Grave of the Fireflies - Review

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Released in 1988, Grave of the Fireflies is the story of Seita and his younger sister Setsuko, who lost their mother and father through different events of World War II. As a result they are forced to try to survive, any way they can, though their efforts are finally lost when Setsuko dies of malnutrition, and Seita dies not long after. It’s based on a semi-autobiographic book by the same name, whose author lost his sister due to malnutrition in 1945 during the war. The main value shown throughout the film is the endorsement of family, illustrated through the ever-growing relationship of Seita and Setsuko. The film provides an insight into Japanese culture, by showing the battle between those who subvert traditional roles in families and community, and those who fight to maintain them, such as Seitas aunty. There is also the question of moral ambiguity.

In the film, family is viewed as the most crucial relationship people could have, as it provided necessities such as love, support and survival in body and spirit in a time of crisis. One could not survive during the war without the support of others, and the bonds between family members were very strong. Traditionally, Japan emphasised lineal and instrumental ties within a family, rather then emotional, which explains Seita taking complete responsibility for Setsuko. But the movie also pulls on the heart strings, showing the growing relationship between Seita and Setsuko, and how much they love each other. The dying words of Setsuko: “Seita. Thank you”, shows just how strong their connection is, and their love for one another, in those simple words.

The value of certain traditional roles in family and society, in the film, are undermined during the time of crisis. We see the desire to maintain traditional roles. However, these roles become irrelevant during times of crisis and others must step up to fill the holes. Examples throughout the film are things like some of the first scenes, when, after an air...
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