Anime Abandon - Grave of the Fireflies

(169 votes, average 4.44 out of 5)
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Comments (162)
  • BooRat
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    Well this is depressing a s hell and all!
    I do think the film is manipulating but I don't find offence with it. From what I understand it was pretty bad at the time(the teen violence and crime that is).
    What is your thoughts on JO's review of this?
  • playful  - Whaaaat...
    O_O; This is the second time I have seen this go up on TGWTG... What's going on? >_
  • dennett316
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    Two different people reviewed the same film....mystery solved.

    Seriously, people are getting more easily confused nowadays it seems....what gives?
  • TragicGuineaPig
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    Or maybe he clicked on this review at the end of Sage's previous review. That's how I saw it about two weeks ago. Sage had the video already posted a while back.
  • Eyeshot
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    Maybe you did what I did, playful: You saw Sage's "Perfect Blue" review, then you noticed on the ensuing video list the review for "Fireflies" and you clicked on it. The "Fireflies" review was there because Sage uploaded it to blip.tv soon after uploading the "Perfect Blue" video, but there wasn't an official posting for "Fireflies" on TGWTG until now.
  • Basilisk1991
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    That's what I did, and I do agree that the film is somewhat blunt in it manipulations, "YOUR PARENTS WENT THROUGH THIS YOU LITTLE S**TS!" is essentially the message of the movie.
  • Eyeshot
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    Oops, I mean he uploaded it to Springboard. Duh.
  • lilbird
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    Thank you for your honest opinion, Sage. I found myself agreeing with you through a lot of it, even though I only saw the movie once (and I probably am never going to watch it again because it depressed me so much).

    I don't hate the film myself, I actually find it somewhat intriguing. It could be that I haven't watched a lot of war movies, so this is so far the only movie I know of and seen the side-effects of war. That's where I can see the anti-war message, is how it affected the people, particularly children orphaned from it. It was painfully obvious the children were going to die, but the movie teased us with these hope spots, and that's where the heart-break came from the most, at least for me. It was a really hard film to watch, and I hadn't the heart to go back to it since (this review made me upset inside for that reason, remembering the imagery that I'm surprised you didn't show, which I think was for the best).

    While it's not recommended or a requirement, I think people should go ahead and watch it at least just once, since there is a message in there that I can see differs in individuals, whether it meets Takahata's intentions or not. The poor guy did try for his first film, I respect him for that.
  • InOzWeTrust  - Well Done
    Thanks for this Sage. I had held off on watching JesuOtaku's Grave of the Fireflies until this went up. I for one am glad you went deep on this as really there doesn't seem to be any other way to handle the material. By all means continue with such.

    As an older anime fan whose since lost touch with current programming the scraps of the past comedic gold mine do not shy away from deeper delving in the future. I have enjoyed the last several videos and their analysis rather than adhering to the character and comedy so much of the series is known for.
  • AngrySwedes  - wow
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    I have never seen it from this angle before, i mean i never thought that the movie had manipulative intentions but it is true! Great review and analysis (Ps. I like that you put the track "Pride" from jin-roh over the part with Seita dealing with his own pride, I see what you did there :P)
  • Sakarii
    While I never seen the movie, I have to say your opinion on everything and the history was pretty interesting, Sage. It's nice to see you analyzing every once in a while.

    What I can say is YES! Devil Hunter Yohko is next! I honestly didn't expect that show to ever appear. It's one of my guilty pleasures despite it's flaws and I can't wait to see what you have to say about it.
  • ahak
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    Probably one of the most overrated films of all time. I have no sympathy for the boy. He deserved what he got, in fact, he "killed" his sister. And the sister, I don't even remember her character other than being the sister. I remember watching it when it came out in theater as a kid and got yelled at by my mom for falling asleep.
  • vonPeterhof
    "I have no sympathy for the boy. He deserved what he got, in fact, he "killed" his sister."

    That's kind of the point - he is both the writer's way of saying "It was my fault that my sister died" and Takahata's way of telling the 80s Japanese youths "Don't be an irresponsible little shit". It's the people who interpret the film as an anti-war movie who see him as just another poor little victim.
  • fat1fared  - Perfectly Fair Review
    I admit, I always saw this film as manipulative, but I never took offence with this fact, simply because I agreed with the message I took from it. This is, of course, the anti-war message many take from.

