Reader Recommendations: “Grave of the Fireflies”

Grave of the FirefliesHey everyone, we’re back with another entry in the Reader Recommendations series!
The Reader Recommendation series is intended to help me formally pursue all the great films that commenters bring up each week in discussion which I’ve never seen. If there’s a movie that comes up that I haven’t seen, but you think I should, just get in touch with me @ or let me know in the comments that you’d like to participate.
EricThis time up, our recommendation comes from Eric, over at The Warning Sign. He’s suggested the Studio Ghibli film “Grave of the Fireflies” in order to further my anime education.
Click through to read a little more about why he felt it was worthy of recommending, followed by my thoughts on the film!


My questions in bold. Eric′s answers below.


1) Do you remember when you first saw the movie?

I saw it at the end of last year as part of my 50 Movies Project. It was one of the select few films that I gave a 10/10 to, and I ended up ranking it third out of the entire project.
2) Why do you think that it’s recommendable? What do you like about it?
Well, it’s not an easy watch by any means. It’s a very tragic tale, one made even moreso because it is based on a true story. However, it is the greatest animated film I have ever seen, and it moved me in ways that few ever have. Just make sure you keep a box of tissues at hand.
3) Is the movie underappreciated, do you think? Or does pop culture have it fairly rated?
I think more people need to see it, but the praise has been pretty unanimous from those who have. Roger Ebert included it in his Great Movies series, and he mentioned that it is one of the greatest war films ever made. It is also in IMDB’s Top 250, and it holds a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
4) Is there any particular reason you thought I should watch it, or were you just surprised I hadn’t seen it?
I remember you mentioned you hadn’t seen many (or was it any?) Studio Ghibli films before. This is the best film I have seen from them, and it is one that I am quickest to recommend (despite the devastating subject matter).
5) Have you written about the movie yourself? (Insert plug here! LOL )
I wrote a quick review of it last year, but it honestly didn’t do the film justice. This is one I should revisit and give the full treatment soon. Here’s my post:

Big thanks, Eric. My Review Below!

A Japanese boy and his young sister lose their mother when their village is bombed during World War II, what follows is a very simple story… they suffer the tolls of war. The two not only deal with the loss of their mother, but with a lack of food and shelter after they leave the care of an inhospitable aunt who initially takes them in.
This may be an animated movie, but it’s certainly not a children’s film. It features burnt corpses and smoking ruins. Air raid sirens sound and bombs follow after. Further, we are not spared the suffering that the two encounter in the aftermath of the bombing… not a single bit.

Initially, I thought the film might be focusing on the fact that there’s beauty even amidst destruction as the children play and chase fireflies even after their village is decimated. The two children are still children, in spite of the tragic circumstances around them. They laugh and splash at the beach and eat candy. Eventually though, their high spirits are worn down by the hardships and desolation brought on by war, and the film reveals itself to be about the costs that the innocent must bear.

Setsuko, the 5-year old, is very realistic. Her simplistic understanding, open emotions and limited coordination combine to create a very believable little girl. Seita, the brother, does his best to keep her spirits high in spite of being young himself. In War-time, you’re forced to grow up quickly, and Seita finds himself forced to face the world in many ways. It’s easy to believe in both of these characters, and to feel for them as they endure their suffering.

With dialogue that feels minimal at times, gorgeous illustration, emotive music, and of course the weighty subject matter, “Grave of the Fireflies” is a powerful film. Much like “Waltz with Bashir”, “Grave” seriously handles a mature topic, which is something that fans of Western animation aren’t entirely accustomed to. The quality of the film is undeniable, but in all honesty, the harrowing subject matter makes me suspect it’s a film I won’t be quick to revisit again. Much like “The Pianist”, say, or “Hotel Rwanda”, the pain and toll of war are on much too great a display to look directly at, voluntarily, often. It’s certainly a great film, but I think unlike Eric, I would be more cautious about recommending it, as it certainly IS a devastating film.


Daniel Fogarty


21 thoughts on “Reader Recommendations: “Grave of the Fireflies”

  1. Nice one guys. I’ve been meaning to get around to this one myself. I don’t normally watch studio Ghibli films that aren’t directed by it’s creator Hayao Miyazaki but I’ll will definitely give this a shot.

