Asian an­i­ma­tion for the ages

This week sees the re­leases of two sub­lime 1988 master­pieces from Ja­pan

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - DON­ALD CLARKE

away, the spir­its of Seita and Set­suko, his sis­ter, rise to lead us through the main body of the film. It is a grim tale. When their mother is killed in an air raid, they move in with an un­sym­pa­thetic aunt and ul­ti­mately end up for­ag­ing for food in the un­wel­com­ing waste­land.

Films about chil­dren in war have rarely been so ruth­less to their sub­jects. Fire­flies is, of course, given its genre, a great deal more lyri­cal and at home to mys­ti­cism than a with­er­ing mas­ter­piece such as Elem Ki­mov’s Come and See. The hints of an af­ter­life al­low a smidgeon of hope that the Rus­sian pic­ture could never con­tem­plate.

And yet it is, in its way, ev­ery bit as sav­age. We have be­come so used to an­i­ma­tion be­ing used to sen­ti­men­tal ends that, a quar­ter of a cen­tury af­ter its first re­lease, Grave of the Fire­flies still man­ages to side­swipe your ex­pec­ta­tions.

Taka­hata claims the film has “no mes­sage”. With re­spect to the di­rec­tor, the film does have a mes­sage, but it is so pure and un­com­pli­cated you could eas­ily take it for granted: we re­ally should be nicer to one an­other. A film for the ages.

A war of chil­dren: Grave of the Fire­flies

Child’s play: My Neigh­bour To­toro

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