    -I lauded it use of constructs, rather than characters because this meant we were not watching two people, but watching the horror of war and how that 'effects' anyone. It allowed the director to show obvious personality failings without traitorously having to impose resolutions upon them. It was everyone's story, not just our characters in question.

    -This meant the anti-war message was quite powerful, because as a viewer you could see how tragic it was to the point you asked, not 'why does this happen to them', but instead ask 'why does this happen.' You felt you could really be apart of it. However this is destroyed by the simple fact, this is clearly not the message.

    Here is my original review from 4 years ago.

    Ok, it did not actually make me cry, but made me very depressed, now probably thinking how is that a good thing? It is a good thing in my opinion, because it shows just how heart filled this film really is, anyone who knows even a little about Japan (and I know very little in all honesty) will know that WW2 is still to this day ingrained in their memory and psyche as a nation, such was the wound that it caused them, not only in physical destruction, but mentality as well. It was almost a complete crushing of their pride and this wound can still be seen in their films, art, books and other such parts of their culture today.

    Now no single film could ever sum all that up on its own, but this film has a bloody good go, not just with its wonderful artwork, subtle use of music and deep use of a simple storyline, which is all wonderfully done so as to complement each other effectively in this making of an overall oppressive rural 1940s japan but in some of main plot devices as well.

    The 2 main ones being:

    The way the US army is not portrayed as some evil invasion force like most films portray other armies as, but instead it something far more profound, it shown from eyes of two young children as one could believe they would see it.
    It is a hated thing, but it is an understated hate, shown more in word than emotion, as if characters more feel that they are meant to hate it, rather really hating it.
    Also it is very cleverly done in way that openly allows us to see the fact that these character know nothing about their enemy and all really see is some faceless foe flying high above them in his big metal machines which destroys their homes. This gives the US army an almost inhuman feel too them like not fighting other people at all and though I can thankfully say that I have never seen the horrors of war personally, meaning cannot say if this is the right portrayal of how one would see their foes or not, I can say that it one of most profound...
  • Rexaura888
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    That final stare from Seita could also be interpreted as a message to the younger generation in this way: "This is what happens when your proud and inexperienced minds try to take on the world alone."

    Part of what happened during those youth crime waves was due to the fact that the youth believed that there was no need for the older generation, that they were better off without them. Here, this movie shows Seita, a characterization of said youth, trying to get away from the older generation, characterized by his aunt, and living on his own, but the lack of wisdom and knowledge of the world that he would have gained had he stayed with his aunt and, more importantly, his unwillingness to swallow up his pride and return to the older generation when he needed to led to the death of the only family he really had left, and it was all his fault. It wasn't her illness or her malnourishment that killed Setsuko. No, it was Seita who killed her in the end because of his decisions and his belief that they can live without the older generation.

    I think what the message of the movie was, as far as the youth at the time was concerned, no matter how much you want to deny it, no matter how much you want to get away from them, you need the older generation in order to survive and grow up. Otherwise, you'll end up like Seita and Setsuko, nameless and dead on the streets.

    In the end though, Setsuko was the only one who really needed to die to get the message across, but I think Seita's death pretty much made sure that it was the only message to get across in a more extreme manner. It's not "If you follow our examples, you'll live with guilt for the rest of your life." The younger generation couldn't have cared less about something as insignificant as guilt. No, if it was going to get across in an extreme manner, it had to be "If you follow our examples, you will die. End of story."

