Poster - Grave of the Fireflies

Here are the two Japanese movie posters for Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies.  The first poster is the most common image associated with the movie, as it's always used for DVD covers throughout the world.

Grave of the Fireflies is a critically important movie, not as much for Japan, but the rest of the world.  To most of us, this was our introduction to animation as serious drama, as historical melodrama, as heartbreaking tragedy.  It's true that most of the world grew up watching Heidi in the 1970s and 1980s, but this is the film that Takahata is most famous for.  This film has done more to shatter and reconstruct what I believed was possible in animation than any other single movie.

Now here's a question for the Takahata faithful: is this is greatest film?  Is it really?  I have to admit I don't watch it much, but this is for two reasons.  One, the experience of watching Grave of the Fireflies my first time was so overwhelming, so emotionally overpowering, that I have come to experience that sense of grief with the picture.  It's become a reflex.  Two, I don't want those feelings to become diluted with too many viewings.  I think there are some movies that are special enough to me that I don't want to see them endlessly.  I want to live with the memories of the experience.

To my mind, there is a difference between "greatest" and "most watched."  The great movies, the ones that move you and shape direction of your life, are kept in reserve and pulled out on special occasions.  Grave of the Fireflies is such a movie for me.

After my first viewing, that is, after I finally managed to make it to the end on the second try, I was consumed by two questions.  How was such a thing even possible in animation....and what else does this Takahata fella got?  I've been on that wild journey ever since.


Sean L. said...

I'm not a Takahata faithful (yet), but I do know this: not only is Grave of the Fireflies one of the greatest animated films ever made, it's simply one of the greatest films ever made.

Never have I been so deeply moved or emotionally impressed by a movie viewing experience. I was left speechless, almost breathless. Wow. Just wow. I'll always remember how special that experience was the first time I saw it. I was entranced from the very first shot, the very first line--and what an incredible first line it is! Before the movie was even halfway through, I paused it and told my best friend he has to see this extraordinary movie. Grave of the Fireflies represents just how genuinely human and real an animated movie can be, more real than reality itself. In fact, one of my first impressions about it was "This is just TOO damn real." That's what I felt like--I felt like I was there suffering with these children, yearning and singing with them. And when it was over, I was in shock. Unbelievable.

I share much of the same feelings that you have described. In fact, I think I've already watched the movie too much in a short span of time. And now I've decided I really need to allow more time before I view it again. And it should be at a special time.

Oh, and the first poster is my favorite. Beautiful stuff.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Couldn't have said it better myself. Now you only have to see Takahata's other films. You're already hooked, so you might as well admit it.

Sean L. said...

Well, I bought Pom Poko and My Neighbors the Yamadas (along with Whisper of the Heart and Porco Rosso, by the way) last week at Best Buy and I'm so excited to watch them.

Just FYI for anyone who cares and happens to see this comment, Best Buy is having a sweet sale on all Studio Ghibli titles until September 5, 2009. They're all on sale for only $16.99 each, and that's just about the best price you can get anywhere. I was surprised to discover this, since Best Buy historically has only carried two Ghibli titles: Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. But apparently for this sale, they additionally stocked up on Porco Rosso, Whisper of the Heart, Pom Poko, My Neighbors the Yamadas, Nausicaa, The Cat Returns, Princess Mononoke, and possibly Castle in the Sky. It felt like fate since I'd been dying to buy more Ghibli and expand my collection, so I had to take advantage of this and I grabbed four DVDs. I can only assume the sale is national, but of course I'm not sure. Oh, and apparently is doing a similar deal right now! Sweetness.

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