Grave of the Fireflies aka Hotaru no haka (1988) An Anime War Movie

Thanks to Novroz who mentioned Grave of the Fireflies pointing out I should review it on this site I finally watched this very beautiful anime last night.

Animes are maybe not everybody’s cup of tea and I am far from being an expert having only seen the other Studio Ghibli treasure Princess Mononoke aka Mononoke-hime still I know when I see a masterpiece. And Grave of the Fireflies is a masterpiece and should have been added on my Children in War Movies List before. This is an artfully drawn anime with a very moving story. It is a must-see for anime fans and people interested in war movies alike.

War does affect people in different ways. Some fight in it and die in it. Some get injured and are sent home. Others return suffering from post-traumatic shock. But many stay at home. All the old people, the children and the women. What about those people on the homefront? What happens to them? How do they cope with constant air raids, lack of food and other supplies? How do children cope? This is what Grave of the Fireflies shows us. You have to watch the first five minutes very carefully or you might not get the full meaning of the movie. It is quite subtle and could be missed.

Seita and Setsuko, a brother and his little sister, are two Japanese children whose lives are profoundly affected by the war. Their mother dies in an air raid while their father, an officer of the Japanese Royal Navy, is at war. The two children find refuge at the house of their aunt. But close quarters and lack of food doesn’t help and they are soon not welcome any more. Left with some money the children leave the house of their realtives and live in a shelter outside of town. The brother who is ten years older cares touchingly for his little sister but he can hardly find anything to eat. He tries to buy something but no one sells anything. He tries to steal and gets beaten up. The little girl gets weaker and weaker and finally falls very ill. When Japan surrenders Seita hears from someone that the Navy has been completely destroyed. His father is very probably dead as well.

The end of this movie is particularly good. It’s very sad and I can understand that people who are less familiar with war movies in general might be very shaken. I don’t think it is advisable to watch it with little children although it is not gruesome but the way death and war are treated is very emotional. The little girl is absolutely amazing. So realistic.

Even though this is a war movie it is also a meditation on life’s fragility and fugacity. A very poetical and emotional movie with wonderful pictures.

Children in War Movies: A List

In this post I would like to focus on war  movies in which children have leading roles and are not just supporting actors like in The Hurt Locker to name but one example.

There are many movies whose sole focus are children. They come from different countries, show different conflicts and times but they have one thing in common: they are all good, very good or outstanding. This is quite remarkable. It is as if those film directors who aim for entertainment only would shy away from showing children in war movies. All the movies listed below are very different in tone. Some are light and almost playful, like Hope and Glory, some are depressing and raw like Come and See, others have the quality of a fairytale like Pan´s Labyrinth.

I am sure my list is not exhaustive. If you know of any others, let me know. I will try and review most of them in later posts,  like I already did with Hope and Glory (see post), Welcome to Sarajevo (link to post), The Children of Huang Shi (see post) and Savior (see post). I am stating the name and the year and country in brackets. The conflict and where the war takes place follow behind. I did include a few movies with teenagers in it like The Bridge or Napola, but most of the others focus on much smaller children. I did also  include Savior as the newborn is central to the story.

I am sure you will discover many you did not know yet as I did.

The Drum (GB, 1938): India

Mrs Miniver (US 1942): WWII, British Homefront

Since You Went Away (US, 1944): WWII, American Homefront (here is my review)

Roma, Città Aperta aka Rome, Open City (Italy, 1945): WWII, Italy

Kim (US, 1950): India

Forbidden Games aka Jeux interdits (1952, France): WWII, France

The Bridge aka Die Brücke (1959, Germany): WWII, Germany

Two Women aka La ciociara (1960, Italy/France): WWII, Italy

Ivan’s Childhood aka Ivanovo detstvo (1962, Soviet Union): WWII, Russia

Hornet´s Nest (1970, USA): WWII, Italy

Lacombe Lucien (1974, France): WWII, France

The Tin Drum aka Die Blechtrommel (Germany, 1979): WWII, Germany

Hope and Glory (1987, UK): WWII, Blitz  (Here is my review)

Empire of the Sun (1987, USA) : Chinese-Japanese War WWII

Au-revoir les enfants aka Goodbye, Children (1987, France/Germany): WWII, Holocaust,France

Grave of the Fireflies aka Hotaru no haka (1988, Japan): WWII, Japan. Anime. (See my post)

Europa, Europa aka Hitlerjunge Salomon (1990 Germany/France/Poland): WWII, Germany (See my review)

Come and See aka Idi i smotri(1985, Soviet Union): WWII, Byelorussia

The Ogre aka Der Unhold (1996, France/Germany/UK): WWII, Nazi Germany

Welcome to Sarajevo (1997, USA) : Bosnia

Life is beautiful aka La vita è bella (1997, Italy): WWII, Holocaust (see post on La vita è bella)

Savior (1998, USA ): Bosnia

Silent Night (2002, USA): WWII, Germany (see my post on Silent Night)

Innocent Voices aka Voces inocentes (2004, Mexico/USA/Puerto Rico): El Salvador (see my post on Innocent Voices)

Turtles can fly aka Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand (2004, Iran/France/Iraq): Iraq

Before the Fall aka Napola (2004, Germany): WWII, Germany (see my review of NaPola)

Pan´s Labyrinth aka El laberinto del fauno (2006, Spain): WWII Franco´s Spain

Under the Bombs aka Sous les Bombes (2007, France/Lebanon): 2006, Lebanon (see my review of Under the Bombs)

Miracle at St. Anna (2008, US): WWII, Italy (here is my review)

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008, UK/USA): WWII, Holocaust (see my review)

Escape from Huang Shi aka The Children of Huang Shi (2008, Australia, China, Germany, USA): Japanese occupation of China

Winter in Wartime aka Oorlogswinter (2008, Netherlans, Belgium): WWII, occupied Hollad in Winter, 1945 (here is the link to my post)

The Fortress of War aka Brestskaya krepost (2010, Russia): WWII, Russia 1941. Germans attack the Brest Fortress (here is the link to my post).

The Round-Up – La Rafle (2010, FR/GE/HU): WWII, Paris, the round-up of 13000 Jews in the Vel d’Hiv (here is my review)

This list is being updated regularly.