Directed by: Isao Takahata
Starring: (Voices of) Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara, Akemi Yamaguchi
Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies (1988) is one of the oddest animated films ever made. It isn’t so much that it attempts to be realistic—which it really doesn’t—or that it tells a wholly serious story (that’s not unique), but that it’s so unrelentingly grim. It follows the fates of a young boy and his sister struggling to survive in Japan during the last stretches of World War II. The father is killed in the navy and the mother and their home are lost in a firebombing by the U.S. forces. The film is undeniably brilliant and effective—though it’s interesting to note that viewers take the boy, Seita, as a sympathetic character, which was never Takahata’s intention. But it’s also not easy to watch. It begins with Seita’s death, tracks back and only becomes ever grimmer. It definitely should be seen, but, for me, it’s one of those works I’m glad I saw and hope to never sit through again.
Grave of the Fireflies will be shown at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, at the Asheville Art Museum.