Animation Station: Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

For this weeks Animation Station, Amanda Goh looks at short film Grave of the Fireflies

Amanda Goh
15th October 2019
Image: IMDB
We are all familiar with the Isao Takahata, a Japanese animator and co-founder of Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki.  He has animated films such as My Neighbor Totoro and Castle in the Sky. His films, while filled with adorable animation, have deep themes accompanying it. One of his films, while not well known as the rest until after his passing at least, is Grave of the Fireflies.

This relatively short animation is based on the 1967 semi-autobiographical short story by Akiyuki Nosaka. While most of Studio Ghibli films are more light hearted, this film is a war anime with a powerful message throughout. This film had been recently re-submerged after Isao Takahata passed in April 2018.

The film follows a teenager and his younger sister in the midst of the American firebombing in World War II. During this firebomb the two siblings were separated from their parents. The story continues through the sibling's heartbreaking struggle to stay alive.

"It is so authentic and unique, it will keep you watching regardless of the dark theme"

This is one of Studio Ghibli's darker films however it is indeed a must-watch. From the start of the film, it already gives us a feeling of grief from the colour palette used. The first scene of the film captures the reality of the historical event. It is so authentic and unique, it will keep you watching regardless of the dark theme.

Not only would the plot spark interest, the poster has a hidden dark meaning to it. 30 years after the film was first released, fans of the film had discovered that upon increasing the brightness of the poster, a B29 bomber plane emerges from the darkness. What once looked like a bunch of  fireflies around the siblings now can be depicted as a range of explosives.

This short film, when first released, was accompanied with My Neighbor Totoro. While Totoro may seem like the complete opposite of Grave of the Fireflies, when watched together there is a connection seen between both films.

This anti-war statement films is one of the best animations that I have seen by far. It is filled with so much depth not only within the plot but also within the characters. Although the film is relatively short, it holds on to your heart and pulls on it every single minute.

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