What happened of late was that Pixar went ahead and released another motion-film in the animated field of things, being the superhero comedy The Incredibles. It turned out to be marvelous, is what transpired, but The Duke still found it somewhat absurd to hear folks on the tellyvisuals waxing about how it was the greatest animated feature of all ever. That right there is a bold statement, is what, possibly rendered in sorta lifelike 3D with some Tom Hanks, but it’s a statement that fails to take into account the following information;
I.e., The Incredibles, whilst wonderful, isn’t the best animated feature of all ever. That title right there was picked the hell up back in the hoary old climes of 1988 by no less a motherfucker than Isao Takahata.
Takahata’s Hotaru no haka, or Grave Of The Fireflies, translation fans, is nothing less than The Best Animated Feature Ever Fucking Made Even Ever, and The Duke don’t make claims like that lightly, is the truth of the matter. The simple fact is that no damn thing, not Toy Story nor the delightful sequel, nor Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, nor Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, Akira nor Ninja Scroll can touch Grave Of The Fireflies when it comes to celluloid perfection.
What Grave Of The Fireflies manages to do is to have a fella in tears for a good forty fuckin minutes on account of a buncha drawings. For sure, there are bits here and there in Bambi or maybe Urotsukidoji – Legend Of The Overfiend, when a fella cuts his sex-limb off on account of it’s possessed or some shit, that play on a man’s sentimental side. What these are, though, are isolated incidents. Grave Of The Fireflies actually has stone-cold motherfuckers like The Duke aching of the soul, is what, on account of the heartbreaking nature of it all.
Adapted from Akiyuki Nosaka’s novel, Grave Of The Fireflies concerns a young lad and his even-younger sister during WW2 Japan. The first thing we see is the lad, Seita, starving to death in a bustling train station. Folks come up and poke him with brushes and stuff, see if he’s maybe just sleeping, but no, another one dead is all it is. Pick him the hell up and clean this shit, would you ever? From here, Seita’s ghost, and the ghost of the sister, Setsuko, wander around the events that led to their death, illuminated by an otherworldly red glow. We see the firebombing of their home, and their subsequent travels to the house of a relative who at first appears welcoming, but who ultimately turns on the pair once the clothes of their dead mother have been sold for rice.
Seita and Setsuko go off and live in an abandoned bomb shelter, where disease and hunger take their horrifying toll.
Grave Of The Fireflies is an absolutely astounding film, is what it is, and really, folks need to forget all about the Best Animated Flick Of All Ever tag and just go ahead and declare it one of the Best Flicks Ever Made, regardless of the drawings and such.
Roger Ebert knows a thing or two about it all, is the alarming development. In his rather damn good Review Of The Flick, he notes this right here; “Grave of the Fireflies doesn’t attempt even the realism of The Lion King or Princess Mononoke, but paradoxically it is the most realistic animated film I’ve ever seen–in feeling.”
He also notes, much like I did a couple paragraphs ago (I mean come on Ebert, think of your own motherfucking shit would you ever) the difference between the tear-jerking in Bambi and the effect of Fireflies; “These films exist within safe confines; they inspire tears, but not grief. Grave of the Fireflies is a powerful dramatic film that happens to be animated, and I know what the critic Ernest Rister means when he compares it to Schindler’s List and says, ‘It is the most profoundly human animated film I’ve ever seen.'”
This isn’t empty hyperbole. Grave Of The Fireflies is a devastatingly beautiful, tender, scarring experience. But don’t go thinking it’s all blood and guts, neither. It’s not. The horrors of the post-bombing clean-up are there, but almost as afterthoughts. They’re in the background as Seita makes his way here and there, piles of bodies being torched, the wails of infants.
It also provides plenty of opportunities for to reflect on it all. Lingering shots of bullfrogs on a pond, of water dripping into a bucket, things you ain’t ever gonna find in Aladdin 2 – Return Of Jaffar. Which is not to say that Grave Of The Fireflies is better because it deals with BIG MOTHERFUCKING ISSUES. It’s the manner in which it relates these issues that elevates it up all those lists, is what. The fact that this right here is nothing more than a load of drawings going past your pupils, and yet it grips your fucking soul, makes a fella ache as the 5-year old weeps with grief and her brother tries to distract her, but also distract himself, by doing tricks on a climbing frame.
There’s a remarkable moment when, after Seita and Setsuko have moved to the shelter, we see a group of youths playing outside. We only realize that this is occurring years, decades later, when one of them runs out of shot screaming about ghosts. It’s another reminder that these grotesque experiences have seeped away to the back of the global conscience, and all that remains are a couple relics here and there that mean nothing to nobody.
It happens again, just as the end credits approach, when the ghosts of the siblings are sitting on a hillside overlooking a sprawling, modern cityscape.
Scorsese tried a similar trick with Gangs Of New York, but even with added Bono and mutton-chops he couldn’t pull off this kinda resonance.
A fella like The Duke just don’t have the vocabulary for to do Grave Of The Fireflies an ounce of motherfucking justice. It’s a profound piece of work, a film alive with humanity. It’s kinda like Jimmy T. Murakami’s masterful 1986 animated feature, When The Wind Blows, which concerned the heartbreaking experiences of two elderly folks post-Nuculear fallout. The right there is another animated number deserving the highest of accolades, but still doesn’t top Grave Of The Fireflies.
Grave Of The Fireflies has more compassion in a frame than a thousand live-action pics in their entirety. It’s a motherfucking masterpiece, a profoundly haunting experience. I can say not one more damn thing than that right there.
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