Forum - View topic
Online critic / satirist offers different perspective on Grave of the Fireflies.


Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4  Next

Anime News Network Forum Index -> General -> Anime
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
TitanXL



Joined: 08 Jun 2010
Posts: 4008

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 12:43 pm Reply with quote
I must say it's amazing some people can infer "it's a contextless pandering of children dying" from "it's not primarily an anti-war film". The writer said it's his own semi-autobiographical apology to his own sister he failed to save. It's not exactly something people need to sit around debating when you have the word from the horse's mouth.

The director commenting the movie wasn't "anti-war" is accurate, since it's message is "sister, I'm sorry" from the writer. The film is only anti-war to people who probably don't realize just what dropping two nukes on civilian cities actually involved, so they take a step back and say "Oh God, we really did this? War really IS bad!" More guilt, only this time on the American viewer's part, but that wasn't really the point or goal of the movie or original book.

In actuality, calling it "emotional manipulation" and other variants is pretty pretentious. It implies it's actually aimed at you more than the author himself. The film isn't about guilting you, so don't think you're actually that important to the creator when the true point of the film is something more personal.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Key
Moderator


Joined: 03 Nov 2003
Posts: 11254
Location: Indianapolis, IN (formerly Mimiho Valley)

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 1:30 pm Reply with quote
Honestly, I'm not seeing where all this persecution complex about not liking GotF is coming from. If any of you complaining about this can point to an example in these forums - even one many years old - where people are being that harshly lambasted for not liking or criticizing the film, then give me a link. Although GotF is widely-respected, I've never seen it treated as unassaible.

That doesn't mean that I'm not finding some of the criticisms leveled against it in this thread to be way off base, mind you. GotF is a tragedy, and the tragedy being brought upon the protagonist partly (largely?) by his own foolish actions doesn't change that fact; classic tragedies are commonly predicated on bad decision-making, after all. To say that Seita "wasn't all that sorry" about his little sister dying is to totally misread what going on in the movie's opening scenes and its final few scenes; the evidence to the contrary is so ample that I'm baffled how someone could come up with that interpretation.

I may have more to say about this later if the discussion continues, but for now I need to get on to some other business.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
EricJ



Joined: 03 Sep 2009
Posts: 876

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 2:55 pm Reply with quote
Key wrote:
That doesn't mean that I'm not finding some of the criticisms leveled against it in this thread to be way off base, mind you. GotF is a tragedy, and the tragedy being brought upon the protagonist partly (largely?) by his own foolish actions doesn't change that fact; classic tragedies are commonly predicated on bad decision-making, after all. To say that Seita "wasn't all that sorry" about his little sister dying is to totally misread what going on in the movie's opening scenes and its final few scenes; the evidence to the contrary is so ample that I'm baffled how someone could come up with that interpretation.


Well, Western tragedy--Greek tragedy springs to mind--focuses on the idea that the character dug his own hole through pride, ambition, etc., and set in motion something he couldn't stop when he finally realized his fault.

I was expecting something like that to happen after the hero realizes, okay, with everyone else in the country on the brink of survival, there are worse things than, boo-hoo, having to suck it up to your grandma, but it....never quite gets around to that. We're just left with "Well, things were tough for everyone back then...", and while we can assume his pride ultimately let to his sister's death, there's no real connection made, or any clear epiphany that it occurred to our hero at the end.
We're just left to shake our heads and "tsk" at poor tragic social victims like The Bicycle Thief, and not learn from the rich character-failing irony of Oedipus or Macbeth.
(Not saying it's on the same scale, but at least with those, you know who to blame.)
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
ArsenicSteel



Joined: 12 Jan 2010
Posts: 2370

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 3:16 pm Reply with quote
You might have to take a step back to see that the the realization you're looking for isn't in the movie, it is the movie.