    • It’s worthy. Difficult as hell, but that’s not going to slow you down any, lol. The high quality is undeniable, it just winds up being a very troubling film…

      Worth having under your belt though, no doubt.

  2. Great, GREAT pick guys! Well done. Dan, you’re spot on when you say it’s not a film that you’ll be revisiting any time soon. It’s been a couple of years since I first saw this, but only now do I feel like it could do with a revisit. Such a painful film to watch. And yet so beautiful at the same time.

    • It’s true. Early on, the innocence of the children… In spite of what they’re facing… Is astonishing.

      But later, good grief. So tough. 😦

      Undeniably excellent though, glad you see it too Jaina. 😉

    • No problem, man, definitely check it out for yourself when you get a chance. Just brace yourself for a very difficult look at some of the cost of war, you know? Not an easy pill to swallow, but certainly one worth seeing.

  3. Nice choice and great review, Fogs. I have had this on my “must-watch” list for a while and i just need to go ahead and sit down and see it. I enjoy Studio Ghibli and you’re right, several of them are a little more serious and not made for kids really.

    Glad you checked this one out.

    • Oh, this is definitely not for children in any way. LOL. It’s a super super difficult film in terms of its subject matter.

      But there are a lot of films that have that kind of gravitas and should be seen. Its important. It’s my understanding that this was inspired by true experiences, and certainly it does speak to the horrors of war… so its something that’s worth confronting.

  4. Fogs, I’m glad you were able to see this movie. It’s such a brutal film and not one I’ll revisit soon. Still, it’s stunning and very well-done. The tough part for me is that my daughter is almost four and I saw a bit too much of her in Setsuko. That made it very difficult.

    • Yeah, no kidding. I definitely thought of my nieces and nephew, too. It’s very brutal. Very difficult. But as you say, its stunning. Very powerful. It should be seen, but I have a hard time imagining revisiting it. LOL

  5. Man. That’s twice now that I have felt like a dick for recommending this. 🙂 I guess I am too quick to recommend depressing films, but this one really resonated with me. It’s unlike any other animated film I have ever seen.

    Anywho, I’m grateful that you selected me for this project, Fogs, and that you were able to appreciate the movie. You’re absolutely right, though — this is a film that would be incredibly difficult to watch more than once.

    • Oh cmon. Nothing like that. Pay no mind to me… but when I turn around and recommend it to others, I’m going to be sure I but the caution lights on. LOL. Sorry I made you feel like a dick during my own turn to advocate for the film… but… you dont have to worry about recommending anything to me. LOL. I’m tough. I can take it.

      Its a great film. Obviously very very powerful and moving. It’s just a difficult thing to experience, Had to call it like I see it, you know? 😉

      • Haha no worries man! I really do think this should be a mandatory watch, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it again. It’s just that next time I might go for lighter fare. 😀

  6. Nice to see you reviewing another anime, Fogs. I’m still waiting for you to watch my recommendation, Akira. *checks watch* Just kidding, I know you’re busy. But glad you liked another Ghibli film. Almost all of them are great.

    • Ha! My advice is to quit checking your watch, and start checking your calendar. LOL.

      Obviously they’re a phenomenal animation studio, they’re three for three now for me (I also checked out “Arrietty” on demand). I’ll be checking out more as we go along, definitely. Very impressed with their work that I’ve seen to date. 😀

  7. Great, Great film and definitely extremely powerful. Now only if you would Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers for me haha 😉

  8. I’ve never really heard or seen this film before, but you have sparked my interest in it! I’m fond of studio Ghibli films, so, alothough this is a powerful movie, I’ll be glad to watch it!

    • LOL. Love the full disclosure in your screen name there Jae. 😀 You can feel free to drop that going forward if you want, but it’s fun I think. 😀

      Listen… be warned. High quality. VERY very well done. But really like “Oh My God” level sad. Just know it going in.

      Meanwhile, yeah, apparently I’m the last person on the Studio Ghibli bandwagon. Your uncle did try to steer me in the right direction, though, to his credit 😉

      Thanks for chiming in!

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