As World War II reaches its conclusion in 1945, Japan faces widespread destruction in the form of American bombings, devastating city after city. Hotaru no Haka, also known as Grave of the Fireflies, is the story of Seita and his sister Setsuko, two Japanese children whose lives are ravaged by the brutal war. They have lost their mother, their father, their home, and the prospect of a bright future—all tragic consequences of the war.
Now orphaned and homeless, Seita and Setsuko have no choice but to drift across the countryside, beset by starvation and disease. Met with the apathy of adults along the way, they find that desperate circumstances can turn even the kindest of people cruel yet their youthful hope shines brightly in the face of unrelenting hardship, preventing the siblings from swiftly succumbing to an inevitable fate.
On a sweaty, disgusting summer night, I decided to watch the anime I had been warned would bring me to tears. The anime that received critical acclaim and is hailed as a masterpiece even by Non-anime fans. A sense of doom combined with anticipation enveloped me as I began, only to be annoyed and angry at the end.
I am talking about Grave of the fireflies.
Let me say this, I could look at the movie in two ways, and while one way appeals more to me than the other, most people seem to hail the movie for exactly the reasons I found flawed in it.
I will start with the good part. Hotaru No Haka is Studio Ghibli’s child, and even in 1988, they had the capability of producing quality animation. One thing about Studio Ghibli is their ability to portray day to day life actions, simple actions that makes you think, “Oh, I do that.” Set in war time, it also does a scarily real job of portraying Japan during 1945, burnt bodies and lost childhoods.
At the beginning, I was actually enjoying it. Setai, the older brother came across as responsible and even headed, taking care of his sister, finding them a place to stay with their relative after their Mother died, and immediately writing a letter to his father who works in the navy. However, after that, it all goes downhill.
This relative of their mom, despite feeding them, and letting them have a place to live, sometimes lets her temper get the better of her, and nag at Setai about not doing anything to help out during the war time. Which she isn’t completely wrong about? All Setai literally does is laze about and play with his little sister, and I think it’s general knowledge, young kid, even fourteen year old used to help out with war efforts during that time. It isn’t a question of whether it’s wrong or right, it just how the world was, and how their mentality was. But let’s say, the aunt is wrong here. So, Setai takes her scolding to his pride, and sets about to create a makeshift home in a shelter for him and his sister.
And that’s it, that’s the story. They play, hunt for food, have three thousand yen left in bank but forget to use it until the last day when Setsuko is literally dying from starvation, when she is beyond help. Not only that, Setai refuses to listen to a farmer’s advice for them to apologies to their aunt, but steals food from the very same farmer that day, as if apologizing to someone is more degrading then stealing.
And you know what, if Setai really loved Setsuko so much, couldn’t he just swallow up his pride? It doesn’t matter whether their opponent was wrong or right, when you love someone and they are suffering, you do anything for them. If it was Setai alone I would have understand, but with his sister’s life on the line, saying sorry should have been a peace of cake.
If Hotaru No Haka, was a testament on ego can lead to someone’s downfall, and can be harmful for everyone around you, I can call it a good movie. But it is known as that movie, the one with the sad story about siblings struggling through life- which wasn’t done realistically at all.
Well, everyone should see the movie once, and decide for themselves.