    EDIT: One last note. I think the images of Setsuko was meant to be part of a guilt trip. It's as if the director was saying, "OK teens. You're Seika. This is Setsuko. This is all the things she used to do as a kid. Cute, isn't it? Well, she's dead. Your sister is dead. This little innocent girl is dead, and it's all your fault." It seems like a harsh way to get the message through, but it would have worked at the time, considering how many heart strings the scene would have tugged at IF they had gone to see it. It certainly didn't help that the movie was tagged on with Totoro as a double feature, that this was the first of the two movies, and that the audiences knew how depressing it would be and avoided it because of that as well as the double feature price. Totoro was only saved because of merchandise, so it seems as though the message fell on mostly deaf ears.
  • jimbob123432
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    When I first watched this movie (when I was 14), I found myself asking "why are you showing this?" Not in the sense that it was bad or anything, but in the sense of "why are you trying to make me so sad?" With a movie like Schindler's List, the sad moments are integral to the plot (the scene of the little girl in the red jacket for example), but here they're not always important. The stare at the end was completely pointless and the death and discovery of Seita's body were just adding salt to a wound.
    It's a well-animated film, but the director went way overboard in trying to make people feel sad, in the same way that Tarsim goes overboard in order to make his movies look good. At some point, the story and characters suffer and it makes the movie worse.
  • Sewblon
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    This particular review is not very entertaining, but it is stimulating and a very good video essay if that makes any sense.
  • Kylekillgannon
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    I wouldn't say it's incorrect, or ignorant to say one of the underlying themes in Grave of the Fireflies is an anti-war message. I'd say it's more mislabeled, as the reality is it's about the horror of war. It never really questions why, or tells you that this should stop. It just shows you what happens in war, and asks you to think about it.

    There's also a clear message on the the folly of youth in its defiance in both novel and film. The film is just more methodical and focused on a specific group. The novel, is more of a grievance on one's past mistakes, and how much it cost them. One is more personal, and the other is more general, and both have their own resonating effect.
  • Reliena
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    I agree entirely. Since people can look at this film and think "oh that's terrible! We should find better ways to settle disputes so that we don't have such awful outcomes," it is easy to see why someone would mistakenly label it as anti-war.

    However, I like how a previous commenter noted that this was supposed to be more of a tale of "don't make my same mistakes" rather than "feel sorry for what happened to us," merely because the older brother dies and doesn't admit his faults. It's amazing how much that alone completely changes the whole moral and tone of the story.
  • Jackalsblood
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    I do respect your opinions about why you dislike the film however I think the reason people would find this "manipulative" and not character driven, is because when it comes down to it the film isn't about two characters it's about two children and the tragedies that they go through trying to survive in war torn Japan. It's the same reason people connect to the film so much as well because they could be any two children, it's seeing these two innocent people losing their innocence over time. I am one of the few people to have seen the film and the Live Action remake (yes it exists), it makes the film more emotionally driven in the live action because you see two children.

    Even if Disney had the licensing to this I know they wouldn't release it to the mainstream public because they would see it as them promoting child death, but it's not about death it's about struggle. The writer based it on him and his sister who went through nearly identical problems until eventually she died but he was eventually saved and recovered but kept the burden of not saving his sister for the rest of his life. That is why they both die at the end of the book and movie because he felt that he should have been with his sister till the end.
  • Moreno X  - My pathetic opinion.......
    Sage, perhaps I could comment on your opinion. I understand that Grave of the Fireflies’ back story and what the director intended to do was manipulative and questionable. But, the first time I watched Grave of the Fireflies on YouTube (and it did led me to shed tears), the thing is I’m aware that there is a saying (and Roger Ebert says it on his South Park movie review as well) “movies are capable to influence people” and I just had to believe that maybe, MAYBE the film can be anything than just a “anti-war” film. To me, it’s more of isolation by relatives, friends, and death due of lack of caring for the brother and sister. And believe or not, seeing those sceneries are relatively affected to me.

    You see Sage, manipulation – in movies, books, music and others – are the elements of experience that we as human beings are dragged to dive in to know what all is about and see why a movie like Grave of the Fireflies is a tragic movie. Maybe I’m not in a position to talk about characters’ sad stories and we can have difficulty to call it character development or manipulatively legit to talk to us – the viewers – about our own peer lifestyles. And there’s another film that is also arguable and debatable that has the similar premise about isolation and peer pressures; presenting a saddest story that moved me to tears as well. It was called “Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire”. Without spoiling the ending, the way I see it, Precious (I like calling her than Claireece Jones ‘cause it’s a great name) is free to look after her child and leaving behind her abusive environment and the kind of life she had to put up with. That – by a large degree – could either send a message of her actions brave and wise to speak up and be close to those who care, or it’s the opposite and should stay with her abusive mother whether she likes it or not.
  • Moreno X  - CONTINUE.....
    For some reason, nobody talks about the movie and yet it has flaw storytelling on characters’ struggling pay-offs the same way Grave of the Fireflies did. Now, I’m might look like I’m trying to compare Precious to Fireflies, but it is different story-wise. People don’t backtalk to Fireflies but some have problems/issues with Precious aside of a overweight 16-year old teenage black girl in the late 80s. Then again, as I said, that’s how movies work that way and as far as I’m concern about Fireflies’ production history and what was the film’s origins to actually get made to tell a story to troubling teenage Japanese people, it doesn’t takes me away from reading too deep of the movie’s characters’ personality and facing death by WWII’s influence on Japan. There is always conflict, anger, sadness and death: nothing is beautiful about those things.

