Grave of the Fireflies Blu-ray

Monday, 01 July 2013 00:00
Posted in Blu-Ray
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Grave of the Fireflies on Blu-ray and DVDMost of Studio Ghibli’s award-winning, animated films are playful, upbeat or even frothy. “Grave of the Fireflies” has its uplifting moments but the general tone is foreboding and harrowing. Teenage boy Seita (J Robert Spencer) and his tiny sister Setsuko (Rhoda Chrosite) are forced to flee their home in Kobe, Japan in 1944 when Allied forces firebomb the city. Their mother is critically injured and they are forced to fend for themselves.

Rationed food supplies are becoming increasingly scarce and their home has been reduced to smouldering rubble. The constant terror invoked by wailing air-raid sirens makes life hellish, and even a relatively comfortable stay with their Aunt is cut short when her increasingly vocal grumbles force them to move on once more. Settling in a basic shelter by a lake, the struggle to survive is agonising but Seita does his best to keep his sister’s spirits up.

The shocking opening of this sorrowful film makes the two sibling’s fate very clear, and their slow decline into starvation is sensitively and realistically portrayed. The horrifying effect of an indiscriminate bombing campaign on a civilian population is a decimated city, a city where the living scavenge amongst charred corpses for items they can trade for food. The narrative topics are dealt with unflinchingly.

Seita puts a brave face on their predicament and the brother and sister’s playful adventures are wonderful. At the back of the viewer’s mind and Seita’s own is the knowledge that the incessant pangs of hunger never cease for long, and the more diluted and nutritionally basic their diet, the faster the hunger returns and with it the threat of disease and sickness.

Robbed of his childhood, Seita has to become an adult, caring for his sister rather than doing the things a 14-year-old boy should be doing. He equips himself admirably but the odds are heavily stacked against him.

The voice acting is very good, and of course the animation and artwork are from the top drawer. The director and screenplay writer is Isao Takahata, who was also responsible for “My Neighbours the Yamadas” and “Only Yesterday”, both highly-rated Ghibli movies.

 “Grave” is an anime classic that tells a simple tale but one that really hits you in the gut; I will certainly pause for thought next time I eat a bowl of rice. Fans of Ghibli’s more traditional, lively films should not be afraid to take this one in, too. It reminded me of “The Plague Dogs”, another stunning animated movie that tells a desperate tale but one that is brilliantly produced, and has an important message to impart. Some of life’s lessons are very harsh but they need to be heeded.

The special features included in this release are as follows:

  • Interview with Director Isao Takahata
  • Japanese Release Promo Featuring Interview with Director Isao Takahata and Writer Akiyuki Nosaka
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Storyboards (some new)
  • Interview with Film Critic Roger Ebert
  • Historical Perspective Documentary
  • Trailers


The stern subject matter deserves some serious bonus content, and between the historical perspective and Roger Ebert’s keen analysis, you certainly get it. The Blu-ray format is sharp and presents the water-painting style backdrops in loving detail.

“Grave of the Fireflies” (1988) is out now on dual-format Blu-ray and DVD (both discs in one box), courtesy of studiocanal. The running time is 90 minutes approx, carries a ‘12’ certificate, and a RRP of £24.99, or get it for less from

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