I’ve watched Grave of the Fireflies a couple of years ago, and to be honest, I totally didn’t expect what I got. I was watching it with a friend with whom I’d been watching a movie every two weeks, I had this anime movie DVD at home, so I brought it along. What I received was a heavy story, a depressing story, in anime form.
For those who do not know, I hail from Israel, and the state religion is Judaism. One of the dates commemorated in Israel is the Holocaust (and Bravery) Memorial Day, which is held each year a week before Independence Day. As a student in the Israeli school system, we’d get taught over the issue every year, at least during our younger years, and talk of the Holocaust permeated much of the public discussion in Israel, always in the background.
More than that, aside from the memorial day, when all TV broadcast were dedicated to the issue, we’d get films related to the issue at other times of the year. As such, when I say “Holocaust movie”, there’s a certain meaning to it.
Yesterday I’ve happened to watch a documentary film about the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki‘s atomic bombing, but this post was coming for some time anyway.
When I call Grave of the Fireflies a Holocaust movie, I take it to mean that it has certain qualities, and if I spoil the movie a bit, then at least you’ll be prepared for what you will come to face in it.
This is not a war story, but a story about the indirect casaulties of war, it is a story of oppression, of children who lose their parents and must make do, in a society that does not have the resources to take care of them. You are faced with the seeming cruelty of their relatives, but you are forced to consider whether they are truly inhuman, or merely are trying to do their best in an impossible situation where their best, or anyone’s, is far from enough.
You will see children die, and it will be obvious to you that had someone made some sort of compromise, in attitude, in honour, some sort of compromise, they would have survived. It would be obvious to you but it would not necessarily be true.
This is a “Holocaust Movie”, even though you do not have some third party who is oppressing the characters directly, robbing them of their faculties. This is a “Holocaust Movie”, even though it does not take part in Europe and that the characters are not Jewish. This is a Holocaust Movie in its feel, in its gravitas. This is a Holocaust movie in the same way that The Pianist is, and Roberto Benigni‘s Life is Beautiful are; they do not focus on the war, but on abject poverty, despair, and the smaller people’s attempts to live in such a climate.
I wonder if any movies were made about the great exodus people had made during The Great Depression in the United States, and how similar a story that would be. Minus the war-torn bodies, of course.
A note, I am not sure if this is how it was originally made, or if the DVD was reconstructed from quite an old VHS Tape, but the animation quality in the movie is quite sub-par, though it may be a conscious choice.
I will not grade this movie, I’ll just tell you that it is good, and that you shouldn’t watch it unless you come prepared for a heavy, somber film. Forget that it’s anime, because that’d just throw you off.
Edit: I am not willing to entertain political discussions here, especially not ones where hate speech of pseudo hate-speech is uttered against any group. The reason I brought back my upbringing is because I wanted to give context to my experience watching this film, and my experience with “Holocaust movies”, which do not have to deal with the Holocaust, per se. I reserve the right to remove and modify any and all offending comments, and if that makes me a fascist dictator, well, it’s my blog.