I rewatched Grave of the Fireflies not too long ago. And though my memories as a young child had painted it to be just about the saddest thing ever, I was surprised that I didn’t cry. I didn’t find the film to be manipulative, but rather, simple in its approach to telling the story, in exploring the lives of people in post-WWII Japan, though I do feel that the film leaves more to be desired. It is based on a semi-autobiographical short story of the same name, written as an apology to the sister who had died, and perhaps this is the reason why the notion of death looms so ominously.
On another point, I have never viewed Grave of the Fireflies as an anti-war film because war isn’t what killed Seita and Setsuko, albeit it provided some of the circumstances, and have always felt that the reputation was tacked on by the audience in recent years. I am only speculating that the anti-war reputation had more to do with revealing an angle that North Americans had never had to deal with — being bombed, and having to lose things, important things, to bombings that are in no way their own undoing — than what the film really is about. There is no doubt that it is sad, but this is what happened to so many during those post-war days, not just in Japan but in Europe, Africa, and other parts of Asia.
In all honesty though, I had never felt the studio is interested in producing any anti-WWII content. Wind Rises feels like a struggle between what Miyazaki admires, and wants, and what the world expects him to say. I do believe that the Japanese governments may have restricted him to what he can and cannot say about the war. Bearing in mind that both Miyazaki and Takahata had lived through WWII, single-sidedly criticizing the Japan war effort may have seemed hypocritical to them. I have yet to find a resonance in Wind Rises, though I love the title. I just may return to it years from now and see how it fares.
Last note, I love Princess Kaguya. I’m just a little sad that many have yet to find their way to this beautiful title. Something about it had touched me in a way that no other Ghibli films had. I sobbed my way through the good latter half of it in the theatre and my sister was thoroughly embarrassed.