    Sage, keep in mind, I’m not acting to not listening to you. I hear ya and points you want to share are informative and interesting. It’s amazing to learn these things; about why a film really left an impact on people, manipulated or not. It’s an engaging formula that movies are capable of, and both Fireflies and Precious propel me to care, think and see what’s going to happen to the characters. For what’s worth, maybe it’s not for you entirely, but it does for me. And every time I watch clips of Fireflies, my eyes cannot fight back that easily. It’s that TOO good and I can say for Precious.

    For everyone else who is reading my comments, make no mistake that I am giving an unpopular opinion and may not see the same page with me. Many people have point out differently than mine and I thought I could stop, think, and analyze Sage’s review and then comment. I’m not trolling and I’m not angry. How could I be angry at Sage’s thoughts about Fireflies? I listen to him and have points that I understand where he is going. It’s really uneasy for him to come out to say all this from the majority of other reviewers who would insist to praise wholeheartedly.
  • Moreno X  - CONTINUE......
    This was a very difficult review and Sage, I applaud your bravery to say what has to be said. Three posts of my long-detail comment really had me to speak up in defense of Fireflies’ intention and purpose. I’m sure in years to come, more and more American/English fans and audiences alike will find it hard to go through the experience of Fireflies’ history. Whether it’s unacceptable or not, whether people will love it or not, Grave of the Fireflies – for the most part of storytelling in an anime movie – is a powerful, moving, tragic piece of filmmaking in cinema history.

    Once again, I apologize for my longest rant and I hope nobody takes me as a troll. I’m speaking this as a viewer who watched Grave of the Fireflies and Precious, and giving a opinion about them. Take it or leave it, I just thought what I was thinking after watching Sage’s video on Fireflies. And Sage, if you’re reading this, great job for being honest and genuine. It was a challenging process for you to pull through. You earn it big time my friend.
  • Mizi
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    Thanks for giving your honest opinion and treating the subject matter with respect. I'm glad to see that this review finally made it onto the site, I've been waiting around for it for a few weeks now.

    To me, this movie graphically showed that childish defiance can have enormous consequences in a world turned upside-down by war. If whole country hadn't been suffering, the brother would have never been allowed to make such a terrible, damning choice. If they whole country hadn't been suffering from hunger and war fatigue, the children would have been caught and returned to the Aunt's or sent to an orphanage. As it was, there was too much death and despair, everyone was focused on saving themselves instead of helping the defiant brother and his sister. Apathy was what really killed them.
  • killa_kid
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    When I saw you would be reviewing this, I purposefully waited to watch this video until after I saw the movie itself. I went into it with no knowledge of Japan at the time of its creation, or the director. I didn't even know it was based on a book. All I knew was that it is on the IMDB Top 250 and I am trying to watch all of those movies.


    I don't disagree with anything you said and agree that it is manipulative. However it didn't ruin the movie for me. There are movies that have done the exact same thing (set in the same time period in fact), where their manipulation drove me nuts. I cannot give a concrete reason why this one gets a pass.

    While watching the movie, I didn't get the feeling of dread/sadness/pain/any other emotions people talk about during this movie. I think that was me realizing that the movie was trying to make me feel that way, rather then letting me feel that way through the events that happened to the 2 main characters. To me that is 2 very different approaches in a movie.

    The salute at the end and a few of the montage scenes actually had me laugh at how over the top it was (I am glad I watched it alone). I understand why people love this movie. Hell I still consider this a good movie, despite it doing things that drives me mad in others. I don't know why, I can't explain it.


