Be prepared for either an uncomfortable silence, or uncontrollable sobbing while watching this movie. This masterpiece was made in 1988 by Isao Takahata, and after all these years has not lost its power. The first time I watched this movie, and I am not an emotional person, I was driven to tears by the end.
It is 1945, and World War II is destroying the lives of many Japanese. 14-year-old Seita, and his 4-year-old sister, Setsuko, are left orphaned after a bomb claims the life of their mother. They are sent to live with a distant aunt, who is increasingly cruel to the children, and scolds Seita for not contributing to the war effort. Seita decides that it would be best for him and his siter if they go and live in a bomb shelter.
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Everything is good and well, until Setsuko falls ill from a combonation of malnutrition and radiation sickness. Sadly, she passes away, leaving Seita with absoulutely nothing. Eventually, Seita also dies from malnutrition, but this is shown in the opening scene, making the movie one big flashback. Throughout the movie, we return to the ghosts of Seita and Setsuko, tinted in red.
Many people view anime as only a cartoon, but(quoted from The Anime Encyclopedia)
This is definantly not a childrens film, as the opening scene alone will most likely prove too much for children under 14 to understand or comprehend. I recomend watching in the original Japanese with subtitles if possible, but that is just me. Don't get me wrong, the English dub is exellent, but Setsuko's voice just sort of ruined it for me. I don't understand why they couldn't use an actual child for her voice. She just sounds like a 30-year-old trying to sound like a child, but that was the only flaw of the dub. This is a definate must-see, but I do not reccomend it for children, the weak of heart, or those who do not want to face the realities of war.
Seita and Setsuko destroy a raft of anime stereotypes. No perky victory in the face of overwhelming odds, no frontline heroics, only two innocent children wasting away before our eyes.