Viewing it as a semi-biographical(Seita isn't just a self-centered fictional character but is also the remorseful writer) apology greatly helps to.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
ailblentyn
SubscriberSubscriber


Joined: 28 Mar 2009
Posts: 1540
Location: body in Ohio, heart in Sydney

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 3:22 pm Reply with quote
Again, speaking as someone for whom the film does work, I think the reading that pride is the tragic flaw here is off base.
I think Seita's predicament is more like Hamlet's, to the extent that each is placed in an impossible situation that they're just not up to. In Seita's case, this is due to his age (and, probably, his middle-class upbringing): he's old enough to think of himself as capable, but actually he has no resources but childish fantasies.


Last edited by ailblentyn on Tue May 22, 2012 3:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Agent355



Joined: 12 Dec 2008
Posts: 1674
Location: Crackberry in hand, thumbs at the ready...

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 3:23 pm Reply with quote
Okay, what I don't get is the opinion that Seita was entirely responsible for everything that happened to him and his sister. The aunt took their inheritance money, treated them like garbage, and pretty much washed her hands of them when they left. Is it such a cultural disconnect that adults need to take responsibility for children, more so if they're your relatives and even more so if your getting money as their appointed guardian?

I don't think she even assigned Seita chores, she just expected him to figure out a useful thing to do on his own, and complained when he didn't. She created situations to be upset at them and let them know they weren't welcome. They were a burden to her, and her response was akin to leaving an elderly family member alone on a mountaintop to die.

The movie made me damn angry because it's basically an example of children suffering because of irresponsible adults. Adults started the damn war. Adults-from their aunt that took their money to the kindly farmer who saw them starving-refused to do a damn thing to help them. Kindness, charity and even familial responsibility are all ignored, the kids are left to fend for themselves, and when they die, no one cares and the victims are blamed (classic!)

I was angry about the kids' situation, and because it seemed to me to be an allegory of how Japan sees itself or wants to be seen as the helpless orphaned victims of a world war rather than the aggressors who started that war and (still) refuses to take responsibility for all the consequences. I am afraid that such a view of the movie might make me seem callous or racist, but both Grave of the Fireflies and Barefoot Gen are told from children's perspectives.

An anime based on Shigeru Mizuki's semi-autobiographical manga Onwards Toward Our Noble Deaths would be a very interesting critical comparison.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
EireformContinent



Joined: 30 May 2009
Posts: 977
Location: Łódź/Poland (The Promised Land)

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 3:42 pm Reply with quote
Is it such a cultural disconnect that when your little stsier faces the death from starvation you should swallow your pride and at least try to avoid it by any means possible? It was a war and starvation, so it's hard to blame the aunt.

Agent, you shouldn't require impossible form Japanese- admitting that someone started that war. Germans blame that awful Nazi (who seem to appear from outer space, vote for Hitler, invade everyone around and by 1944 leave, leaving Germany to suffering)- well they at least admit that war happened. Japanese choose to remain silent, because who would like to remember about bloody conquest of China, Unit 731, sexual slavery in Korea and concentration camps that brings Nazi to scheme? It isn't widely taught in schools, even if so the version is that whole nation and Emperor were corrupted by group of generals who just happened to be caught and executed by Americans, so they couldn't protest.


Last edited by EireformContinent on Tue May 22, 2012 4:07 pm; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
ArsenicSteel



Joined: 12 Jan 2010
Posts: 2370

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 4:02 pm Reply with quote
What people "should" do versus what they do isn't a matter of cultural differences. If following the example of the culture meant anything then Seita "should" have went to work in a steel mill or something but what was being shown was an example of poor decision making skill because of his own stupidity/pride, not because he was Japanese.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
walw6pK4Alo



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 6985

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 4:18 pm Reply with quote
EireformContinent wrote:
Is it such a cultural disconnect that when your little stsier faces the death from starvation you should swallow your pride and at least try to avoid it by any means possible? It was a war and starvation, so it's hard to blame the aunt.

Agent, you shouldn't require impossible form Japanese- admitting that someone started that war. Germans blame that awful Nazi (who seem to appear from outer space, vote for Hitler, invade everyone around and by 1944 leave, leaving Germany to suffering)- well they at least admit that war happened. Japanese choose to remain silent, because who would like to remember about bloody conquest of China, Unit 731, sexual slavery in Korea and concentration camps that brings Nazi to scheme? It isn't widely taught in schools, even if so the version is that whole nation and Emperor were corrupted by group of generals who just happened to be caught and executed by Americans, so they couldn't protest.


