Roger Ebert on Grave of the Fireflies
In 2002, Roger Ebert gave an interview for Central Park Media's two-disc DVD of Grave of the Fireflies. It remains one of the most elegant and thoughtful discussions of Japanese animation.
Ten years ago, in the early weeks of 2003, I was assembling my own artist's website, DanielThomas.org, putting the finishing touches to the layout and design, and writing a number of essays and reviews. Grave of the Fireflies was my first movie review, written after weeks of blood, sweat and tears. I struggled over every line and every paragraph, trying to share the experience of this unique, revolutionary movie, trying to understand a work of art I never before imagined. I continue that struggle to this day.
I couldn't do any of this without Roger Ebert. Without his reviews and insights to guide and inspire me, none of this would be possible. Cliche or not, my essay writings and Ghibli Blog simply would not exist if not for this man. His Greatest Movies series was required reading (and memorization), my informal education in the movies, and continues so today, so many years later. Everything I write is judged, in my mind, against the writings of my greatest teacher.
Roger Ebert was the first major American movie critic to champion Japanese animation, and he was the first to champion the works of Studio Ghibli. At a time when "Japanimation" spawned confusion, disdain and fear, Ebert treated these movies with respect. He accepted the art form on its own terms, understood that it evolved differently from Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. He hailed anime movies like My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Metropolis, Tokyo Godfathers. And Grave of the Fireflies was held in special esteem, above all.