Grave of the Fireflies
1988
Orphans Seita (voiced by Tsutomu Tatsumi) and Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi) fight for survival in post-World War II Japan. But society is harsh, and they come to the somber conclusion that they can neither escape the hardships of war nor find enough food to survive. Named the Best Animated Feature at the 1994 Chicago International Children's Film Festival, this film proves that not all anime tales are pixie-dust fantasies or brutal sci-fi standoffs.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

Hearing that this was one of the bleakest animated films of all time initially deterred me from seeing it, but there are important rays of sunshine between the clouds. Compared to a film like Osama that is relentlessly depressing, the laughter and scenes of joy in this film give dimension to the tragedy that surrounds them. If they bring an unforced smile to your face, then you have already begun down the road that leads to emotional devastation by the end. There's no mystery why several major critics have ranked this film with "Schindler's List" among the most grief-inducing war movies ever.

To those who say that we should bomb the Middle East and turn it into a parking lot because of the homicidal actions of a few radicals, I submit this film as a wrenching illustration of the effects of bombing civilian targets during war. It is profoundly inhumane and has tragic consequences for thousands of innocent people. Strange that I should attempt to cast the film in an "educational" light, because the writer-director intended it to "educate" audiences about the protagonist's hubris in leaving his aunt's home, but audiences missed that message and focused on the suffering in the story. They can be forgiven, perhaps; one does not count the drops of rain when getting soaked in a downpour. Regardless of its timeliness sixteen years after it was finished, this movie has earned its status as one of the most moving of all war films, and should be seen by anyone brave enough to try it.

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