In 1988, Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies took the top billing on a double feature with Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro, and this week both movies made their long-awaited debut on Blu-Ray disc. The previous post showed off the Totoro disc, and now we'll look at Fireflies.
This movie looks absolutely stunning. I hadn't before realized that the Central Park Media DVD had the colors completely wrong. They were using a master sent by Warner Bros in Japan, who had the home video rights for a time. For some reason, they decided to give the colors a warmer, NTSC balance. Fortunately, Ghibli recaptured the home video rights, and released Fireflies on DVD a couple years ago, no doubt based on the same 6K master (!!) used on this new Blu-Ray release. Here is the Ghibli BD, followed by the CPM DVD. This is a revelation:
The big question for Western anime fans is, "Will Grave of the Fireflies BD be released here?" It should be released in France, the UK, and Australia, but the US is far less likely. Disney does not have domestic rights to the movie, and it's clearly not one they would want on their hands. The home video rights have changed hands many times over the years, from US Manga Corps to Central Park Media, to ADV Films, and now Sentai Entertainment. Sentai's DVD is a bare-bones affair, a clear step below CPM's excellent release. They clearly don't have the resources for Studio Ghibli's Blu-Ray disc.
Sadly, we must conclude that the chances of Fireflies BD arriving in the United States are slim. The US anime market has struggled with the Blu-Ray format; the 1988 anime masterpiece Akira - Akira! - is out-of-print. You can blame economics, you can blame online streaming, you can blame piracy (ironic, since "piracy" is what created anime fandom in this country), it doesn't matter. Without a major benefactor, a Disney or a Criterion, Fireflies BD has little chance of seeing release on American shores.
Sorry to bring everyone down. But Grave of the Fireflies is a "downer" movie, after all. What did you expect at an opera, a happy ending?
Here are some more excellent screenshots from Grave of the Fireflies Blu-Ray, after the fold. Much thanks to DVD Beaver for their excellent comparison page. Enjoy the photos: