Friday, 2 October 2015

"Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies)," Isao Takahata, Film Review

"Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies)," Isao Takahata, Film Review

Spoiler alert, kids – it turns out that war is bad and that those least able to protect themselves from its merciless jaws are civilians, particularly young children.


Hotaru no haka is set in Japan towards the end of the Second World War.  The animation is an artless mix of scenes derived from photographs on the one hand, and clich├ęd stylistic effects (such as facial features) on the other.

Takahata chooses to milk the emotion from the civilian plight by focusing on a young boy and his four-year-old sister and showing their fall from comfortable family life through heartless relatives into vagrancy and death.

Review continues below...

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This is the film equivalent of those charity publicists who know they'll get the most donations to their cause by sticking their cameras in the faces of dying children.  It doesn't so much play on our heartstrings as pluck them from our still warm chests, string them onto a banjo and strum 'My Old Man's a Dustman'.

In fact, while we're on the subject of banjo playing you'd do worse than listen to Eugene Chadbourne's 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' instead of watching this film.  You'd still get your WW2 comment and it's a darn sight more enjoyable way of spending your time.

I'll give it an extra mark for making an effort to give a realistic depiction of the evil stepmother (an aunt in this film) character from fairy tales.

Personal Score: 3/10

This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

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