2.0, Japan

Grave of the Fireflies

1988 / Isao Takahata > War’s tough business, and fallout from the bloodshed affects everyone involved. Bravely and tastefully, cinema has over time tried to convey such moral dilemmas and barbaric vengeance, but once in a while, a movie comes along that makes the viewer feel dirty for the wrong reasons. Widely acclaimed for its animated portrayal of two young, Japanese orphans in World War II, Grave of the Fireflies has made me feel that way. It’s easy to justify the film’s bleak, helpless nature as a dose of realism, but I’d go as far as to say that it plays on the sensitivities of those who have dealt with wartime struggles. It manipulates the viewer without substantiating the emotions. Akiyuki Nosaka, on whose novel the film is based, was himself inspired out of sheer guilt for failing to support a family member. This guilt is what’s now being projected on the hapless viewer? That’s unfair, and the director should actually be the one to feel dirty. Our sympathy should be earned, not exploited with the tears of young children.