Reviews: Grave Of The Fireflies

Grave of the Idiot Plot

If other people tell you about this movie, they may tell you that it's a stirring war-tale that shows the horror of war in a way films rarely do, and in the process, brings tears to their eyes. Part of this is true. The first half does indeed show the horrors of war, and is an interesting first half of a film. But as for the second half of the film, I originally said it 'fumbled the ball.' This is not the case. Instead, it presented exactly what the director wanted to present ,to the point where I couldn't bring myself to shed a single tear.

Instead, I was metaphorically banging my head due to the Idiot Ball on the part of the protagonist that makes up the second half of the movie. If the kid had just gone back to his aunt and apologized, (as virtually every other single character told him to do,) both he and his sister would still be alive. I understand that the director's idea was to show where pride gets you, as well as to comment on the state of Japanese youngsters at the time the movie was made, but to do so in such a way that presents your protagonist as an idiot is nothing short of manipulative and ham-fisted. Supporting this is the fact that, while this is semi-autobiographical, the protagonist, Seita, dies in the film, but in the actual real events that this story is based on, he survived. That part was the author's fault, but in the novel this film was based upon, the sibling's deaths were still not entirely their own fault, but were also the fault of inevitability, as food supplies were short, and the aunt wouldn't be able to take care of both the siblings and her own children anyway. But the director omitted this, and manipulated a mostly-true story of tragedy and loss in order to convey the folly of pride to Japanese delinquents in order to get across his own personal agenda; that is, to get those youngsters in line. Because of that, all I could do past the half-way point was grit my teeth and mutter, 'Go back to the aunt, go back to the aunt, go back to the aunt...!'

This film had a promising beginning, but didn't follow up on that promise, and presented us with one of the most maddeningly frustrating Idiot Balls and instances of gross manipulation I have ever born witness to. You can alter a true story within reason, but this film warped the facts enough to the point where the true story's essence is lost.

Spare yourself the Live-Action Adaptation Perspective Flip.

Before I begin this review, I have to point out that I was born in Israel, and have lived in Israel all my life. I know first-hand what its like to live under constant threat of war. Very much like in the original film, people soon become Conditioned to Accept Horror and develop a sense of Black Comedy, exemplified in the beginning of the film, when a man jokingly said he was relieved his house was burnt down too, or it wouldve been awkward. (In Israels case, for example, the Second Intifda produced a lot of Gallows Humor about suicide bombing.) Given that both the original novella and the film adaptation were made by people whod lived in this state, it comes as no surprise, and it made the film very relatable.

Not so in this film. Everyone panics and everything is so damn somber, going unconvincingly in wooden acting through the motions of what people think a traumatic event looks like. It was jarring.

To add insult to injury, while in the original everyones Kansai Regional Accent was not commented on and used very matter-of-factly, in the adaptation it was Egregiously Lampshaded: whenever someone said arigatou (the standard Japanese word for thanks), it followed with an almost ceremonial kn (the obsolescent Kansai version). It was othering and ridiculing Kansai people and I found it very annoying.

The final nail in the coffin (almost literally) was when the mother got an Adaptational Attractiveness from Bandage Mummy to Bandage Babe, in a rather revolting example of Beauty Is Never Tarnished. If they were going to show war as a Horrifying experience, this fucked it up big time, making everything not just unrealistic but smack of Unfortunate Implications.

That was the point I stopped watching, so now I highly recommend you never start.