Grave of the Fireflies Live Action

Released back in 2005, Nippon TV produced a live-action version of the acclaimed 1988 animated feature, Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka) directed by Studio Ghibli's Isao Takahata, and based on a book by Akiyuki Nosaka. The heart-rendering story was recreated as a live action movie for TV to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Hotaru no Haka remains to be a profound and powerful movie, even in comparison to non-war movies. To quickly recap, the story takes place toward the end of World War II in Japan, and follows a young boy, Seita, and his younger sister Setsuko who end up on their own struggling to survive.

If you've seen the anime, or read the book, then you already know what kind of state you'll be left as you watch the movie. Beautiful and tragic, this might be why I'm so late in finally watching the live action movie. What's most obvious from the live action is that it closely follows its original source. The casting for the movie is spot on. We definitely get more context behind Hisako Sawano, Seita's aunt, character and her back-story. But I'll have to admit, even knowing that, it still didn't stop me from yelling curse words at the screen.

As I said, the live action closely follows the book, so there are various differences if you compare it to the anime. I wouldn't say one is better than the other. Rather, I see it as another take of the source. The anime starts the movie with an already dead Seita as he flashbacks to tell his story. The storytelling in the anime is unprecedented, leaving viewers in tears with a simple shake of Setsuko's fruit drop can. In the live action, we follow Seita and Setsuko as the events are occuring. We get a larger focus on other characters including the aunt and their cousin, as well as other individuals they meet. Beautifully paced, and nicely done in all categories.

Hotaru no Haka, in all forms, is a definite must-see. So grab that can of fruit drops, and some kleenex and engulf yourself in this incredible story once more.

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