11 CommentsAnime Analysis, Twelve Days, Ye Olde Days / By Scamp /

12 moments in anime #8: Grave of the Fireflies *sniffle*

This year I went on a mini anime movie binge. It turned out I had barely seen any anime movies whatsoever and was in dire need of adding some more to that list. There were two that stood out amongst those I watched. The first was Akira, the anime I started this entire 12 days project with. The second? *sniff* Grave of the *sniffle* Fireflies.

I’ve never been a person for the classic tear-jerker series , such as the Key dorama series. Drama annoys me but those series that try to open your tear ducts annoy me even more. Although there’s many reasons why I don’t like these series, one thing that I kept falling back on was the fact that they were totally unsuccessful in their task.  I never cried. I might get a bit sad but my eyes never watered. It’s not just these classic tear-jerker series that I didn’t like. Even when it came to my favourite characters dying tragically, I would never shed a tear. I’d feel pretty damn sad about the whole affair but I never came close to crying. Heck, I didn’t even cry at Bambi. I was left with the belief that I was to go through my whole life with my heart of stone.

Then came Grave of the Fireflies, which I swear could be accurately described as created solely for the purpose of treating people like me. People whos’ hearts were so harsh and cruel that the idea of even a bit of eye-watering seemed to alien to them. Before I watched Grave of the Fireflies I thought the first series that achieved that miracle of breaking that dry period would simply result in maybe a single solitary tear dripping down my cheek, with me doing the classic reaction of ‘huh? Why am I crying?’. But no, when I watched Grave of the Fireflies I bawled. I sobbed like a big fucking baby, face buried in a cushion. Grave of the Fireflies cracked the heart of stone. I’m not sure if I should be grateful for this or not but it was certainly a moment in my anime life worth remembering.

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  1. Winterblade
    Posted December 18, 2009 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Genius movie from Hayao Miyazaki, truly one of his better ones… of course I’d say all his movies were rather good… so its kind of a moot point :3

    In anycase… I’d complete agree with you here, this movie really is a tear jerking movie from the get go. In fact… I’d go as far to say that I cant even get past the scene b4 the title of the movie comes up, b4 tears start welling up T_T

  2. Posted December 18, 2009 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    My guess for someone who is hard to shed tears when watching a show is that there must be something, like a mental wall, separating and preventing him from getting too involved with the show. A strong sense of reality, maybe? I watched this anime when I was young and I had no problem crying but I didn’t cry that easily when I got older.

  3. Posted December 19, 2009 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    And Scamp cried like Pikachu here. But hey, for a veeeeery good movie, well worth it.

  4. Posted December 19, 2009 at 1:34 am | Permalink


    Actually I don’t think Fireflies was a Miyazaki. It’s a Ghibli but a different director. Let me check that though…yup, it was by Isao Takahata, the ‘Ghibli guy who’s not Miyazaki’. There ya go, learn something new everyday.


    I didn’t cry at shows when I was younger either though. At scary stuff, I ran out the room. But not cry. I can get very involved in a show as well, just crying seems to be beyond me.


    This movie is so sad that even someone as manly as Pikachu will shed a tear

  5. Posted December 19, 2009 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    Maybe I should join the group of all the stone-hearted people out there except I was genuinely moved by Key dramas and less so by GotF mostly because I have little sympathy for those who make poor decisions like the main character did in this movie. I guess that’s what separates me from a lot of people who watch this film. Does the sadness lie in what happens to the sister? Or both siblings?

  6. Posted December 19, 2009 at 3:26 am | Permalink


    I’m afraid you have me there. I guess it’s hard to explain why Grave of the Fireflies got to me the way nothing else ever has. I understand your view on the movie and I do agree that the kid should have just gone back to the aunt. Give me a week and I’ll see if I can come up with an answer to that one

  7. gw_kimmy
    Posted December 19, 2009 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    yeah, this movie definitely makes a bawler out of most rigid anime watchers. even my grown uncles cried and said that this movie broke their hearts.

    i think what’s most poignant about this movie is the sense of inescapable tragedy. sure, the boy made the decision to leave and be on his own with his sister, but the choice was either that or stay in a place where you constantly feel unwanted and taken advantage of ;/ perhaps the sister might have been saved if they had stayed with the aunt, but i doubt they would have ever been happy there.

    also, just the backdrop of a war that they had nothing to do with and that destroyed their lives adds to the sense of hopelessness this movie gives. it’s definitely a feel-bad movie ;( but in a good way since it was so beautifully done.

  8. kadian1364
    Posted December 20, 2009 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t describe myself a stone-hearted person since I’ve shed plenty of tears watching my favorite animes and such, but not for Grave of the Fireflies. I think for me it has to do with the historical WWII backdrop. I thought of it more like a History channel documentary, like “Yes, this happened. *nods head*” I guess the real-life history stuff engages a different reaction from me than a story of pure fiction would. I turn on my learning mode rather than my emotions whenever I see GotF.

  9. Posted December 20, 2009 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Right, I’ve had time to mull over the question of why Fireflies hit me while nothing else did. The best reason I could come up with is ‘because it was real’. In a total oppisite reaction to kadian1364, I got into it because it was real and because the characters make mistakes.

    Actually that’s not really true either, otherwise I’d be in bits watching the news. Even if personal life tradegy happens, I don’t cry. Damnit, I can’t figure it out. Why on earth did Fireflies have that effect on me while nothing else has???

    Sorry, I can’t think of an answer. Ask me again this time next year

    • Lethe
      Posted April 7, 2011 at 1:26 am | Permalink

      I think I can answer that question, at least from my own point of view.

      Takahata begins the movie by showing us Seito’s pitiful death, and telling us that we are now sharing a viewpoint with the ghosts of the two children.

      For this reason, we watch the entire story with a sense of inevitability. A sense that all the wrong choices have ALREADY been made, and all we can do is sit and watch the characters helplessly make them again. So, for example, even when the children are so happy, heading off to their own ‘home’ in the abandoned shelter, our share of their joy is tainted with the knowledge that it is just another wrong step in a series of wrong steps that will only lead to our sitting with their ghosts and watching the scene play out over again.

      There is not one scene in the whole movie that does not carry that emotional weight. (I think it is because of this that the scenes that made me cry the most are the ones where the kids were happy, where Setsuko was happily setting up house in the abandoned shelter, or was joyfully playing by the river.)

      Without the weight created by that opening scene, we could have completely shared in the joyful moments, and kept up our hope throughout the movie, crying only at the ‘sad parts.’ But with one brilliant stroke, Takahata laid that weight down, and so we (or at least I) cry through almost the whole movie.

      I call that brilliant.

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