I’ve only seen a couple of Studio Ghibli films in the past but each has had an interesting and often unique story. Grave of the Fireflies is the least fantastical and most hard hitting film I’ve seen from the studio and it’s probably also the best. Set at the closing stages of the Second World War it details the struggle for survival of two orphaned children called Seita and Setsuko. The movie has an anti war message at its centre but its main themes are of survival and of sibling love. With their father away at war and their mother killed by falling bombs, the young pair are forced to fend for themselves in a Japan which has no use for them. After initially finding a home with a distant aunt, they soon discover that they aren’t wanted and strike out on their own, finding refuge in an abandoned air raid shelter, scavenging and stealing what food they can lay their hands on.
Grave of the Fireflies is a depressing film both for its overarching themes and also for its individual character arcs. Although I’d heard it wasn’t all fun and games, I was still a little shocked by the brutal honesty with which it depicts war and the ending which is far from what you’d expect for what is essentially a young person’s cartoon. Despite the harrowing themes and images, personally I’d be happy to show the film to a bright child of about ten. If it could hold their attention I think that the movie would both interest and educate them and perhaps open their eyes to their species past, informing their decisions in the future.