Grave of the Fireflies

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Grave of the Fireflies
A young boy is carrying a girl on her back in a field with a plane flying overhead at night. Above them is the film's title and text below reveals the film's credits.
Japanese theatrical poster for Grave of the Fireflies
Kanji火垂るの墓
RōmajiHotaru no Haka
Directed byIsao Takahata
Produced byToru Hara
Screenplay byIsao Takahata
Based onGrave of the Fireflies by
Akiyuki Nosaka
StarringTsutomu Tatsumi
Ayano Shiraishi
Yoshiko Shinohara
Akemi Yamaguchi
Music byMichio Mamiya
CinematographyNobuo Koyama
Art Directed byNizo Yamamoto
Editing byTakeshi Seyama
StudioStudio Ghibli
Distributed byToho
Release date(s)
  • April 16, 1988 (1988-04-16) (Japan)
Running time89 minutes
CountryJapan
LanguageJapanese
 
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Grave of the Fireflies
A young boy is carrying a girl on her back in a field with a plane flying overhead at night. Above them is the film's title and text below reveals the film's credits.
Japanese theatrical poster for Grave of the Fireflies
Kanji火垂るの墓
RōmajiHotaru no Haka
Directed byIsao Takahata
Produced byToru Hara
Screenplay byIsao Takahata
Based onGrave of the Fireflies by
Akiyuki Nosaka
StarringTsutomu Tatsumi
Ayano Shiraishi
Yoshiko Shinohara
Akemi Yamaguchi
Music byMichio Mamiya
CinematographyNobuo Koyama
Art Directed byNizo Yamamoto
Editing byTakeshi Seyama
StudioStudio Ghibli
Distributed byToho
Release date(s)
  • April 16, 1988 (1988-04-16) (Japan)
Running time89 minutes
CountryJapan
LanguageJapanese

Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓 Hotaru no Haka?) is a 1988 Japanese animated tragedy film written and directed by Isao Takahata. This is the first film produced by Shinchosha, who hired Studio Ghibli to do the animation production work. It is a film adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka, intended as a personal apology to the author's own sister who died from malnutrition during the Second World War.[1] It is commonly considered an anti-war film, but this interpretation has been challenged by some critics and by the director. The film stars Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara and Akemi Yamaguchi. Predominately set in Japan during World War II, the film tells the story of Seita, a young boy who has to take care of his younger sister Setsuko when their mother dies.

Grave of the Fireflies received positive reviews from film critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times considers it to be one of the greatest and most powerful war films ever made and, in 2000, included it on his "Great Movies" list.[2]

Contents

Plot

The film opens on September 25, 1945, shortly after the end of World War II, at Sannomiya Station where Seita (清太?), a 14-year-old boy, is seen dying of starvation. Later that night, a janitor removes his body and digs through his possessions, and finds a candy tin containing ashes and bones, which he throws away into a nearby field. From the tin spring the spirits of Seita and his younger sister Setsuko (節子?), as well as a cloud of fireflies. The spirit of Seita continues to narrate their story, which is, in effect, an extended flashback to Japan in the final months of World War II, during the firebombing of the city of Kobe.

The flashback begins with a fleet of American B-29 Superfortress bombers flying overhead. Setsuko and Seita, the two siblings, are left to secure the house and their belongings, allowing their mother, who suffers from a heart condition, to reach a bomb shelter. They are caught off-guard as the bombers begin to drop hundreds of incendiary bomblets, which start huge fires that quickly destroy their neighbourhood and most of the city. Although they survive unscathed, their mother is caught in the air raid and is horribly burned. She is taken to a makeshift clinic in a school, but dies a short time later. Having nowhere else to go, Setsuko and Seita move in with a distant aunt, who allows them to stay but convinces Seita to sell his mother's kimonos for rice. While living with their relatives, Seita goes out to retrieve leftover supplies he had buried in the ground before the bombing. He gives all of it to his aunt, but hides a small tin of fruit drops, which becomes a recurrent icon throughout the film. Their aunt continues to shelter them, but as their food rations continue to shrink due to the war, she becomes increasingly resentful. She openly remarks on how they do nothing to earn the food she cooks.