    Really well done Bennett. It's hard to take on a movie set in such a bleak time and bleak subject matter and disagree with the majority. There will always be people that disagree on a movie and they all have their reasons. You are simply able to articulate them better then many others.
  • Bane
    avatar
    While I agree with many of your points, I still think this movie does have an anti-war message. Just one HIGHLY overshadowed by what you have shown to see in the movie yourself. For you it isn't there, but for me and others it is. I just want to clarify this a bit.

    It shows what happens to people during times of war and how that effects them throughout the war itself. It shows that some of the worst victims are the ones that didn't play any part in the war itself and the ones who felt backed into a corner, but worst of all the children who were thrown around and who's lives were lost needlessly. There is nothing more anti-war than showing what happens to the innocent who die, to me anyway. That is why I view it as anti-war by default.

    It may not be as strong as what you see in it to you, and perhaps manipulative as well, but I believe it is still there. There is no clear evidence to show the film wasn't made to have an anti-war message, while at the same time there isn't any that it was made to have one either, at least not intentionally. More like... it was meant to imply it by the simple idea. The message is there simply by showing the horrors of war front and center for everyone to watch, manipulative or not. But only if you see it there, which I did but you did not. Which is fine both ways.

    Different people see things like this differently and I respect that, and I think this was a great bit of insight to the film. I think this made me actually appreciate the film more, even if it makes me a bit uneasy as well, and I was glad to get another take into this film. (wonder what you have to say about this being shown beside TOTORO of all movies)
  • Ashoten2021
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    I thought it had an anti war message the first(and only) time I watched it. I still think it is regardless of what the director said.
  • Noin007  - Meh...
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    I'll just simply say that when I watched this movie I found myself unbelievably bored from beginning to end.

    Not at a single point in the movie did I ever care what was happening or going to happen, I just yawned and waited for the credits to start. I've never understood why people praise this film.
  • Mr.Evil
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    I think you said your piece very well, Sage. Having not seen the film, I can't discuss the film itself. But a couple thoughts concerning the points you bring up.

    - Writers/directors don't always see the true nature of their final product. They may INTEND for the movie to protray a certain message/feeling, but that isn't always what they succeed in doing. If so many people saw this film as anti-war, then perhaps that's simply what stands out.

    - Manipulation: normally, I'm against it. But I'm not sure I object to it here. Yes, it's designed to make us sad. Yes, the characters are constructs. But the thing is... we can believe that there was a story like this out there. The world has plenty of tragedy. Children die. In real life, stories aren't three-act, character-growing affairs. In real life, pride dooms us frequently.

    We need movies like this. Sometimes we need to see the rough side of life. Somtimes we need punches to the gut. We should be happy that we can do it from the comfort of our sofas. We're not always so lucky.

    If this kind of movie makes us hug our loved ones all the more, I'm all for a bit of manipulation.
  • BludgeonthePretender1  - Wow
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    Sage... you have just created my favorite review on this site... Moving and informative... thank you
  • MaskedGuy
    I heard that author's insert character dies in book too. Unless I've heard wrong.
  • LikaLaruku
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    I love this movie because I can greatly tolerate it despite the fact that I hate animes where everyone dies at the end, I hate the drama genre, I can't stand children, the character designs are dull, & the Slice Of Life genre bores the snot out of me.

    I saw it in highschool initially. The message the movie game me was "Japan only bombed tiny little Pearl Harbor, we bombed 2 of their cities, which caused hereditary cancer, & we should feel ashamed." Probably because we saw it shortly after the historically inaccurate Pearl Harbor movie from 2001. So I totally thought this was a made with an American audience in mind, but I was right about it being a guilt-trip movie like Dances with Wolves.

    Ooh, Mamono Hunter Youko. That brings back memories. I remember when Jessie & I rented it for an anime marathon. We were so disappointed when we found out "that's it, there's no more, it was a short run."
  • Parasite
    I already commented on JO's review, but yeah I'm with Sage on this one.

    I too nearly cried when watching this as a kid, but considering that making you sad was the only purpose of the whole thing, it maddens me in retrospective.

    And everybody who doesn't know the history background of the movie is of course going to assume that it was meant as anti-war movie.
  • Mizu Takishima
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    I'm sorry, maybe I'm just slow- but- I'm not entirely sure why the director's intent is really all that bad.