This brings up that content of thinking where a irresponsible party is the Japanese government themselves. Of course they'll never condemn or even acknowledge their actions in World War II, they just conveniently forget all of their war atrocities and instead blame everything on the Americans. I know there's much more to to it, but they really do not even bring that stuff up unless it's in subversive film.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
jsc315



Joined: 09 Aug 2004
Posts: 923

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 4:44 pm Reply with quote
This anime always reminded me of Barefoot Gen. That is probably they have similar themes and take place around the same era. I personally never liked Grave of the Fireflies as much compared to this. Barefoot Gen has an amazing story that gets extremely depressing at times and I think does a better job at telling a story as it is more real and more human then Grave of the Fireflies tried to do.

Gen does a great job at telling a truly tragic story and with him and his parents and the few survivors he finds on his journey. Then again the author was someone who dealt with many of the issues 1st hand in the manga.

Also to be fair, Sage's opinions on what he reviews is usually based of bad, really bad dubs as well as his opinions tend not to be what most anime fans would agree on.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
Agent355



Joined: 12 Dec 2008
Posts: 1674
Location: Crackberry in hand, thumbs at the ready...

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 5:12 pm Reply with quote
Letting a 14-year-old and a toddler set out on their own during a time of war and not even bothering to look for them was pretty much a death sentence.

To be fair, the aunt didn't ask for the responsibility and she had her own kids and a lot on her plate. You can't completely blame her for taking out her frustrations on the kids, or even not bothering to look for them when they left.

However, if Seita had come back, she probably would have treated them even worse than before, and I'd be surprised if that wasn't a part of his thought process when he considered returning. Should Seita have returned anyway, at least for his sister's sake? Of course, but teens tend to think of themselves as immortal, and he probably didn't realize how bad his sister's situation was until it was too late. Adults, on the other hand, have fully developed forebrains and the ability to realize future consequences better than kids do.

It all begs the question Who is responsible for orphans during a war? What kind of society answers "the kids themselves"?

None. but if this movie makes people see Seita as more responsible for his fate than his aunt, that's just frustrating victim blaming akin to any other. A murder victim should have given his money to his murderer in a timely fashion, a date rape victim shouldn't have been wearing revealing clothes, if you are in an intolerant area, keep your differences to yourself lest you be beaten... How is it any different?
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
errinundra
Enjoying the time of EVEEnjoying the time of EVE


Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 2404
Location: Melbourne, Oz

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 6:41 pm Reply with quote
Sorry I’ve taken so long to respond. I didn’t get home until 11pm last night (after getting up at 5:30am) and went straight to bed. I can now reply this morning with a clearer head.

dormcat wrote:
Eight years have passed and people are still arguing about whether should one feel sad after watching Grave of the Fireflies. Rolling Eyes


Eight years ago I had never heard of Grave of the Fireflies or ANN. A new audience is watching the film and joining the ANN community. Kudos to the film (and ANN) for such longevity. The film deserves credit for generating debate (even if that debate has been had before) almost twenty years after its first release.

ailblentyn wrote:
I'll take all of you on…


I like your attitude. To quote Lilie and Pike from the first episode of Princess Tutu: "Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight..." Wink

Quote:
…@errinundra
I disagree with you completely about the "There's No Place Like Home" sequence with Setsuko. I find it effective precisely because it's not straightforwardly sentimental, but infused with Takahata's irony. I think the viewer is meant to think it's a sappy flashback to happy times, as the song is insisting. But actually the flashbacks are spoiler[frightful, of her playing alone and starving. We're primed to mourn her death, but we should be mourning her life.]


