Michio Mamiya - Grave Of The Fireflies Soundtrack
Aug 10, 2019
The soundtrack to what is perhaps the greatest animated film...of all time.

I know I should be talking about films on somewhere like IMDB instead of a music reviewing site. There are plenty of other albums (some of them new) that I would have the pleasure to talk about in a full-length review. However, I had the opportunity to re-watch Grave of the Fireflies earlier today for the first time in years...and it left me emotionally traumatized in ways I find difficult to explain, even though I knew what to expect from it.

A film like Grave of the Fireflies deserves the attention it gets outside of the film reviewing community. Grave of the Fireflies is an experience, an experience that leaves you a changed person by the end of it. An experience that it challenging and painful to sit through. An experience that makes you admire the art of film-making. An experience that reminds you just how important the people around you are, because they won't be around forever.

It's easy to admire just how genuine this film really is and the artistry behind its difficult to digest themes. In contrast, it's an OVERWHELMINGLY difficult film to sit through. As a film that centers around two children living through war-time Japan nearing the end of the Second World War, Grave of the Fireflies tells the story of just one out of many wartime tragedies. Even though the filmmakers do take time to fully capture us into this apocalyptic-like reality of the world surrounding the movie, the majority of it is just following our young, main protagonists, Seita, and his younger sister, Setsuko through their struggles. We get a glimpse of the reality and fate of the people around them, but like their lives, they're disposed of and never heard of again in the movie.

Grave of the Fireflies is...an incredibly realistic movie, as real as war and animated films can ever get. And that's one part of what makes a film like this so powerful. The realism of Grave of the Fireflies separates it from any animated film I've ever seen. Keep in mind, this is from Studio Ghibli, a film studio that has made countless animation gems that are about as impactful and iconic as this film. When I look at characters like Seita and Setsuko, I don't just see them as characters. Considering the context behind the events surrounding this film, Seita and Setsuko may as well have been many children during World War II era Japan. Their innocence being taking thrown out a window because of the world, the broken system they are living under to survive.

And that's what makes the fate of these two innocent, playful children so unfortunate, saddening and tragic. Obviously, I won't spoil the film itself, but what you need to know is that Grave of the Fireflies has no true happy ending. It's a film that shatters you heart, warms it, then proceeds to shatter it again and again and again. It's difficult to finish this film without feeling physical or mental pain. You watch these characters be themselves, have a sense of joy and happiness, but then everything just falls apart as they look at the chilling reality of their situation. This film may be depressing to watch, but there's something truly genuine about it that keeps you watching till the very end. Grave of the Fireflies is disturbing, chilling, traumatic, terrifying, traumatic, yet at times, it's also uplifting, heartwarming, beautiful and light-hearted.

This film, despite being pretty straightforward in terms of its plot, can be left for interpretation. This film is typically regarded as an anti-War film, even though the director himself dismissed these claims. Although I see why this film is commonly regarded as such, I disagree. Grave of the Fireflies doesn't feel like it's making a statement about war. Instead, it's merely a reflection of it, a reflection of human greed, suffering, and pain. A reflection of human pride, love and affection. A reflection of just how cruel people may be in hard times and the desperate steps one would take to provide for a loved one.

You take a look at the other characters of this film and you might think to yourself, "Man, these people are complete assholes. I wish I could punch them". Then, you take the moment to realize the selfishness that comes with having to survive in a failing system and society during war. As much as people want to help, they can't. It's the result of many bad turns and wrong decisions made by many people that build up to a tragedy. The world isn't perfect, and nothing always goes as you'd like it to. There is no happy ending. This is just reality.

The title of the movie really foreshadows and sets the tone for the mature content of this film. This movie really is the Grave of the Fireflies. Fireflies are stunning, beautiful, gorgeous, but they are very delicate and fragile. Fireflies don't live long. They die off quickly, without ever really experiencing much in their lifetime. They are forgotten and disposed of. They shine bright in the night sky, but once they are gone, they are never heard of again and are replaced by a new generation of fireflies. You admire the beauty, but don't always understand the delicacy of its little soul. Life is unexpected and short. It can be taken away from you at any moment. You're responsible for your own survival and once it's over, the world moves on. As much as this film is a tragedy, the world moved on and everything left undisturbed. You watched the film, you couldn't help the characters, but everything's fine. You still get to live your life.

