With the help of government-issued pamphlets, an elderly British couple build a shelter and prepare for an impending nuclear attack, unaware that times and the nature of war have changed ... See full summary »
A French boarding school run by priests seems to be a haven from World War II until a new student arrives. He becomes the roommate of top student in his class. Rivals at first, the roommates form a bond and share a secret.
A symbolic depiction of hell on Earth, set in the last days of the Warsaw uprising in 1944. Lieutenant Zadra is commanding a company of 43 men in a desperate battle amidst the ruins. Facing... See full summary »
Setsuko and Seita are brother and sister living in wartime Japan. After their mother is killed in an air raid they find a temporary home with relatives. Having quarreled with their aunt they leave the city and make their home in an abandoned shelter. While their soldier father's destiny is unknown, the two must depend on each other to somehow keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. When everything is in short supply, they gradually succumb to hunger and their only entertainment is the light of the fireflies. Written by
Corrected by Liron
From the start of production, director Isao Takahata wanted to cast appropriately aged children in the roles of Seita and Setsuko. Because the film takes place in Kobe, the search was limited to the Kansai region of Japan in order to find children who spoke the proper dialect. He was introduced to Ayano Shiraishi through a regional children's acting company, and he decided to cast her as Setsuko after only hearing two sentences: "My name is Ayano Shriraishi. I am five years old." He was later told by one of the company's leaders that they expected that Ayano was too young for the role, and so those were the only lines she had been instructed to recite in the audition. See more »
September 21, 1945... that was the night I died.
See more »
This film proves without any doubt that animation isn't just suited to tales of fantasy, sci-fi or cartoon comedy and violence. This absolutely heartbreaking Japanese anime tells the story of a young boy, Seito and his younger sister, Setsuko, as they attempt to survive the American bombings on Japan in the last year of World War II.
The story itself, based on a true story, is powerful enough but the decision to animate the film truly elevates this film to a higher level. This would have been a powerful enough live action drama, along the lines of Spielberg's Empire of the Sun or even Schindler's List. However, the Studio Ghibli team, have brought an extraordinary amount of life to all the characters, but especially the young siblings. Now we're not talking realism as such here - the characters are in no way photo-realistic, they do have the usual characteristics of Japanese anime humans, large eyes and exaggerated expressions. What this achieves however is a heightened level of subtle nuances in expression which are arguably more powerful and provocative than anything a real-life actor may achieve. Some may claim this is overly manipulative or sentimental, but coupled with the characters movements and actions, it gives the characters such a strong, and very human, presence. You truly care for these kids, which is an astonishing achievement. The voice cast (original Japanese) contributes significantly here also.
It is the tiny moments which give this film so much power and emotional depth - from subtle expressions to brief scenes showing Seito playing with his sister at bath time, attempting, unsuccessfully, to cheer her up when she misses her mother. The painted backgrounds are works of art in themselves, just beautiful. And of course the scenes with the fireflies bring a touch of pure magic - a heightened innocent reality to contrast the horrific realities of the war.
The greatest achievement of this film is that, apart from a couple of obviously sentimental scenes, such as Setsuko's sobbing or illness, it doesn't force any false emotion on the viewer. It really comes from your involvement with the characters. It's completely honest to it's own story and even cuts off scenes abruptly, which could potentially have been milked for cheap sentiment. It often seems to say - This is what happened, you don't need to see anymore. Another of it's strengths is that it really doesn't comment on the politics of the war in any way, just the effects on innocent people.
This is an intensely moving film and a masterpiece of animation. If you aren't moved by these characters, you really need to check your pulse. 10/10
34 of 36 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?