Seita and Setsuko finally decide to leave and move into an abandoned bomb shelter. They release fireflies into the shelter for light, but Setsuko is horrified to find that the next day they are all dead. She digs them a grave and buries them all, asking why they have to die, and why her mother had to die. What begins as a new lease on life grows grim as they run out of rice, and Seita is forced to steal from local farmers and loot homes during air raids. When he is caught, he realizes his desperation and takes an increasingly ill Setsuko to a doctor, who informs him that Setsuko is suffering from malnutrition but offers no help. In a panic, Seita withdraws all the money remaining in their mother's bank account, but as he leaves the bank, he becomes distraught when he learns from a nearby crowd that Japan has surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Powers and that his father, a Captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy who had promised him that Japan could never be defeated, is probably dead, since nearly all of Japan's navy is now at the bottom of the ocean. He returns to the shelter with large quantities of food, only to find a dying Setsuko hallucinating. Seita hurries to cook, but Setsuko dies shortly thereafter. Seita uses supplies donated to him by a farmer to cremate Setsuko, and puts her ashes in the fruit tin which he carries with his father's photograph, until his own death from malnutrition in Sannomiya Station a few weeks later.

In the movie's final scene, the spirits of Seita and Setsuko are seen healthy, well-dressed and happy as they sit together, surrounded by fireflies, and look down on modern city of Kobe.

Cast

CharacterOriginal Japanese (1988)English Dubbed [CPM] (1998)English Dubbed [Sentai/Seraphim] (2012)
SeitaTsutomu Tatsumi (辰巳 努 Tatsumi Tsutomu?)J. Robert SpencerAdam Gibbs
SetsukoAyano Shiraishi (白石 綾乃 Shirashi Ayano?)Rhoda ChrositeEmily Neves
Seita and Setsuko's motherYoshiko Shinohara (志乃原 良子 Shinohara Yoshiko?)Veronica TaylorShelley Calene-Black
Seita and Setsuko's auntAkemi Yamaguchi (山口 朱美 Yamaguchi Akemi?)Amy JonesMarcy Bannor

Production

Development

Grave of the Fireflies author Akiyuki Nosaka said that many offers had been made to create a film version of Grave of the Fireflies.[3] Nosaka argued that "[i]t was impossible to create the barren, scorched earth that's to be the backdrop of the story."[3] He also argued that contemporary children would not be able to convincingly play the characters. Nosaka expressed surprise when an animated version was offered.[3] After seeing the storyboards, Nosaka concluded that it was not possible for such a story to have been made in any method other than animation and expressed surprise in how accurately the rice paddies and townscape were depicted.[3]

Isao Takahata said that he was compelled to film the novel after seeing how the main character, Seita, "was a unique wartime ninth grader."[4] Takahata explained that any wartime story, whether animated or not animated, "tends to be moving and tear-jerking," and that young people develop an "inferiority complex" where they perceive as people in wartime eras as being more noble and more able than they are, and therefore the audience believes that the story has nothing to do with them. Takahata argued that he wanted to dispel this mindset.[3] When Nosaka asked if the film characters were "having fun," Takahata answered that he clearly depicted Seita and Setsuko had "substantial" days and that they were "enjoying their days."[5] Takahata said that Setsuko was even more difficult to animate than Seita, and that he had never before depicted a girl younger than five.[3] Takahata said that "[i]n that respect, when you make the book into a movie, Setsuko becomes a tangible person," and said that four-year olds often become more assertive, self-centered, and try to get their own ways during their ages, and he explained that while one could "have a scene where Seita can't stand that anymore," "that's difficult to incorporate into a story."[6] Takahata explained that the film is from Seita's point of view, "and even objective passages are filtered through his feelings."[7]

Isao Takahata said that he had considered using non-traditional animation methods, but because "the schedule was planned and the movie's release date set, and the staff assembled, it was apparent there was no room for such a trial-and-error approach."[5] Takahata said that he had difficulty animating the scenery since, in Japanese animation, one is "not allowed" to depict Japan in a realistic manner.[3] Animators often traveled to foreign countries to do research on how to depict them, but such research had not been done before for a Japanese setting.[3]

Most of the illustration outlines in the film are in brown, instead of the customary black. Whenever black was used, it was only used when it was absolutely necessary. Color coordinator Michiyo Yasuda said this was done to give the film a softer feel. Yasuda said that until that point it had never been used in an anime before, "and it was done on a challenge."[3] Yasuda explained that brown is more difficult to use than black because it does not contrast as well as black.[3]

Music

The film score of Grave of the Fireflies was composed by Michio Mamiya. Mamiya is also a music specialist in baroque and classical music. The song Home Sweet Home was performed by coloratura soprano Amelita Galli-Curci.