As much as I could talk for days about this movie's depth, there's so much more to this that makes it one of the greatest cinematic experiences ever for me. The animation, like most Studio Ghibli films, is stunning! Although this is not the most lively or colorful animation out of the Ghibli movies, it's still spectacular. The 2-D animation fits incredibly well with the atmosphere of the film. It really is fascinating to glance at it from afar. Sure, the background does feel static from time to time, but it's not something you notice cause you're too invested in the characters and "feel" of the film.

The music is stunning and absolutely gorgeous! Obviously, I could've done a review of just the soundtrack, but truth is, the film doesn't really have that much music. Its realism prevents it from being a big part of the film. In addition, it's literally impossible for me to take the score out of the context of the film. Just hearing the music of the film by itself gets me teared up. After experiencing the film, the soundtrack really shines alongside it because of the cinematic context, in my opinion. Overall, the music, despite not being much at all, is truly admirable!

I remember watching it many years ago with my father when I was a child. I loved the film even at a young age and enjoyed its somewhat relaxing and joyful atmosphere, but I knew something was up. My dad had tears dripping down his face for hours and cuddled me tightly in bed after I woke up in the middle of the night. I didn't really understand what I watched, but it did leave me worried and uncomfortable, as if a piece of my childhood innocence was taken away from me. After re-watching it nowadays, this is a much more gut-wrenching experience. I feel utterly depressed, sad and shocked by this film despite already seeing it plenty of times before. I cried and spent a good chunk of my day in silence. It was unlike any animated film I had ever seen. It made sense to me now that I'm more mature why this film is so hard to stare at. This film is uniquely powerful and it's not something I may ever experience again elsewhere.

This film...is really something else. Animation is not just for children. With Grave of the Fireflies, it proves that animation is a powerful tool for storytelling and emotion. It's more real and relevant than many other films in existence. It's incredibly powerful and there's always more to discover about the film the more times you watch it (if you actually want to, that is). Most Studio Ghibli films really transport you to different worlds and gives you an unforgettable, powerful experience. In Grave of the Fireflies, the creative minds behind it take realism and wartime films to the next level.

There may never ever be another animated feature-length film quite like this one. Its brutally honest and haunting nature is not for everyone, but it truly captures you with every moment it gets. If you watched this film and all you got out of it was "War is bad" or "I don't like seeing children die", then in my opinion, you've missed out and the film completely flew over your head. Reality is not a great picture to stare at, but you keep moving despite the problems you face. This film is something incredibly genuine. You can tell a lot of heart was put into it to create something that leaves an undeniable impact for generations to come. It's a timeless masterpiece that you won't ever really want to watch again, but you can admire the art of it from a safe distance.

I'm not a film critic (wouldn't call myself a music critic either). I haven't really watched too many films nor do I have much to say about most of them. However, there's something charming and different about Grave of the Fireflies, my all-time favorite war movie, all-time favorite animated movie and one of my favorite films of all time, that I just felt I had to share to this site. I DEFINITELY recommend seeing this film, unless you're at a low-point in your life and don't want to think about the world in a tragic light.

Perhaps writing such a long review wasn't worth it, but at the end of the day, a film like Grave of the Fireflies deserves it, and I'm proud to call it the best animated film of all time. (It's a 10/10 if it hasn't been obvious enough)

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take a walk outside and truly feel alive.
Aug 10, 2019
Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most beautiful animated movies I have ever seen
Aug 10, 2019
Aug 10, 2019
@okcomputer12127 YES! It deserves way more attention imo
Aug 10, 2019
Any studio ghibli movies are masterpieces, but I think my Favorite non-Studio Ghibli animated movies have to be Mary & Max, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles.
Aug 10, 2019
@KingKRoolisBack As much as I love Studio Ghibli films, there are a few mediocre ones like My Neighbors the Yamadas. I'm glad you mentioned Mary & Max and Ratatouille cause those film are uniquely spectacular! Also, the Incredibles is definitely my fav Pixar film!
Aug 10, 2019
As much as I love films like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, I don't think they've made me cry as much as Grave of the Fireflies.
Aug 10, 2019
@Plats Grave of the Fireflies is my fav Studio Ghibli film cause of how much of an impact it's had on me for years. Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke are definitely my runner-ups for best Studio Ghibli films. They feel so imaginative and epic!
Aug 11, 2019
Ghibli films are so visually stunning that we often forget how killer the soundtracks are. This is probably my favorite soundtrack to a Studio Ghibli film, which might just be because it's the film that had the biggest impact on me. Everyone should watch this movie.
Aug 12, 2019
@Tallglassofwate You perfectly summed up the Studio Ghibli catalog. Ghibli films are just...very appealing to look at. Everyone needs to see a Studio Ghibli film at least once in their lifetime!
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