First, I want to clarify that I don’t dislike Grave of the Fireflies. I rate it as good, after all. I accept your take on the irony that is present, not only in the "There's No Place Like Home" scene but throughout the film. It’s a side of Isao Takahata that I admire. His films often have a more sophisticated undercurrent than those of his Ghibli stablemate, Hayao Miyazaki. Regrettably, Takahato too often spoils his films with cheesy and calculated sentimentality. It’s largely for this reason that I much prefer Miyazaki’s films. I will stand by my opinion (and that’s what it is) that the gushing emotion seeking of the that scene undermines the thematic and ironic points being made. It is symptomatic of the entire film. To me it smacks of dishonesty – there’s a complex thesis being presented here and it’s as if, without the emotion tugging, the audience won’t buy the message. I think it’s telling that Ghibli felt the need to originally make it a double billing with the superior My Neighbour Totoro.

Re Seita: I think that the portrayal of this somewhat unpleasant character is one of the things that makes the film as good as it is (along with the aforementioned irony and in its subdued and simple but expressive artwork), both in the exploration of his largely self-inflicted dilemma and in his allegorical suggestiveness.

I am another who thinks that Barefoot Gen is the better movie, despite its much lower budget and older style artwork. It’s a more straightforward and honest film in that it doesn’t rely on emotional stunts to create a sense of horror, and more openly condemns Japanese militarism. The famous collapsed house scene, which is far more powerful than anything in Grave of the Fireflies, gets its power from its grounding in real events of the time, rather than the fantasy of scenes like Setsuko’s.

I think this image sums up for me the problems of the movie.



To use a cute, spoiler[dead] girl wearing a make-believe helmet and performing a military salute to make an anti-war point is not only ham-fisted but our emotive response to her cuteness and to her circumstances obscures the very point being made.

By the way, the use of "There's No Place Like Home" in the scene is a likely nod to the song’s famous use in the Japanese live action masterpiece, The Burmese Harp, which similarly deploys emotive means to present a story set in the dying days of World War 2. In that movie, however, emotion is very much the point. It argues that war is the antithesis of our better human nature, something that Grave of the Fireflies fails to convincingly argue.

TitanXL wrote:
...In actuality, calling it "emotional manipulation" and other variants is pretty pretentious. It implies it's actually aimed at you more than the author himself. The film isn't about guilting you, so don't think you're actually that important to the creator when the true point of the film is something more personal.


I don't accept that it's pretentious at all. If a scene comes across as emotionally manipulative it's mostly due to creative failure and poor writing, both of which are on display in this movie. If having that critical view is pretentious, I'll happily wear the tag.


Last edited by errinundra on Tue May 22, 2012 7:53 pm; edited 2 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail My Anime My Manga
walw6pK4Alo



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 6985

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 7:25 pm Reply with quote
jsc315 wrote:
Also to be fair, Sage's opinions on what he reviews is usually based of bad, really bad dubs as well as his opinions tend not to be what most anime fans would agree on.


That's always irked me in some of his reviews. I know he's trying to recapture the original nostalgia he had, but he should try watching them again, redubbed, uncropped, on BluRay. Then the art and animation stick out even more and basically hush-up the criticism of the film. "Amoebas? Amoebas?! Who cares, lookit dat animation." And that's absolutely how I feel about the film, the technical merit and spectacle will never be surpassed in anime. Steamboy doesn't even come close.

Although, he does seem to remain mostly impartial in that regard. But if the dub sucks, switch to the Japanese.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
jsc315



Joined: 09 Aug 2004
Posts: 923

PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 7:56 am Reply with quote
walw6pK4Alo wrote:
jsc315 wrote:
Also to be fair, Sage's opinions on what he reviews is usually based of bad, really bad dubs as well as his opinions tend not to be what most anime fans would agree on.


That's always irked me in some of his reviews. I know he's trying to recapture the original nostalgia he had, but he should try watching them again, redubbed, uncropped, on BluRay. Then the art and animation stick out even more and basically hush-up the criticism of the film. "Amoebas? Amoebas?! Who cares, lookit dat animation." And that's absolutely how I feel about the film, the technical merit and spectacle will never be surpassed in anime. Steamboy doesn't even come close.

Although, he does seem to remain mostly impartial in that regard. But if the dub sucks, switch to the Japanese.


