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Grave of the Fireflies

This is another one of Ebert's Great Movies, and it's a personal favorite of mine. This is one of the most powerful, potently sad films ever made. This film alone refutes the naïve belief that cartoons are only for children.

One image. That's all I need. A boy stands in a Japanese military uniform. His face is somber. His figure is completely red. He's a kind of traditional Japanese ghost. Voiceover: "September 21, 1945. That was the night I died."

The war is over. Japan lost. Traditional Japan died with the surrender. Seita, the boy, suffered the same fate because of the war. His sister died as well. This is the first thing we learn. The spectre of death looms large over the film. Even in moments of joy, we remember this first fact. Since the story we are told is a flashback, we return to a somber image of the boy's ghost at the end of the film. That is the second-to-last shot. The last shows the boy on a bench on a hill looking out at modern-day Japan. It's a very lonely image.

If you like, Ebert will tell you the story.