Many anime fans hold studio Ghibli in revere. It would be no lie to say that Ghibli has played a large role in defining anime. But because of the massive success of studio Ghibli in becoming a household name, many fans view their films through rose tinted glasses of nostalgia and ignore fatal flaws. While Grave of the Fireflies may at first seem like a tragic story of a brother and sister struggling to survive during WWII, the tragedy could have been totally avoided by one simple decision.
The story follows Seita and his sister Setsuko after they survive a air strike that destroys their town and leaves them orphaned. The rest of the story follows the pair as they struggle to survive in the harsh world of WWII Japan...is what I'd like to say but unfortunately there is a fatal flaw in this story that was too big for me to get over.
After being orphaned, Seito and Setsuko are taken in by their aunt. Despite how she is portrayed she is actually a very kind woman. She takes in the pair when they have nowhere else to go, puts a roof over their head and food in their belly. But as time goes on and food becomes harder to come by she starts being a little harder on Seito as he shows no desire of finding a job and instead spends all his days playing with his sister. Eventually Seito gets tired of his aunts insults and decides to take his sister and move into a literal hole in the ground. And even as he and his sister slowly start starving to death he refuses to go back because of his hurt pride. If neither of them had a place to go to from the start this story might have been better, but the constant knowledge that this tragedy could have been avoided is what killed this film.
The story mainly focuses around Seito as he tries to care for his little sister, but for all they tried to portray a caring and loving brother it was a horrendous failure.
Because of Seito's inability to overcome his hurt pride and return to his aunt, he killed his sister. No matter how you want to look at it, even though he seemed to love his sister, his selfishness lead to her demise.
Setsuko on the other hand was a perfectly great character. Ghibli really knocked it out of the park in portraying a small child and saved this film from getting a lower score in characters.
As expected of a Ghibli film the visuals were top notch. The attention to detail is stunning and there are some truly gorgeous scenes even by modern animation standards.
Also no surprise from Ghilbli the soundtrack was fantastic.There is no real standout song to be found in this movie but the back-round music/sound was well suited to enhancing the atmosphere.
In the end I couldn't get over the story. Sure Grave of the Fireflies looks and sounds amazing, but because of the reasons listed when I reviewed the story and characters I honestly feel like this is a story that shouldn't exist.