When the news of Isao Takahata (高畑 勲) passing on 5 April came via an app notification, I paused from reading a book. For a moment, my chest tightened with a familiar pain. And the memories of watching Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓, Hotaru no Haka) decades ago and the grief and devastation that had followed for weeks afterwards came flooding back.
His other films I’ve seen, ‘Only Yesterday’ and ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’, are equally moving but ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ still haunts me. Once seen, it stays with you forever. Just a mention of the film brings heartaches. I can’t think of any other films, animation or live-action, that come close to reducing me to a blubbering mess for days like ‘Grave of the Fireflies’. The fact that, to this day, it still triggers such visceral response is a testament to its profoundly moving story and storytelling.
And to hear and read that atrocities and sufferings depicted in this film are still happening today… I can’t hold back tears… Insensitive news coverage and click-baiting clips may have numbed us on war and tragedy that I agree with the cries, in the wake of the director’s death, that it should be mandatory for everyone, especially those running for positions of power, to watch ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ at least once.
Thank you, Sir, for the masterpiece…
Of The Other Master of Studio Ghibli, Isao Takahata (1935-2018).