Grave of the Fireflies -

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Mania Grade: A+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: All Region DVD
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 88
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies

By Chris Beveridge     October 06, 1998
Release Date: October 06, 1998

Grave of the Fireflies
© Central Park Media

What They Say
"Why do fireflies die so young?" Orphaned and homeless, two children set out to survive on their own in post-World War II Japan. But in the face of a society that is no longer able to help them, they begin to realize that they can never escape the hardships of war, or even find enough food to survive. Awarded First Prize as Best Animated Feature at the 1994 Chicago International Children's Film Festival

The Review!
In my laserdisc collection, there are 3 irreplaceable discs in my mind.

Kimagure Orange Road: The Movie, Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer and Grave of the Fireflies. The last two are out of print. But, they're also on DVD. Does that mean I'll be taking those down to Big Emma's next?

No, not hardly. Their DVD counterparts are quite excellent, but those laserdiscs still hold some sentimental value to me. Will I be watching them again? Highly unlikely.

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.

There are very few films that do that. This is now the third format I've bought this on, though I no longer own the VHS version. Each version is an investment to me, in hopes that if CPM is never able to make this movie again, the VHS, the laserdisc, or the DVD will survive with me for decades to come, because I know in my heart that I will always revisit Seita and Setsuko and experience their short young lives again.

This latest incarnation is also the first time in an optical format we've had the dub. The dub on VHS was released on a few short months ago, and I've heard tell that the main reason it was produced was so that a DVD version could be made. I listened to sections of it, and it's not bad. But, after so many years of hearing the voices I've heard, I'm not likely to listen often to it. The audio on this disc is a good clear Dolby Surround mix, mostly using the front soundstage. There's very little need for any background activity at all, as it is mostly a dialogue film.

The video on the other hand, is a little trickier. Comprised of mostly soft browns and earth tones (be sure to read the Historical Notes for information on the unique animation used for this film), it's very subdued. Blacks are handled very well, and the shift to the always dangerous red color on occasions pass muster.

Before watching this on my standalone player, I popped it into the PC-DVD player I have. I spent some time fiddling with adjustments and such, but on that system, I doubt I could watch much of this disc. The odd rainbow effect that was of much discussion on the Iria disc is quite prevalent at places, especially during brighter sequences. I found it to be quite distracting, no matter the size of the window I was using.

Placing the disc into the standalone Panasonic player however, these effects were almost invisible. There were a few instances of jitter, very minute, that I noticed in places, if only because I was trying to focus more on the disc qualities than the film itself. Once enwrapped in the storyline again, these very small jitters disappeared, and the film was quite involving.

Placed in a variation of the Amaray keepcase (a nice one I might add), the cover is very stark. The black background contrasting the orange sidebar is eye-catching to me, and would definitely get another look from me. If placed in the foreign film section, anyone seeing the "1994 Chicago International Children's Film Festival" award for best animated feature, they would definitely look at this film.

The main menu is very well designed, and with a wonderfully dark and subdued graphic. The main menu, for some reason, suffers the same as other discs in being somewhat slow. Moving from selection to selection takes several seconds. Yet, on the submenus, it flows as well as any Hollywood discs. Strange.

In the end, this is not a film for everyone. I think that, however, everyone should try it. It's one of those rare treats that comes along every few years, and one of the few that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character Gallery,Historical Background

Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.


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