Stretching the boundaries of animation

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I recently watched "Grave of the Fireflies," an animated film by Isao Takahata. Although the animated format suggests children's fare, this is a film for adults about children. It is the story of two orphaned siblings trying to survive in Japan during the fire-bombings and privations of World War II.

"Grave of the Fireflies" presents a gripping story, made more so by the fact that it is drawn from a semi-autobiographical novel and the tragedies it depicts are real. The film does an incredible job of conveying the emotions of the older brother, Seita, as he struggles to protect his young sister, Setsuko. It is the most subtle emotional portrayal I've seen in an animated film, and made me marvel at what can be accomplished by animation. Today's CGI animation often presents technical wonders, but this movie is a marvel of storytelling.

Brother and sister examine a fireflyI have an interest in the subject of siblings, particularly sisters. There are many books dealing with the competitive relationship between siblings; there is less available on the positive aspects of the sibling bond. This quieter relationship that exists between siblings is what "Grave of the Fireflies" excels at showing.

Seita is 10 years older than Setsuko, so he falls easily into a parental role with his much younger sister. The love that that the two siblings have for each other is so sweetly evident betwen them, even when the strains of everyday life--lack of food, lack of shelter--threaten to overwhelm the characters. "Grave of the Fireflies" is simply a beautiful film and I highly recommend watching it.

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OH, God, was it ever. It was such an indictment against war and what it does to people in general and children in particular. It was very unnerving to find out that the animator Isao Takahata did not see his film as an anti war movie but more about the notion of community, that it is imperative, in order to survive, whether it's war time or not, to be part of the community. If not, you will perish. Interesting perspective, and, in my opinion, while it seems pragmatic, it's kind of conventional and unchanging in the broader view of things.