Themes and analysis

Some critics have viewed Grave of the Fireflies as an anti-war film due to the graphic and emotional depiction of the pernicious repercussions of war on a society, and the individuals therein. The film focuses its attention almost entirely on the personal tragedies that war gives rise to, rather than seeking to glamorize it as a heroic struggle between competing ideologies. It emphasizes that war is society's failure to perform its most important duty to protect its own people.[8]

However, director Isao Takahata repeatedly denied that the film was an anti-war anime. In his own words, "[The film] is not at all an anti-war anime and contains absolutely no such message." Instead, Takahata had intended to convey an image of the brother and sister living a failed life due to isolation from society and invoke sympathy particularly in people in their teens and twenties, whom he felt needed to straighten up and respect their elders for the pain and suffering they had experienced during arguably the darkest point in Japan's history.[9][10]

Release

The film's initial theatrical release in Japan was accompanied by Hayao Miyazaki's much more lighthearted My Neighbor Totoro as a double feature. In commercial terms, the theatrical release was a failure.[citation needed] While the two films were marketed toward children and their parents, the rather stark nature of Grave of the Fireflies turned away most audiences. However, Totoro merchandise, particularly the stuffed animals of Totoro and Catbus, sold extremely well after the film and made overall profits for the company to the extent that it stabilized subsequent productions of Studio Ghibli.

Grave of the Fireflies is the only Ghibli film that The Walt Disney Company never had distribution rights to in the United States, since the film was not produced by parent company Tokuma Shoten, but by Shinchosha, the publisher of the original novel. Grave of the Fireflies was released in the U.S. by Central Park Media in a two-disc DVD set. The first disc contains the uncut film in both an English dub and the original Japanese with English subtitles as well as the film's storyboards. The second disc contains several extras, including a retrospective on the author of the original book, an interview with Director Isao Takahata, and an interview with well-known critic Roger Ebert, who has expressed his admiration for the film on several occasions. Following the 2009 bankruptcy and liquidation of Central Park Media, ADV Films acquired the license to Grave of the Fireflies and re-released it to DVD on July 7, 2009.[11] Following the shutdown and rebranding of ADV in 2009, their successor, Sentai Filmworks, rescued the film and released a remastered DVD on March 6, 2012, and plans on releasing the film on digital outlets.[12][13][14] A Blu-ray edition was released on November 20, 2012, featuring an all-new English dub produced by Seraphim Digital.[15]

Reception

Grave of the Fireflies received positive reviews from film critics. The film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 96% approval rating based on 23 reviews. It offers the consensus: "An achingly sad anti-war film, Grave of the Fireflies is one of Studio Ghibli's most profoundly beautiful, haunting works".[16]

Grave of the Fireflies made Time Out magazine's, with help from director Terry Gilliam, top 50 animated film list, where it was ranked at #12 on the list.[17] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times put the film on his "Great Movies List" calling it, "an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation."[2]

Grave of the Fireflies ranked #12 on Total Film's 50 greatest animated films.[18] It was also ranked at #10 in Time Out magazine's "The 50 greatest World War II movies" list.[19] Empire magazine ranked the film at #6 in its list of "The Top 10 Depressing Movies".[20] Theron Martin of Anime News Network said that, in terms of the U.S. Manga Corps dub, while the other voices were "perfectly acceptable," "Setsuko just doesn't sound quite convincing as a four-year-old in English. That, unfortunately, is a big negative, since a good chunk of the pathos the movie delivers is at least partly dependent on that performance."[12]

2005 live-action version

Live-action version of Grave of the Fireflies.

