(First warning, this article has spoilers! Read this after you watch Grave of the Fireflies.) War, a word that’s used so lightly nowadays that many tend to forget the weight the word carries. Being one of the most impactful words to exist we can have a clear idea of how much the word is capable of with just glancing at history.
The biggest difference between two people, often those living in completely different worlds, yet breathing the same air and looking at the same sun, can occur at any moment. At a blink, brothers can become sworn enemies.
As with unconfirmed, yet famous quote rumored to be by Albert Einstein himself, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought with, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
Coming up with destruction and havoc, toppling nations all around the world making the Earth go back to the barren state it was back in the day, it isn’t something any human being should witness in their lifetime if they are to remain ‘human’ anymore.
When it comes to anime, there are a lot of titles that bring the ‘war setting’ to the table. You can choose from a lot of titles that are based on that very theme bringing something new to the table whilst staying true to the genre that gave birth to them. But we all can agree that nothing beats the masterpiece classic, the movie that’s been revered all these years and holds it’s ground even when compared to the latest of titles out there, Grave of the Fireflies itself.
One of the finest Studio Ghibli has to offer, the movie truly shows how war can totally change a person and completely turn their world upside down for them, making them become nothing more than a walking figure of flesh with a mouth that doesn’t speak, a heart that doesn’t beat and a soul that doesn’t weep.
“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
It’s rare that you get emotional at the very start of any show or movie since it’s mostly the climax or the ending that has you bathing in your own tears. Grave of the Fireflies shows you exactly how terrifying of a setting those characters are in, and how they’re living a nightmare no one would ever dream of even on their worst nights.
I’m pretty sure we all can agree that a couple of minutes were enough to make us start crying like a little kid who just lost their mom in a busy crowd. From then on the movie takes us on a journey, a journey that makes us imagine ourselves in that very universe, being together with Seita and Setsuko, wanting to help them in any way we can, but we are powerless.
The inability to help alone makes things all the worse. All you can do is feel for the siblings who have to put up with the toughest of situations imaginable, and come to terms with how many have undergone such a life.
Parents, good ones at least, tend to be among the most caring people in the world who will accept you no matter who you are and would help you no matter how bad of a crime you’ve committed. After all, a parent’s love is unconditional. In Grave of the Fireflies, it shows exactly that, children without parents are left behind.
Children without a home to sleep in and without a place to return to would only be pushed aside by a society struggling to survive, and are even prone to being abused by those that surround them, even by family and friends.
We witness this with Seita’s aunt, a woman that even went so far as to ‘snatch’ the only memorial the boy had of his mother. Seita knows that if he stays their with his aunt, things are only going to get worse since they’re ‘ignored’ when it comes to everything, even food which is the basic necessity of life.
This forces him to move out with his little sister despite knowing that he has no place he could go to, no shelter that would accept him and his sister with open arms.
In truth, living in a cave is better than living with people who’ll just eat you inside out. Love in it’s truest form exists only between a parent and a child, or between some siblings, yet even this statement can alter between person to person.
Ever since the beginning of the movie, Seita is caught in this turn of events that makes him question while looking up in the sky, ‘ Why me? What did I ever do wrong?’
He has to keep his emotions bottled up since he doesn’t want his sister to know about what has happened to their mother. After all, Setsuko is still a child and he’s all she has left in this world.
He also moves out of his aunt’s place cause he wants to make sure Setsuko is treated well and is happy, something that wouldn’t be possible with those greedy beasts living in the same place as them. He isn’t that grown up either, but he sacrifices all he has for his sister. Going so far as to steal, something that I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t do otherwise. Yet, that’s just how war is. It forces you to do stuff you never imagined yourself doing.
War makes you eat stuff you shunned, things you may have considered disgusting become the greatest dish worth hurting others for. It makes you sleep on the barren land with all the insects crawling all over you, insects that you’d kill on sight otherwise. It also has the potential to make you violent or willing to sacrifice others.
Seita endures everything, perseveres and remains resolute the entire time. He never, even for once, let it all out in front of his sister since he knew that it’d make her all the more sad, all the more aware of the whole situation, and that would be the last thing he’d ever want.
Seeing these siblings struggle in the worst conditions demands many, and I mean many tissues. Some people can’t even make it to the end since the movie is just so tragic. Things are always bad for Seita and Setsuko.
Sleeping in a cave without knowing who sleeps beside you, not having enough food to satisfy your hunger and being all alone for most of the day truly is something that could break any sheltered person, but at the end of the day, even with all that happening, they still have each other, the only person they can truly count on.
‘My sister went to sleep and she never woke up again’. Hunger, making Setsuko imagine the rocks as food, her creaking voice without any joy, without any life in those words as she offers them to his brother who just came ‘home’. Seita isn’t the only one crying, I can guarantee you that.
His sister was all he had left. Setsuko was the only one he lived for, wanting to make sure he looked out for her since he was the only one she had in this world as well. But war is remorseless and the world can be cruel, always wanting more and more from any soul out there, sucking them until they’re out of humanity, out of will, out of life itself.
He has to bury his own sister as well. The boy just can’t get a break, even for once. Thinking about it once again is already making tears fall down my cheeks. May none of us see war ever in our lifetime.
The moment the movie starts, you hear Seita telling us about the day he died. Seeing the story progress to that point where he’s there at the station. He’s barely breathing, blinking his eyes, and just ‘there’ with people walking around him as he lays on the ground. He has nothing left and is nothing more than a breathing figure of flesh at this point.
Counting the minutes till the day of his demise, the entire lifetime of the boy is nothing short of the word nightmare. Not once did he think that he’d be in these circumstances for the eternity to come. It’s one of the hardest movies to watch and one of the saddest ‘media’ to ever exist since it exhibits calamity in it’s truest sense, showing us just how war can destroy everything for a person out there, taking away all they love and cherish.
I’m pretty sure many has watched this movie at least once since, but if you haven’t, go watch it. For it’ll remind you what the word ‘war’ is capable of and how that word isn’t to be taken lightly and incorporated the way it is used nowadays.
This is a tale without a happy ending, one that illustrates the sad truth and the outcome of war.
Below are a few manga titles you may enjoy!
I’ve always been into writing since day one. Along the way I found anime and manga and it was just delightful transforming my thoughts into words. I feel at ease writing about them and it’s truly something I find solace in.