    There was an entire generation turning into spoiled little brats who have ZERO respect for their own parents @___@ Showing them that "yes, your parents went through this crap" is an effective way to get those kids to sympathize/empathize/ whatever with their parents' generation, so who cares if it makes a couple'a 80's kids feel "guilty"?

    I mean, yeah, the old generation was strict and conformist or whatever, but they didn't live in a prosperous time- and they had to live through some of the darkest days in Japan. I really don't see how manipulating the audience into a perfectly harmless guilt-trip is really all that horrifying XD'
  • johnkenpwns
    When I first heard about this review, I expected the usual routine, only downplayed due to the topic at hand. That is, until I noticed that the standard AA opening was NOT used in this episode. It was right there that I realized this was going to be different and you did not disappoint.
    Naturally, this episode stands out from the rest simply because of how you executed it.
    I had made it a point to commit the film's name to memory and seek it out, but not watch it. Not yet. Perhaps I should seek it out now.
    I am also curious about the soundtrack. It sounds like something worth seeking out, though I doubt it will come cheap. We'll have to wait and see.
    In any case, thank you for this review. If nothing else, I was moved by how you approached this film. It was actually quite refreshing from your usual schtick. I won't say you should do this more often, but I wouldn't mind seeing more of "serious Sage" every once in a while.
  • ninjadnice
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    i don't see whats wrong with this kind of story telling if people are committing crimes like crazy. maybe showing them something like this would have made them think a little bit before just doing whatever. i bet too that the director says it isn't an anti war message because of the social pressure from Japanese Gov't to respect their military.
  • Cyrian
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    I don't really see the problem with a movie being manipulative for reasons of ethics or morale. When I look around I see so many examples of corporations and political groups pulling emotional strings in order to get elected or sell more products and no one has a problem with that. If I tolerate brand lands, greenwashing and overemotional, maybe hippocritical election campaings, being manipulated into overthinking my own lifestyle is nothing I can call "wrong".
  • ohe
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    I agree. Not so much about those cases with politics and industry and all, but about movies in general. Even Tranformers will manipulate you into thinking that giant fighting robots are relevant to something, it's just suspension of disbelief. However, when a movie is based on horrifying real-life events there isn't any disbelief to suspend, and somehow people take offense for movies to take that as a free pass to not even try. It results in the situation where, at some point, our suspension of disbelief is broken, but lo and behold, the underlying truth isn't that giant robots can't be real, but the opposite: all that happens in Grave of the Fireflies might very well be, and in essence most definitely is, real. But being conditioned to blame movies for breaking our suspension of disbelief, we will start to look something, anything, wrong with the picture, and often find our answer in "manipulation".

    To me these accusations about manipulativeness mostly look like people getting butthurt over the director yanking some emotion out of them just by showing them something he himself can already see. It sounds like these complainers just don't want to think about war at all, and are offended for people sticking it right into their vapid entertainment.

    If anything, I'd blamee the movie for being naïve long before I'd blame it for being manipulative. And long before that I'd applaud it for being this mature, so that's pretty much out of the equation. Naïve it migth be in the sense that the director would just up and show a tragic situation as the premise of his movie, instead of being discreet about it and hiding the same message as a clever subtext in some summer blockbuster where nobody would ever find it from. It might be naïve for suggesting that people might not want to stick their heads in sand regarding what happens to people at war.
  • CelticMutt
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    Ok, so I've never watched Grave myself. Why - because I can't take blatant emotional manipulation. I'll admit I cry easy. I don't like it. I don't generally like watching sad for the sake of being sad films. And this is one of them. So yeah, I agree with Bennett saying this film is meant to manipulate your feelings (as far as I understand his message). I won't deny it's probably a damn good film. But it's not for me.
  • Cyrian
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    Yeah, I feel like I should clarify this about industry and politics.
    I don't generally mind them manipulating you. I can't understand the public reception where "Vote for me" and "Buy this thing" are okay to be veiled but "Do you know you goood your life is" is an affront to remind people off. I think I get why. Life is never easy, so getting told how good you should feel about yours can be irritating but in the grand scheme of things... it is.
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