Grave of the Fireflies Collectors Series (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, August 31, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, October 08, 2002
What They Say
In the aftermath of a World War II bombing, two orphaned children struggle to survive in the Japanese countryside. To Seita and his four-year-old sister, the helplessness and indifference of their countrymen is even more painful than the enemy raids.
Through desperation, hunger and grief, these children?s lives are as heartbreakingly fragile as their spirit and love is inspiring. Grave of the Fireflies is a tale of the true tragedy of war and innocence lost, not only of the abandoned young, but of an entire nation.
It seems like every few years, the folks at Central Park Media put out this film on a new format, and each time it brings me to tears when I watch it. In some ways, I hate that a film has this power over me.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The audio for this track is a pretty decent stereo mix that has a few moments of good directionality, but the bulk of this film is dialogue or music, so it?s not a major problem. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout with no noticeable distortions or dropouts.
Presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen sets, this new transfer is leaps and bounds beyond the original CPM release back in 1998. Using both a newer master provided by Japan as well as going through a Digital Video Noise Reduction run, the look of the print here is just nothing short of stunning. Having gone from a VHS copy to laserdisc and then to the initial region 1 release and then to the region 2 release, I think this is one of those pinnacle moments where I can?t imagine it looking any better for home video. Colors are just fantastic looking through, particularly areas such as the skies and the opening segment in the field of fireflies with the oranges and reds. Looking through the DVNR segment where they have before and after shots just really shows how much of a difference this process made.
Done in a clear keepcase, this movie finally gets a new piece of cover artwork for this collectors series release. Although I really like the original image, this one with Seita and Setsuko standing along one of the paths with the murky brown skies behind them filled with fireflies is a welcome change and manages to evoke much the same feeling as the other image. The back cover provides a couple of shots from the movie as well as having a brief summary. The discs features and technical information are all clearly listed as well as providing a few choice quotes. The reverse side provides a collage of images from the movie as well as the chapter stops and a list of awards it?s won. A brief bilingual cast listing is provided as well as the main Japanese and English production credits. With this being a two disc release, it?s done up in a normal single keepcase with an added hinge to hold the second disc.
Using the character artwork from the cover set against a nighttime sky in the middle of trees while fireflies flutter about, the main menu plays a brief piece of soft music as the foreground and background shift towards each other. It?s a very subtle menu overall, but works very nicely. Moving to submenus is nice and fast and access times are good. The second disc has a single static image for its main menu and provides quick access to the extras located throughout it.
There?s a substantial amount of extras included here, especially when you add in the fact that the entire movie is provided in storyboard form ? and anamorphic at that for the storyboard version. That alone provides so much material for those who are looking for anything new with this film and for those who want to see how a movie is blocked out in its entirety. That?s the only extra provided on the first disc though, leaving the second disc to make up the bulk of the material.
And the second disc provides perfectly. A twelve minute interview piece with Roger Ebert kicks things off, and while he does indicate he?s not extremely knowledgeable about anime, he does provide a filmmakers view and decades of critique to the field and this gives us some new insights into how other people see our favorite medium. Added to his experience of dealing with a variety of Japanese live action movies over the years as well, he has some additional insights that I hadn?t realized before, such as the pillow transition information, which is something we see in a lot of anime. I?m quite glad he provided at least this much.
A new interview with Isao Takahata is here, and I swear, that man looks fantastic for being sixty seven years old. This new interview runs about seventeen minutes in length and brings a number of interesting things to light, such as how Ayano was chosen to voice Setsuko and the lengths they went to to make sure her lines came out perfect for the animation. I would have loved to have seen a present day interview with her to see what she thinks of the film she may not have understood fully as a child. Takahata talks a good deal about the production issues surrounding the film and the way everything sort of just fell into his lap as a once in a lifetime chance. This was definitely worth the price of admission alone for me.
Another piece provides a six minute pre-release video from the original theatrical run and has the original novel author, Akiyuki Nosaka, talking about his thoughts on his novel becoming a film and his expectations of it. Also provided here is a brief biography of his work and Takahata?s work and the original Japanese theatrical trailer.
The DVNR restoration segment was very similar to the one done up for Project A-Ko and shows the work that went into fixing up the materials for a much fresher and vibrant print, as well as what it took to remove the reel change marks and to synch up the audio tracks. The before and after shots throughout this are simply amazing. Another section provides close to ten storyboard sequences that were drawn up but never animated, which is the closest I think we?ll ever see to deleted scenes for this movie. There?s also a twelve minute Historical Perspective discussion with two professors where they talk about things related to the film and what certain pieces of it means, as well as going into detail about the air raids and what was done in real life about them, as well as how people in Japan were dealing with the war.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As mentioned earlier, it seems like every few years a new release somewhere comes up with this film, and then there?s always a theatrical showing that I force myself to go see, as it must be seen on a big screen. This is a film that, whether you like it or not, I think must be seen at least once. The simple ideas and concepts it presents are so pure and universal that they can and often do affect everyone who sees it.
This particular viewing took on a new twist with me, as it?s the first time I?ve seen the film since my daughter?s was born. With her now in my life, many aspects of this film change in how I perceive them, as it becomes far too easy to imagine her in that role and dealing with all of that. It makes it all the more relevant and still as important as when the tale was first told.
Grave of the Fireflies is a movie... no, a film, that you cannot watch often. This is something that you keep on your shelf, and you know that it's there. Once every few years, you get the courage and the strength to watch it again. And no matter how many times you've seen it, it has the same effect on you. It tears you down and makes you weep. Not the button pushing feel of Titanic, but the honest to goodness humanity within you feels for this film.
The beginning of it starts with the ending, and it in no way helps. It's a few weeks before the Americans land in Japan. In one of the rail stations, young Seita leans against a column dying. Hours later, a janitor comes across him, sighs about it, and tosses an empty can of fruit drops into a field, causing fireflies to flutter about.
From there, we see the journey of Seita and his younger sister Setsuko from several weeks (2 months?) before through the eyes of the now deceased Seita. We watch as he relives the last weeks of his life throughout the film, the decisions he made, the small amounts of happiness he manages for his sister, and more.
When I first sat my mother down to watch this, she wasn't sure what to expect. She was a big Lum fun, loves Orange Road, and thinks Robotech was a great show for what it was. She watched Grave of the Fireflies quietly in its entirety. She cried at the end, quite unlike I've heard with anything else. For weeks afterwards, she would say, "Why did he do this, or that" to me, and we'd talk about it.
For me, this movie will likely never become easier to watch, but will always serve as a reminder of just how precious life is. It is one of a handful of movies that have affected me down to my core and will be with me for years and years to come. It?s been nearly seven years since my mother has seen this movie, but with her just seeing the cover for it while visiting, the imagery from the film sprang to her mind and almost had her in tears from the memories. This is a powerful piece of work that can really affect people. It is the one movie I recommend to everyone as a must without any reservation.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Storyboards (Plays Storyboards as Alternate Angle),Trailers,Interview: Writer/Director Isao Takahata,Interview: Film Critic Roger Ebert,Author Biography: Akiyuki Nosaka,Director Biography: Isao Takahata,Creative Team Interviews,The Fire Bombings in Japan: Commentary by Professor Theodore F. Cook & Professor Haruko Taya Cook,Video Restoration Documentary,Original Japanese Theatrical Trailer,Art Gallery,U.S. Trailer
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A+
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Central Park Media
Running time: 88
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Grave of the Fireflies