Most people don’t take anime seriously. They label it as stupid or juvenile because they think that it’s simply a cartoon.
But, I promise you, anime can be just as sophisticated and gripping as any live-action film.
The genre is full of much more than “Dragon Ball Z” and “Naruto.”
In fact, Isao Takahata’s animated film “Grave of the Fireflies” is one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen.
The subject matter is enough to establish that “Grave of the Fireflies” is no juvenile movie.
The film is based on a Japanese semi-biographical novel about the firebombing of Kobe in World War II.
It opens with Seita, a dying boy who we later learn is one of the protagonists. Seita is seen curled up on the ground with his clothes in rags among other starving men.
A janitor walks by and pokes him with his broom exclaiming, “Another one!”
That’s one of the most impressive aspects of this film. Even as an animated film, it makes the audience feel extremely sad. And, eventually, you might even end up in tears.
Not many live-action movies make me cry. That an animated film can do so amazes me.
An aspect of realism is removed, yet I still feel extreme sympathy for Seita just in that first scene.
That’s what sets Takahata’s work apart from the likes of Pokemon.
“Grave of the Fireflies” is rife with aching sadness.
After Seita dies in the train, his story is told through a flashback. And as the story unfolds, it becomes apparent how a seemingly normal boy could end up starving alone in a train station.
Although the war is reaching a close, the flashback’s first scene is a fire-bombing. The chilling air-raid siren sounds, and Seita puts his sister Setsuko on his back. Alone, he sprints outside, revealing the carnage.
The images, although animated, are terrifying.
The entirety of his small town burns as a mob tries to escape the flames through the narrow streets of Kobe.
Later, both children find out that their mother was caught in the bombing. And eventually, they see her bandaged body just before she dies.
The two are left to fend for themselves in the war-torn countryside.
Now you might be asking yourself, why would I want to watch this?
Yes, some scenes are hard to watch, but a good movie instills emotion, and Takahata masterfully shows the horrors of war, while conveying plenty of emotion.
Another reason to watch “Grave of the Fireflies” is its unique perspective on the war, as the film avoids tropes such as a soldier’s triumph or an epic battle.
It’s an unadulterated look at how the war affected the common people, not soldiers.
War’s often glorified, and it isn’t often that we see it from the other side’s perspective.
That’s why “Grave of the Fireflies” is worth your tears. It’s insightful and fresh. Ultimately, it’ll make you empathize with the families of “the enemy” and not just “our” soldiers.