Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Look On! Fireflies in World War II Japan

(Look On! takes occasional note of noteworthy productions)

Grave of the Fireflies is one of the best antiwar movies ever made, in my opinion.
Released in Japan as Hotaru no Haka, Fireflies was made in 1988 by Studio Ghibli, cofounded by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. (Other animated films they've made include Spirited Away (2001), My Neighbour Totoro (1988), and Nausicaä (1984).)
Fireflies is directed by Takahata, who has a distinctive animation style. His movies, which are often touching and nostalgic, include Only Yesterday (1991), Pom Poko (1994), and the hilarious My Neighbour the Yamadas (1999).
Undoubtedly, Grave of the Fireflies is his masterpiece.
The film tells the story of two children. Seita, a 14-year-old boy, and his little sister, 4-year-old Setsuko. Their story is set against the firebombing during World War II of the city of Kobe (which would later suffer from a devastating earthquake). The mother of the children is caught in the bombing and dies. The children move in with their aunt. However, as the food supplies diminish, the aunt becomes increasingly resentful, and the children move out into an abandoned  shelter. Seita has no option but to steal food but his supplies of rice are insufficient. Setsuko slowly dies of malnutrition – just as the announcement comes of Japan's unconditional surrender to the United States
The film was based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, written, by Akiyuki Nosaka, as an apology to his little sister who died during WWII.
Fireflies stirs thoughts about the plight of children during conflict.
Jumping to mind is the International Criminal Court case of Thomas Lubanga, recently sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment for his role in enlisting and conscripting children in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Child soldiers in Africa, forcibly conscripted in some cases, sexually violated in others, have become a focus of prosecutions at the ICC.
Grave of the Fireflies shows other hardships faced by children due to war and conflict. Seita and Setsuko are orphaned, homeless, starved, and rejected by an adult population. Their story is a reminder of the innocent lives destroyed in the senseless pursuit of territorial expansion.
Definitely worth watching.

(Cross-posted at Human Rights Film Diary blog)

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