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The Grave of the Fireflies

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Richard Cate
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The Grave of the Fireflies

"The Grave of the Fireflies"  "Hotaru no hata" is an 1988 film by director Isao Takahata from Studio Ghibli. It is more properly animated as opposed to the stylized Anime. It is from the book of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka. It is based on his true story and was done as pennance for the sadness and failure he experienced in the U.S. firebombing raids of 1945.

It shows life in Japan that is losing the war. there are deaths in combat in most families, food shortages and severe problems with displaced persons as their homes are destroyed in the American air raids. Just three years before they were told no enemy plane would ever fly over Japan. They had made few preperations for air attack, and by 1945 the Americans flew almost unopposed. The stratagy was to destroy the cities and displace the citizens causing problems that hurt the war effort because of the enormous undertaking of feeding and housing the displaced. 

The movie focuses on a older brother and his 4 year old sister. One of the problems watching the movie is that we place 21st century values on wartime Japan. They are largely incompatable. After a fire raid took the life of the children's mother, they had to go to an aunt and uncle. they were looked on as a burden, no extra food alotment or concideration was provided by authorities. The boy Seita finds his father was killed in a sea battle and inherits the bank account of the parents. He uses it to buy food for the family but they take most of it and give them rice, force them to work hard for their keep until a natural break takes place and the kids move out to find their own way. 

They find a cave down near thr river and set up their home. It is inhabited by fireflies. The little girl Setsuko sees them as thing of hope and wonder and he sees them as symbols of the incendiary bomlets that were dropped on his city of Kobe. The adults view is one not a sympathetic on they expect that as all Japanese that they will endure. 

I am not going to discuss the plot further but rather point out that WWII like all wars left refugees, wth no place to go, no homes to return to, little hope. The Americans faces 8 million refugee children in 1945. And under the Marshall Plan and the work of Eleanore Roosveldt and the UN Charter they were fed, hused and perminate homes were found for them. In Japan there was a stigma on survivors, their lot was more complicated by the west's refusal to take in Asian war refugees and of the Japanese' own cultural bias toward thost viewed as shamed, defeated or disformed. 

It is a hard movie to watch, not light hearted family fare. I can be used in High School but should have much preperation.