The drama is liberal in deviating from the original work. The author will be grateful if my novel, being adapted now, 60 years after the war, could convey the brutality of wars, even just a little bit, to the people living in the present days.

—Akiyuki Nosaka[21]

NTV in Japan produced a live-action TV drama of Grave of the Fireflies, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. The drama aired on November 1, 2005. Like the anime, the live-action version of Grave of the Fireflies focuses on two siblings struggling to survive the final days of the war in Kobe, Japan. Unlike the animated version, it tells the story from the point of view of their cousin (the aunt's daughter) and deals with the issue of how the war-time environment could change a kind lady into a hard-hearted woman. It stars Nanako Matsushima as the aunt, as well as Mao Inoue as their cousin. The drama is approximately 2 hours and 28 minutes long.[citation needed]

The film is something of an epilogue; set in 2005, 60 years after the war, it opens at a crematorium in Kobe, just after the aunt, Hisako Sawano has passed away, aged 95. The funeral director mentioned how a person who lived through the Meiji, Taisho, Showa and Heisei eras had finally gone to her rest. After the funeral, Seita's and Setsuko's cousin, who is now a grandmother herself, begins to tell her granddaughter Himako about the family's struggle to survive during the Second World War, and the emotional scars that it left.

In the anime version of the film, Seita's aunt is his father's sister, while in this version, Seita's mother is the first cousin of the "aunt."

Just prior to Seita's death in September 1945, someone let his aunt and cousin know that Seita was still alive, though with no sign of his sister Setsuko and living near the central railway station in Kobe. The aunt and cousin go to the station in hope of finding him, but cannot. However, Seita's cousin finds a janitor, and asks him if he saw "a third-year middle-school student, Seita Yokokawa, from Kobe 1st Middle School," wearing a school cap and with his little sister. This triggers the janitor's memory, who recalls that the previous night, he and another janitor had seen a dead boy matching Seita's description in a corner of the station. While carrying his corpse to be cremated, a metal fruit-drop tin had fallen from his clothes; thinking it rubbish, the janitor had tossed it into a field.

The aunt locates the tin; while her daughter looks on, she opens it and turns it over. Two small bits of white bone fall into her palm - Setsuko's. The aunt falls silent, while her daughter, who understands what had happened to her cousins, tearfully blames her mother for causing their deaths, and walks away. However, the aunt notices something - under the tin are two small, glowing fireflies. As they fly off, tears come to her eyes. Knowing she is forgiven, the aunt whispers a soft thanks.

It is the 18th year of Showa - 1943. Seita's father, a Captain in the Imperial Navy, discusses the true situation of the war with his son, telling him that he must now look after the family as he will soon be deployed, and that he is willing to die in the Emperor's service. Seita gives his father his assurance. Meanwhile, his uncle, Genzo Sawano, a carpenter, has been drafted into the army, and his aunt is trying to hold back her tears at his departure.

Commenting on the dramatization, Akiyuki Nosaka noted that the drama was liberal in deviating from his original work but also said that he would nevertheless remain thankful if it could convey the brutality of wars to the people of the present days.[21]

Cast:

2008 live-action version

A different live-action version was released in Japan on 5 July 2008.

