The Fireflies’ Grave 1988
A 1967 short story by Akiyuki Nosaka served as the inspiration for the 1988 Japanese animated war tragedy film Grave of the Fireflies (Japanese:, Hepburn: Hotaru no Haka). Isao Takahata wrote the script, directed the film, and Studio Ghibli animated it for Shinchosha Publishing.
Starring in the movie are Japanese actors Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara, and Akemi Yamaguchi. The narrative of two siblings and war orphans, Seita and Setsuko, and their harrowing battle to survive during the closing months of the Second World War is set in the city of Kobe, Japan, in June 1945. Grave of the Fireflies is a notable piece of Japanese animation that has received widespread recognition. It has been named one of the best war movies of all time.
The ghostly train that Seita and Setsuko Yokokawa board in Kobe is being driven by the spirits of the young war orphans who survived the bombing of Kobe during World War II.
The majority of Kobe is obliterated by American Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers in June 1945. While Seita and Setsuko escape the bombing unharmed, their mother suffers serious injuries and passes away. Setsuko finds out about their mother’s passing despite Seita’s best efforts to make her happy by hiding it from her. With the exception of a tin of Sakuma drops, Seita gives his aunt all the goods he hid before the bombing when Seita and Setsuko move in with her distant aunt. As rations get less and there are more refugees living in the house, the aunt persuades Seita to sell his mother’s silk kimono in exchange for rice. Seita uses some of his mother’s savings to buy supplies, but over time, the aunt grows resentful of the kids and thinks they are unfit to work for her food.
After receiving numerous insults, Seita and Setsuko move into an abandoned bomb bunker after leaving their aunt’s house. For lighting, they let loose fireflies into the haven. Setsuko is horrified to see that the insects have passed away the following day. She inters them in a grave and ponders why both her mother and them had to pass away. Seita steals from farmers and burglarizes homes during air raids when they run out of rice; as a result, a farmer beats him and sends him to the police. Seita is let go after the officer discovers he is stealing out of hunger. A medical professional says that Setsuko is malnourished when she becomes ill. In a desperate attempt to get some cash, Seita takes the rest of their mother’s savings. He then discovers that Japan has capitulated and that his father, an Imperial Japanese Navy captain, is probably dead because the majority of Japan’s navy has been sunk, which makes him upset. While bringing food to Setsuko, Seita discovers that she is dying. Later, as Seita completes preparing the meal, she passes away. Setsuko’s body is cremated along with her stuffed animal in a straw coffin by Seita. He carries his father’s portrait and her ashes in the candy tin.
In medias res, it is shown that Seita perishes from famine at a Sannomiya train station that September, surrounded by other emaciated people. Before the Americans show up, a janitor is charged with taking the dead out of the building. When he locates the candy tin while going through Seita’s belongings, the janitor throws it into a nearby field. Setsuko’s ashes disperse, her spirit emerges from the urn, joining Seita’s spirit and a cloud of fireflies, and she dies. They board a spectral train and reflect back on the incidents that led to Seita’s demise as they travel. Later, healthy and happy spirits reach their target. They sit on a bench on a mountaintop overlooking modern Kobe, surrounded by firefly.
DevelopmentAkiyuki Nosaka, the author of Grave of the Fireflies, said that numerous approaches had been made to convert his short story into a live-action movie. Nosaka claimed that “it was impossible to create the barren, scorched earth that’s to be the backdrop of the story”. He added that modern kids wouldn’t be able to portray the roles credibly. When he suggested an animated version, Nosaka expressed amazement. After viewing the storyboards, Nosaka came to the conclusion that only animation could have told this particular tale and expressed surprise at how precisely the townscape and rice paddies were portrayed.
Seita, the main character, “was a unique wartime ninth grader,” according to Isao Takahata, who claimed that this inspired him to shoot the short story. Any wartime story, whether animated or not, “tends to be moving and tear-jerking,” according to Takahata. Young people also develop a “inferiority complex” in which they believe that people who lived during times of war were more honorable and talented than they are, leading the audience to believe that the story has nothing to do with them. Takahata argued that he wished to change this way of thinking. Takahata responded to Nosaka’s question on whether the movie characters were “having fun” by saying that Seita and Setsuko had “substantial” days and were “enjoying their days” in his clear illustration. Takahata claimed that animating Setsuko was much more challenging than animating Seita, and that this was the first time he had ever shown a girl under the age of five. According to Takahata, “In that respect, when you make the book into a movie, Setsuko becomes a tangible person” and that children between the ages of four and five tend to become more independent and self-centered. He clarified that while it is “difficult to incorporate into a story,” one could “have a scene where Seita can’t stand that anymore.” Takahata said that as the movie is told from Seita’s perspective, “even the passages that are objective are filtered through his feelings.”
Takahata admitted that he had given non-traditional animation techniques some thought, but once the staff had been formed and the timeline for the film had been prepared, it became clear that such a trial-and-error approach was not feasible. He added that it was challenging to animate the scenery because it is “not allowed” in Japanese animation to portray Japan realistically. While animators frequently visited other nations to investigate how to represent them, no previous research had been done for a Japanese context. Takahata produced a number of possible edits of the sequence where Seita cremates Setsuko’s body while also animated the film. Takahata worked on this scene for a long period, striving to get it just so. In the end, each of these edits remained unfinished and utilized.
Instead of the usual black, the majority of the movie’s illustration outlines are brown. Only in dire circumstances were black outlines employed. This, according to color coordinator Michiyo Yasuda, was done to give the movie a softer vibe. The employment of this method in an anime before to Grave of the Fireflies, according to Yasuda, “was done on a challenge.” Because brown does not contrast as well as black, Yasuda stated, it is more challenging to use brown than black.
Takahata’s debut animated movie with Studio Ghibli was Grave of the Fireflies.
Takahata insisted on working with well-known animators Yoshifumi Kond and Yoshiyuki Momose, both of whom were then employed by Nippon Animation. The animation’s characters were animated realistically and with fluidity thanks to the contributions of both animators.
Takahata based his portrayal of the air raid on Okayama on his own experiences to make it genuine. He attacked television programs and motion pictures that had portrayed incendiary bombs, saying in an interview, “They include no sparks or explosions, I was there and I experienced it, so I know what it was like.”
The novel’s “birthplace” is depicted in the movie as being Niteko-ike Pond (), where Nosaka performed his daily personal hygiene and dishwashing rituals. Notably, Nosaka, who was 14 at the time, sought safety with his younger sister-in-law in a relative’s home and close-by bomb shelters by the pond during the closing stages of the Pacific War.
The setting and backdrop of the movie are inspired on a design by Tintin’s creator, Hergé, and Japanese artist Hiroshige from the 18th century. Film reviewer Roger Ebert analyzes the contrast between the background’s style and the characters’ comical animation. He asserts that the vivid scenery contains a remarkable degree of detail, and the characters are an interpretation of contemporary Japanese animation, complete with infantile bodies and huge eyes. The portrayal of Seita and Setsuko leads Ebert to feel that this purposeful animation approach symbolizes animation’s ultimate goal, which is to recreate the unfiltered emotion of human life by emphasizing concepts rather than facts. “Yes, it’s a cartoon, and the kids have eyes like saucers,” he says in concluding his examination, “but it belongs on any list of the greatest war films ever made.” Wendy Goldberg claims that Takahata’s picture also makes fun of Japan’s obsession on nationalism. In one scenario, Seita neglects his sister because of his desire to join his father, which is a reflection of a “national fantasy of war.”