The film was written and directed by Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata. He's nowhere near as well-known as Hayao Miyazaki is in North America but that doesn't mean he isn't a brilliant storyteller with unique qualities. To even compare the two brilliant filmmakers can seem somewhat unfair as their styles and interests are more varied than some give them credit. Takahata's directing is always poetic and lyrical with a thoughtful introspection in each frame. Grave of the Fireflies is his greatest and most important masterpiece.
animation is typical of Studio
Ghibli. That is to say the artwork radiates with brilliance that is
through experiencing one of the studio's productions. Character designs
unforgettable and some of the most intricate and lush artwork you will
in animated cinema can be found here. The amount of detail is
artwork indicates the time and place with remarkable clarity. You
transported to the landscape of Japan during WWII in the simultaneous
beauty and terror of the times.
The filmmaking for Grave of the Fireflies is exquisite. The storytelling's emotionally involving and artistically profound. One of the main reasons the story works so well is also because of how relatable these characters are no matter who you are. The film is about more than one war and period of time. It is about the endurance of the human spirit during times of great difficulty. The characters can be related to and sympathized. They are trying to survive and one of the things that helps to keep them going is their strength in spirit and the love that unites family. The story is as much about tragedy as it is the love of family and that is an important thematic aspect that can extend beyond all countries, continents, and languages. The message of love is universal.
The word "classic" is overblown and overused (more-so now than ever). While I am not a history expert who can paint a portrait of how that word has been used over the course of time in painstaking detail I might as well wager a guess that the word "classic" (as defined by our current usage) was first used in 1597, the year believed to be the original time of publication of William Shakespeare's achievement Romeo and Juliet. But you know what... I'd be ridiculously incorrect!
So when should the word classic be used in writing? It should be used in reviews of Isao Takahata's masterpiece Grave of the Fireflies... because the film actually is the classic, masterpiece, and genuine work of art that deserves the use of the word and its core meaning. I'm not sure how anyone can experience the film without considering it a phenomenal accomplishment as one of the world's most moving wartime stories. Too many films seem to try to "pull" at the heartstrings. This is one that actually plays them like a master violinist would. You will be deeply moved.
Filmworks has presented Grave of the Fireflies in a
remastered presentation that preserves
the original 1.85:1 theatrical presentation. It is a 16:9 anamorphic
DVD release with slight window-boxing (minor black bars around the
image). This is certainly a common aspect of some
theatrical anime releases and it doesn't have a dramatic
impact on the overall high quality of the presentation. This rerelease
will make a
solid addition to the DVD collection of any film fan who did not
already own a
prior release and it may
even be worth a purchase as an upgrade.
The transfer is relatively clean without distracting dirt and other
print imperfections or damage. The color design isn't as vivid when
some of the other Studio Ghibli releases but this may be a result of
Screenshots between ADV DVD and"Remastered Edition" DVD from Sentai
Thanks to WTK (Anime
Talk Contributor) for providing the comparison screenshots used in this
The ADV screenshots are from an earlier DVD release of this film. The screenshots from the Sentai Filmworks release are for the Remastered DVD release being reviewed.
It appears as though the Sentai Filmworks DVD offers fans a significant upgrade in picture quality. Take note.
The film is presented with two Dolby Digital 2.0 options: the original Japanese language dub and the English language dub. Both sound impressive given the dated sound recordings and are more than adequate for viewing the film. The beautiful music score by Michio Mamiya is beautifully reproduced and the dialogue is reasonably crisp and easy enough to understand. The one main point I would like to make about the audio is to choose the dub option with a degree of care: the English dub is fine for what it is (if you insist upon it), but the Japanese language dub is much more powerful as an experience with remarkable voice-acting and a greater degree of depth.
Filmworks has included trailers for some of
their other anime releases. No other bonus materials are included.
Grave of the Fireflies will always be one of my favorite films regardless of its genre or style. The film is emotionally resonant and engaging. This is a powerful portrait of the hardships faced by Japanese civilians during WWII and a story that is one part tragedy and one part dedication to the hearts of all who strive in times of hardship to survive with the love of a family member nearby. This is as much a story of trying to survive as it about family and love that lasts an eternity beyond our mortal years.