See also

Further reading

References

  1. ^ "Hotaru No Haka". The Big Cartoon DataBase. The Big Cartoon DataBase. http://www.bcdb.com/cartoon/20738-Hotaru_No_Haka.html. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (March 19, 2000). "Grave of the Fireflies (1988)". RogerEbert.com. Sun-Times Media. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20000319%2FREVIEWS08%2F3190301%2F1023. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The Animerica Interview: Takahata and Nosaka: Two Grave Voices in Animation." Animerica. Volume 2, No. 11. Page 8. Translated by Animerica from: Takahata, Isao. Eiga o Tsukurinagara, Kangaeta Koto ("Things I Thought While Making Movies") Tokuma Shoten, 1991. Originally published in Animage, June 1987. This is a translation of a 1987 conversation between Takahata and Akiyuki Nosaka.
  4. ^ "The Animerica Interview: Takahata and Nosaka: Two Grave Voices in Animation." Animerica. Volume 2, No. 11. Page 7. Translated by Animerica from: Takahata, Isao. Eiga o Tsukurinagara, Kangaeta Koto ("Things I Thought While Making Movies") Tokuma Shoten, 1991. Originally published in Animage, June 1987. This is a translation of a 1987 conversation between Takahata and Akiyuki Nosaka.
  5. ^ a b "The Animerica Interview: Takahata and Nosaka: Two Grave Voices in Animation." Animerica. Volume 2, No. 11. Page 10. Translated by Animerica from: Takahata, Isao. Eiga o Tsukurinagara, Kangaeta Koto ("Things I Thought While Making Movies") Tokuma Shoten, 1991. Originally published in Animage, June 1987. This is a translation of a 1987 conversation between Takahata and Akiyuki Nosaka.
  6. ^ Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Animerica9; see the help page.
  7. ^ "The Animerica Interview: Takahata and Nosaka: Two Grave Voices in Animation." Animerica. Volume 2, No. 11. Page 9. Translated by Animerica from: Takahata, Isao. Eiga o Tsukurinagara, Kangaeta Koto ("Things I Thought While Making Movies") Tokuma Shoten, 1991. Originally published in Animage, June 1987. This is a translation of a 1987 conversation between Takahata and Akiyuki Nosaka.
  8. ^ Etherington, Daniel. "Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru No Haka)". Film4. Channel Four Television Corporation. http://www.film4.com/reviews/1988/grave-of-the-fireflies. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  9. ^ Interview published on May 1988 edition of Animage
  10. ^ Takahata, Isao (1991) (in Japanese). 映画を作りながら考えたこと [Things I Thought While Making Movies]. Tokuma Shoten. p. 471. ISBN 978-4-19-554639-0.
  11. ^ "ADV Adds Grave of the Fireflies, Now and Then, Here and There". Anime News Network. May 5, 2009. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2009-05-05/adv-adds-grave-of-the-fireflies-now-and-then-here-and-there. Retrieved November 24, 2012.
  12. ^ a b Martin, Theron (March 5, 2012). "Review: Grave of the Fireflies: DVD – Remastered Edition". Anime News Network. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/review/grave-of-the-fireflies/dvd-remastered-edition. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  13. ^ "ADV Films Shuts Down, Transfers Assets to Other Companies". Anime News Network. September 1, 2009. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2009-09-01/adv-films-shuts-down-transfers-assets-to-other-companies. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  14. ^ "Sentai Filmworks Adds Grave of the Fireflies". Anime News Network. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2011-12-01/sentai-filmworks-adds-ghibli-grave-of-the-fireflies. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
  15. ^ "Grave of the Fireflies [Blu-ray] (2012)". Amazon.com. Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Grave-Fireflies-Blu-ray-Artist-Provided/dp/B008XEZXRA. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  16. ^ "Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies) (1988)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/grave_of_the_fireflies. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  17. ^ Adams, Derek; Calhoun, Dave; Davies, Adam Lee; Fairclough, Paul; Huddleston, Tom; Jenkins, David; Ward, Ossian; Gilliam, Terry. "Time Out's 50 greatest animated films: part 4". Time Out. Time Out Group. http://www.timeout.com/film/features/show-feature/8839. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  18. ^ Kinnear, Simon (October 10, 2011). "50 Greatest Animated Movies: Classics worth 'tooning in for". Total Film. Future Publishing. http://www.totalfilm.com/features/50-greatest-animated-movies/grave-of-the-fireflies-1988. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  19. ^ Davies; Calhoun, Dave; Fairclough, Paul; Jenkins, David; Huddleston, Tom; Tarantino, Quentin. "The 50 greatest World War II movies: part five". Time Out. Time Out Group. http://www.timeout.com/film/features/show-feature/8364. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  20. ^ Braund, Simon. "The Top 10 Depressing Movies". Empire. Bauer Consumer Media. http://www.empireonline.com/features/top10/depressing-movies/5.asp. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  21. ^ a b Nosaka, Akiyuki (2005). "終戦六十年スペシャルドラマ「火垂るの墓 ― ほたるのはか ―」 ~ドラマ化に寄せて~" (in Japanese). Nippon Television. Archived from the original on June 1, 2011. http://www.ntv.co.jp/hotaru/message/index.html. Retrieved June 1, 2011.

External links