During these terrible times where an invisible enemy is ravaging the country, and almost everyone is confining themselves to their own homes. The only social contacts are those through virtual means. Often we find solace in the people we follow, the books and mangas we read, the music we listen to, and many more things. This is a look into the feeling of Helplessness through the film Grave of the Fireflies anime.
This is different from Sunao Katabuchi’s “In This Corner Of The World” which is more of a coming-of-age show and shows in detail the ordinary life during a time when things were simpler before the bomb.
This feeling of helplessness in the current situation, which almost feels unfair to us, are concepts a lot of anime and films dive into regularly. Grave Of The Fireflies is one such anime with certain qualities which we can relate to, especially with the current situation.
Akiyuki Nosaka, who is the author of Grave Of The Fireflies, grew up during and post WWII. He wrote the story as a semi-autobiographical/semi-fictional story of his own life. He remembers how he’d often eat first and then feed his small sister, which may have caused her to die out of starvation and malnutrition. This causes him to blame himself for her death and this guilt made him write the story of his survival at the cost of his sister’s life.
Grave of the Fireflies anime
In the film, Seita is one who just can’t do anything right. No matter how hard he tries to be there for his sister and be the-rock while his father is away, he just keeps on failing. Although for some, Seita is a character they really hate because he could have just gone back to the aunt after apologising and fixing everything. But life is way more complicated than just apologizing, and everything will sort itself out. And that’s precisely what makes the story so engaging and thought provoking.
In the film, we can see that the food was getting exhausted and even the farmers did not want money for the little food that they had left. Even the aunt steals the little rice Seita and Setsuko could buy after selling their mother’s clothes and from the savings they had. She even decided not to give them rice anymore, even though it was their rice to begin with, and Setsuko already had signs of malnutrition since she was living with the aunt from the rashes on her back. It would be just a matter of time before they are thrown out of the house when they have nothing more to offer to their aunt. Especially after the aunt learned that both parents of the kids were dead.
No one knows how you would react to that situation, especially when you’re 14 years old and the biggest war going on right outside your doorstep. Every day was a task just to survive while running away from missiles falling from the sky. That helplessness to the situation caused Seita to decide to make the most out of the little money he had left to provide a decent stay with his sister. Although anyone can see this was not the best decision but it was the only one he has at that moment.
We can dive deeper into the nuances of the beautiful anime movie with a more elaborate review but this isn’t one. This is just for us to relate to this character called Seita and his thought process.
Covid in India
Recently, I read a heart wrenching Facebook status of the situation in the major City of Kolkata where the doctor had to choose who to give treatment to. She remembers how an elderly patient begged to be saved by the doctor and how she assured him she will try her very best. But she knows seeing the scans and x-rays of the failing lungs and how much time he has left, she had to decide whether to continue providing care to this elderly man who is on the brink of death or leave him to fate and treat someone else with a higher chance of survival.
The Doctor speaks about the helplessness of the situation where whichever decision she takes, it will always be a losing situation. The only difference is to which extent or degree will the loss be. Being as someone who has sworn to save all lives, this could not have been a worst situation to be in.
Back to the Anime Grave of the Fireflies
For Seita, he tried his best to save his sister, though it was too late, and that was the last nail in the coffin. The boy who worked hard to keep a strong face while his mother was obviously dying, while his father was away and later found to also be dead and finally while burning the body of his sister, who was the only genuine family he had left. The only moments he cried were when he failed to protect his sister from the truth about their mother being dead and when he was caught trying to get his sister the medicinal food she needed.
Yes, this whole thing might be a bit of a stretch when comparing the two lives as one is a doctor while the other is a boy ignorant about the world from more than half a decade ago. But the one thing they have in common is the feeling of helplessness while trying to make sense and take control of the situation, even though life is indifferent to their sufferings and pains. At the end, we can only find solace in the idea that humans have suffered and will continue suffering, but history has taught us that we always come out on top. And it is just a matter of time before we will triumph over this war against this invisible enemy as well. Until then, we will always give our all to anything that stands in our way.
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