling to survive in 1940's war-torn Japan.

It is nearing the end of World War II, and things do not fare well for the Japanese Empire. Resources are scarce, and bombings on Japanese soil by American warplanes are an almost daily ocurrence. With their mother lost, and the fate of their father (a Naval officer) at sea unknown, young teen boy Seita (Tsutomu Tatsumi) and his baby sister Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi) find themselves on their own - after a brief and uncomfortable stay with a cold and distant aunt, who makes it clear that she doesn't want to be burdened with them. They set up home in a disused cave next to a pond, and for a brief time find happiness living on their own with a field of almost magical fireflies to keep them company. But as the rationing of food grows more unbearable, Seita finds it an increasing struggle to keep himself and Setsuko alive.

As far as anime' goes, this is about as unconventional as it gets. No cute perky teenage girls in schoolgirl costumes flying around the galaxy, no ultra-grim and over-stylized cybernetic ninja bloodbaths. This feels about as real as real can get, and if you'll pardon the trite phrase, it's often so real it hurts. There is nothing flashy about Grave of the Fireflies, nor is there any attempt to push an anti-American sentiment (in fact, much of the film's condemnation seems to be towards the cold Japanese society that let these two kids fall through the cracks of the world). And while there are moments of happiness, as we get to share in the love between Seita and Setsuko, the sense of impending loss is at times almost too keen to bear. Setsuko is as adorable, playful, and headstrong as any real child, and her suffering is as equally heartbreaking. Likewise, seeing Seita's brave face crumble as he confronts the hopelessness of their situation over and over again is truly astounding.

When I was in Japan recently, I walked through a park one day and looked around at all of the faces. Old men and women sitting on park benches. Business people dashing to and fro on their lunch break. Mothers with young children, stopped in front of storytellers who entertained them with hand-painted pictures on an easel. And then I thought, "I'll bet the people at Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn't look too different from this right before the air raid siren went off, followed by a flash, and then nothing." Watching Grave of the Fireflies hammers the fist of that sobering thought home again and again, but thankfully the love and humanity of Seita and Setsuko provide a comforting velvet glove.

While the DVD contains both English and Japanese language tracks, do yourself a favor and watch it in Japanese with English subtitles. Although I checked out a portion of the English track, and the voice over actors did a fine job, dubbing over the film's native language almost seemed to cheapen it somehow.

Thank God Almighty that Comedy Central was running back to back episodes of RENO 911 right after I finished watching this, providing a much needed distraction. If I'd just sat there with my own thoughts to keep me company for an hour afterward, I would have ended up a 200 pound mass of sobbing and blubbering on the couch. GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES can be grueling - but infinitely more rewarding.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=7404&reviewer=258
originally posted: 08/10/03 19:02:35
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User Comments

9/23/14 DMF The best war movie, heck one of the best movies, ever made. 5 stars
7/17/14 Calvin One of the best movies I've ever seen 5 stars
4/16/13 A Cynical Contrarian The real tragedy is that Seita didn't go back to his aunt to save his sister. 3 stars
1/13/11 The Rusty Gh0st Very good film one of the best. 5 stars
8/26/10 karthik arumugam no grandiosity but true simplicity tat rips human emotions apart 5 stars
9/17/09 Tyler Sciortino Like getting a piece of your soul torn out. 5 stars
7/24/09 Weaselman heart wrenching, soul searing must see 5 stars
7/15/09 Satan Nigroid Really terrible. You must be a woman or a wapanese if this makes you cry. 1 stars
6/25/09 Somebody Simply heartbreaking. One of the best movies about war I've ever seen. 5 stars
4/17/09 Kelsey This was the most heart breaking movie I have ever seen. 5 stars
2/18/09 Flounder So sad and poignant, it hurts 5 stars
11/24/08 Humble You will never know how an anime can move you this much, MASTERPIECE 5 stars
9/22/08 don Crap 1 stars
7/06/08 Tsheten Sherpa One of the saddest movie ever....for me,this is the best movie i have ever seen 5 stars
6/05/08 PAUL SHORTT AN EMOTIONALLY POWERFUL EXPERIENCE 4 stars
5/21/08 Danial MorningStar Just thinking of it brings tears to my eyes(can't stop).... 5 stars
3/10/08 Anm Absolutely amazing. Deserves far more credit than it gets. 5 stars
2/09/08 Vercious It's a great film but make sure to stay away from the english dub track. Blech! 5 stars
12/23/07 jackie niebisch not only best anime ive seen, also one of the best movies 5 stars
6/25/07 Tbone A Masterpiece 5 stars
6/07/07 Random unflinching revelation of war-ravaged youth; a high point of the hand-drawn medium 5 stars
4/25/07 InAnigma Ive seen it a couple a day's ago.. And I'm still trying to hold down the tears 5 stars
2/12/07 William Goss A testament to the heartbreaking power of hand-drawn animation. 5 stars
10/21/06 Mizuho Saddest anime ever! 5 stars
10/10/06 Badge Masterpiece 5 stars
6/01/06 Alex Kalderimis Harrowing but profoundly rewarding. 5 stars
1/14/06 brian Somewhat overhyped. Characters are clumsy at times. The sadness is real, but affected. 4 stars
1/04/06 DMF Possibly the best movie I've ever seen. 5 stars
7/10/05 Bulahaw greatest war film ever!! 5 stars
4/09/05 craig varney take it or leave it type movie 3 stars
3/13/05 Charlene Javier Best. War. Film. Ever. 5 stars
1/18/05 t-1000 as good as spirited away 5 stars
1/13/05 SAKURAZUKAMORI Great plot, animation, not a single fault in the entire film. 5 stars
12/18/04 T.N This belongs to any list of fine war films. 5 stars
10/15/04 M. C. amazing, beautiful and haunting 5 stars
10/09/04 Phil Smith GYOTFF is both powerful and moving, but it is also a very depressing film. 5 stars
8/13/04 Mark D Fulwiler A masterpiece- one of the greatest anti-war films 5 stars
7/13/04 stephanie innocently spectacular! life's splendid yet so fragile! 5 stars
7/01/04 DM The only thing harder than watching this movie is to start watching and then stop 5 stars
3/11/04 Demarkation A truly poignant experience without resorting to cheap sentimentality 5 stars
2/24/04 Barbara Incredible, so beautiful but so sad. War sucks. 5 stars
1/05/04 Azh This movie was a spectacular war-film...the first of its kind! 5 stars
12/12/03 Seita's lover seita is a hottie and setsuko can eat my rice balls 2 stars
12/12/03 Michele C. Marcantoni This film moved me in ways I couldn't have ever imagined... amazing, spectacular 5 stars
12/09/03 Flounder This so-called cartoon transcends the barrier between real and animated film. 5 stars
9/05/03 Larry one and only - monumental beauty 5 stars
9/04/03 initial_d A heart-wrenching masterpiece, TRULY a must see 5 stars
8/11/03 Zefram Mann A hard, but increadibly enriching movie to watch. 5 stars
3/25/03 DMF Certainly the most moving. 5 stars
3/23/03 master.node Anime Schanime! This may be the best FILM ever made! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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  16-Apr-1988 (PG)

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