International animation fans in mourning over the death of Isao Takahata: Grave of the Fireflies

International animation fans in mourning over the death of Isao Takahata: Grave of the Fireflies

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

If individuals adore animation, then the all-time classic Grave of the Fireflies will always hit a chord. The inspiration behind this most moving anime was Isao Takahata (1935-2018), who sadly just passed away. However, just like witnessing a firefly in delightful nature, the “Firefly of Takahata will never fade away!”

At an early age, Takahata nearly perished after America hit the city of Okayama with a heavy bombardment. Indeed, this terrifying experience embedded itself in the moving scenes of Grave of the Fireflies.

Interestingly, the film titled The King and the Mockingbird (Le Roi et l’Oiseau) that hails from France intrigued Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki based on several angles. France also played an important role in his early development because he studied French literature.

The BBC says, “He founded Studio Ghibli with iconic director Hayao Miyazaki in 1985… It became a world-renowned animation studio, producing blockbusters such as Castle in the Sky, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.”

Yet, the above reality, and being remembered for classics including Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, is a far cry from the failure of the early period. For example, he was demoted after the commercial failure of The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun. Of course, in the distance of time, then the same initial commercial failure would be seen in a different light.

However, for international animation fans, despite the enormous legacy of Takahata and his involvement with Studio Ghibli and his working relationship with Miyazaki, it is the anime classic Grave of the Fireflies that will never be forgotten. This is based on the utter sadness of war from the view of two children who are bewildered by the new brutal world they face.

In the past, I wrote, “In many ways, Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka) is in a class of its own because from start to finish you can feel the reality of war.  More important, it is not overtly sentimental from any nationalistic point of view and it does not portray victor or vanquished in any harsh light… Instead, it based on the strong bond between a loving brother and devoted sister and how they both try to endure the reality of war. Similarly, despite the harsh reality of what is happening, the innocence of childhood creates rare moments of joy and fresh hope.”

Hence, even today the witness of seeing fireflies in Japan brings back memories of this classic anime film that Takahata gave this world. Equally important, the characters of the brother and sister are more lifelike than any film outside of animation. Therefore, many a tear is shed when watching such a beautiful but sad film that enables people to see the reality of war.

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