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Grave of the Fireflies (Remastered Edition)

Section 23 // Unrated // March 6, 2012
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted March 3, 2012 | E-mail the Author


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Grave of the Fireflies Review


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Grave of the Fireflies
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takes place during World War II. From the opening scene
the audience is prepared for a difficult and unsettling drama. The
story
unfolds by introducing protagonist Seita, who is a 14 year old teenage
boy. He
passes away at the beginning of Grave of
the Fireflies
. From there on, the story is told in a past-tense,
and it is
about the struggles he had with his younger sister Setsuko as the pair
tried to
survive during difficult war-times alone. You will not leave the
emotional experience
of watching this story unfold with dry eyes. Grave of the
Fireflies
is one of the most moving and overwhelming
war films ever made.


style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">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.


style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The
animation is typical of Studio
Ghibli. That is to say the artwork radiates with brilliance that is
only seen
through experiencing one of the studio's productions. Character designs
are
unforgettable and some of the most intricate and lush artwork you will
ever see
in animated cinema can be found here. The amount of detail is
astonishing: the
artwork indicates the time and place with remarkable clarity. You
become
transported to the landscape of Japan during WWII in the simultaneous
beauty and terror of the times.


style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">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.


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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!



style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">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.

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style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The
DVD:


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style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Video:


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Sentai
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
widescreen
DVD release with slight window-boxing (minor black bars around the
entire
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
compared to
some of the other Studio Ghibli releases but this may be a result of
the animation's
artistic design.


align="center">style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Comparison
Screenshots between ADV DVD and"Remastered Edition" DVD from Sentai
Filmworks:


align="center">style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Special
Thanks to WTK (Anime
Talk Contributor) for providing the comparison screenshots used in this
review.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif"; font-weight: bold;">ADV:


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style="font-weight: bold;">Sentai
Filmworks:

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ADV:

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height="225" width="400">



Sentai Filmworks:

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height="225" width="400">




ADV:

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height="225" width="400">



Sentai Filmworks:

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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.



style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">It
appears as though the Sentai
Filmworks DVD offers fans a
significant upgrade in picture quality. Take note.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";"> 


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Audio:


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">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.


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style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Extras:


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Sentai
Filmworks has included trailers for some of
their other anime releases. No other bonus materials are included.


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style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Final
Thoughts:


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Grave of
the Fireflies
style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">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.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Highly
Recommended.



Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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