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NONSENSE FROM THE NOOB: Is GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES Not The Biggest Downer Ever?

But are there more powerful anime features out there?


 Riveting, indeed.
 Riveting, indeed.

When we were talking about the controversial list of the “50 Must See Anime” a while back, I definitely had to give a nod of recognition to GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES’ inclusion on the list. I’ve been thinking about the film a little recently as I’ve been watching HBO’s superb mini-series, THE PACIFIC. The last episode end with Allied planes flying off to firebomb Tokyo and I was again reminded of art's power to build bridges. One thing I appreciate about seeing stories from other countries is getting to experience different perspectives of global history and GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES provides a powerful perspective, without doubt.

I first became aware of the movie, years ago, when Roger Ebert (that film critic you might have heard of) included it in his “Great Movies” list.  As I recall, that was the only anime named alongside the likes of CITIZEN KANE, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and the GODFATHER.  Ebert called it one of the most powerful anti-war movies of all time and, after watching it on an old VHS, I definitely have to agree.  Sobering is the best, if not the only, word to describe it. I can think of few other stories from the film, comics, anime and even literature that make such a powerful impact on the viewer. I’ve only seen it once, years ago and haven’t watched it again, in spite of this praise I’m giving. It's so far outside the realm of escapism audience-members, like myself, enjoy so much, that  it’s not something I’m eager to return to repeatedly. This isn't the kind of movie where you fast forward to a “favorite part.”

So I’m just curious as to how this ranks in the eyes of the more experienced members of the Anime Vice community. Is the praise for this film entirely deserved, or has it distracted from lesser-known works that are perhaps more deserving? What are some other good examples of manga and anime that are, like I said, more literary in their bent, without even a bit of escapist intent? I don’t know if I’m necessarily interested in seeking them out, but I’m curious to see what’s out there.

-- Tom Pinchuk is the writer of UNIMAGINABLE for Arcana Studios and HYBRID BASTARDS! for Archaia. Pre-order the HYBRID BASTARDS! hardcover now on Amazon.com.

Karasuon May 14, 2010 at 12:45 p.m.
It is THE MOST epic downer ever. It was really good and I'll never watch it again.
Ryokanon May 14, 2010 at 1:07 p.m.

He's reputation to be a downer is so great that I have never dared see it. I actually fear being depressed too much...
Krison May 14, 2010 at 1:09 p.m.
Oh, it most definitely deserves its praise.  The movie is amazing.  But I agree that it's not something one watches often.  I love Schindler's List, and have a nice copy of it on DVD, but I rarely watch it.  In fact, I think I've watched it once since I bought it, probably close to 6-8 years ago.  It's not something you can just sit down and watch for entertainment, as amazing a film as it is, because you really have to be in the right mindset for it.  
 
I don't think I've really come across anything else like that in anime or manga.  The Makoto Shinkai films are powerful, but in a different way, and they're not something I can just pop in anytime, either.  But like I said, the impact of those films is very different from what Grave of the Fireflies brings.  Certainly nothing I currently own, so if I have, I just don't remember.  There might be an episode of something here or there (there's at least one Kino's Journey episode I can think of, where a technologically advanced country goes to war against a simple village of people, so that their own country is peaceful; the idea being that the lust for war has to be channeled out somewhere; it's a little jarring, at least), but nothing complete.
AmandaBeeon May 14, 2010 at 1:26 p.m.
For anyone interested in stories of post-war Japan I would recommend  Fumiyo Kouno's manga Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms. It's a more reflective and quiet work compared to the epic-y drama of Grave of the Fireflies or Barefoot Gen.
 
Despite the weird Roger Waters prog rock soundtrack, I still put When the Wind Blows at the top of my own Saddest Animated Film list.
metalsnakezeroon May 14, 2010 at 3:53 p.m.
It is indeed a very good sad tale and I recommend it to people who are getting in to anime so they can see what anime can do.
Gozertcon May 14, 2010 at 9:12 p.m.
While not a single feature, more of a mini series I'd have to say   Now and Then, Here and There (http://www.animevice.com/now-and-then-here-and-there/11-4670/    )  Is a downer of a show.  It ranks up there with Grave of Fireflies on my holy crap anime list when it comes to "that's deeper than animated stuff is supposed to be!"   
 
N15PCAon May 15, 2010 at 1:47 p.m.
Barefoot Gen. 
 
It's about  WWII (just like Grave of the Fireflies) movie about what happend to people of Hiroshima when United States drop the atomic bomb.  Viewer warning.  
 
This is very strong part of the movie right here.
 
  
 
WINGS OF HONNEAMISE.  
 
It's about a man who wants to be the first person in space. 
 
  
   
 
ONLY YESTERDAY.  I've watch this one on AMC when they were showing most of Hayao Miyazaki stuff.  I think Miyazaki worked on some of this one has well.  I about a women going back to her home town.   
 
  
   
   Rose of Versailles.  It's about what lead to the French Revolution. 
 
     So I hope that helps you with some more anime that more grounded in real life so to speak.     
fireflys_locketon May 16, 2010 at 7:07 a.m.
@Karasu said:
"It is THE MOST epic downer ever. It was really good and I'll never watch it again. "

I would agree with this. I'm very glad I saw it (as it was great), but I don't think I could emotionally bear seeing it again. :/ At least not for another 10 years or so.
Supermutanton May 16, 2010 at 12:58 p.m.
I have it on dvd but have never watched it.  Hard to want sit down and watch it from what I hear.  If one day my haven't watched list maybe down one and this probably be the one.

Dig Deeper into Grave of the Fireflies

A Studio Ghibli drama about a Japanese boy and his young sister, who struggle to survive on their own after they are orphaned during the firebombing of Kobe in the closing months of World War II.

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