That is kind of the point. Lot of these dubs were the early days of ADV or some no name company that really makes it really campy. Most of the anime he reviews for the most part is pretty awful. I mean they can be fun and entertaining to watch and some of it is just insane. That's why it's called Anime Abandon. It's anime time has forgotten about and probably should stay that way.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
Key
Moderator


Joined: 03 Nov 2003
Posts: 11254
Location: Indianapolis, IN (formerly Mimiho Valley)

PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 12:18 pm Reply with quote
Agent355 wrote:
The movie made me damn angry because it's basically an example of children suffering because of irresponsible adults. Adults started the damn war. Adults-from their aunt that took their money to the kindly farmer who saw them starving-refused to do a damn thing to help them. Kindness, charity and even familial responsibility are all ignored, the kids are left to fend for themselves, and when they die, no one cares and the victims are blamed (classic!)

See Barefoot Gen 2. It also shows quite clearly that not a lot of sympathy existed in Japan towards war orphans in the years that followed the war or towards those scarred or crippled by it. Taken with GotF, that could be interpreted as a reflection of prevailing attitudes at the time.

Quote:
I was angry about the kids' situation, and because it seemed to me to be an allegory of how Japan sees itself or wants to be seen as the helpless orphaned victims of a world war rather than the aggressors who started that war and (still) refuses to take responsibility for all the consequences.

I've seen the movie twice, about nine years apart, and did not get this impression either time. In fact, I thought the war-specific elements were presented very matter-of-factly and non-judgmentally. I'm certain that Seita and Setsuka are not meant to be symbolic of the Japanese people as a whole.

errinundra wrote:
I will stand by my opinion (and that’s what it is) that the gushing emotion seeking of the that scene undermines the thematic and ironic points being made. It is symptomatic of the entire film. To me it smacks of dishonesty – there’s a complex thesis being presented here and it’s as if, without the emotion tugging, the audience won’t buy the message.

What, exactly, do you think the "gushing emotion" is undermining?

Quote:
I am another who thinks that Barefoot Gen is the better movie, despite its much lower budget and older style artwork. It’s a more straightforward and honest film in that it doesn’t rely on emotional stunts to create a sense of horror, and more openly condemns Japanese militarism. The famous collapsed house scene, which is far more powerful than anything in Grave of the Fireflies, gets its power from its grounding in real events of the time, rather than the fantasy of scenes like Setsuko’s.

I'll absolutely agree that the BG scene you refer to is a far more powerful gut-check than anything in GotF; in fact, it's the one time that I've ever had to walk away from an anime scene for a while because the material was so difficult to deal with. It's also not any less an "emotional stunt" than what GotF pulls. BG is a movie built around moments of crushing impact, moments designed to horrify viewers, and the impressive impact that it has is a testament to how well it pulls off its "stunts." The movie has some issues elsewhere that GotF doesn't have, however, including a much more uneven tone, and it focuses much more on being informative than sentimental. See this review for my full thoughts on it.

Quote:
To use a cute, spoiler[dead] girl wearing a make-believe helmet and performing a military salute to make an anti-war point is not only ham-fisted but our emotive response to her cuteness and to her circumstances obscures the very point being made.

It's not trying to make an anti-war point - or, at least, that doesn't seem to have been the original intent. The anti-war message of the movie is more a side effect than an inherent design element. Besides, Ghibli films usually aren't that subtle when they want to make a point.
Quote:
By the way, the use of "There's No Place Like Home" in the scene is a likely nod to the song’s famous use in the Japanese live action masterpiece, The Burmese Harp, which similarly deploys emotive means to present a story set in the dying days of World War 2.

Interesting. Had not heard this before.

Quote:
If a scene comes across as emotionally manipulative, it's mostly due to creative failure and poor writing, both of which are on display in this movie. If having that critical view is pretentious, I'll happily wear the tag.

Oh, I find nothing pretentious about what you're saying. I just don't agree with it.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website My Anime My Manga
Display posts from previous:   
Reply to topic    Anime News Network Forum Index -> General -> Anime All times are GMT - 5 Hours
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4  Next
Page 3 of 4

 


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group