Grave of the Fireflies - FLNWO #20

10/21/20142 Comments

On this edition of Film, Literature and the New World Order James and Broc West of discuss Grave of the Fireflies, the 1988 animated film from Studio Ghibli that just may be the greatest war movie ever made. Break out the tissues and prepare for some tears as we hash out the psychological scars this film leaves and examine the movie as a work of art, as an anti-war movie, as a moral tale, and as a stark reminder of how the victors write the history books.

For those with limited bandwidth, CLICK HERE to download a smaller, lower file size version of this episode.

For those interested in audio quality, CLICK HERE for the highest-quality version of this episode (WARNING: very large download).


Roger Ebert on Grave of the Fireflies

Anime Abandon: Grave of the Fireflies

The Fog of War - Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

Childs - "Mariana"

Last month's episode and comments: Contagion - FLNWO #19

Next month: Tora, Tora, Tora!

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  1. Porkins Policy says:

    Thank you so much James for picking this film for FLNWO! This is not only my favorite animes but one of my favorite movies of all time. I must confess that I have not re-watched the movie since the first time I saw it. I just could not bring myself to go through the emotional pain that it caused me the first time. Few movies have moved me to completely breakdown and sob the way Grave of the Fireflies did.

    I have come to interpret Seita’s decision to leave his Aunt’s house as his complete rejection of reality, and his vain attempt to remove himself from the reality of war going on around him. The fact that this leads to his sister’s death and ultimately his only makes this film more beautifully tragic. Again this movie explores the intricacies of the destructive nature of war in a way that no other film has. Thanks again James and Broc for an excellent FLNWO. And I do hope you pick another anime at some point.

  2. Fosca says:

    Thanks James for getting in this movie, which allowed me to open my mind for an anime, which I had not done before. Really worth it! Unfortunately delivery of DVD got delayed, but I have saved to listen to your podcast after watching.

    First to say the film is an excellent piece of work and certainly touching. Being prepared with tissues, as of your warning, I must admit I did not use them. To some extend I was astonished myself as Setsukos passing was heart breaking for sure, but there is one element which kind of divert me from this pure emotion. The point was related to Seita’s behaviour as he had some chances to “get back” to the and getting help even from his aunt. If he just would have given in and even support the local brigades, he and his sister might have survived! Thus I was a bit detaching from Seita (or eve angry on him), because I simply failed to understand if his seperation from the world was inevitable.

    Still when comparing with the entrance scene Seita was not the only one and he shared his destiny with many others! This also let’s me think there is another element of possibly many other orphans that were simply left alone. Those who do not have any real support may suffer the most. I have no clue on the standing of orhans in the Japanese society at that time.

    Anyway Seita has made an important choice. He takes responsibility for his sister and wants to create an own peaceful world. He just wants to be good for Setsuko and by doing this he is not able to realize him failing. He always keeps his good memory for his father and mother and is looking for getting this world back. Very strong for a 14 year old boy and nothing I can blame him, especially when sitting in a warm and cosy environment with enough food!

    Thus I think this new world is in contrast to the world of war around. IMO the fireflies (going up) actually represent this peaceful world (heaven) especially in contrast to the firebombs (falling down). As the fireflies are also starting to die (even Setsuko is killing one!) this nice world is also on the way down. Very sad!

    While I think you are right that there is a certain aspect of programming in this movie for the young Japanese people to obey to the older, I think the underlying more related to the boy who simply wants to get out of this crap and be a good “father” for his sister. The author has based the story on own experience with his sister who had died at the end of the war.

    Finally one hint to another “war” movie, which also has the theme of creating an nice world for a kid under terrible conditions: “Life is beautiful” Long time that I had seen this – and cried at the end (for some reasons).


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