I finally got around to watching Grave of the Fireflies last night. We have a box set of Studio Ghibli anime films, mainly Miyazaki films like My Neighbour Totoro, Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke etc, but there are other directors involved with the studio. Fireflies was directed by Isao Takahata and is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Nosaka Akiyuki. It was originally released in 1988 at the same time as Totoro.
It's definitely an anti-war film, sad and quiet with flashes of horror. It tells the story of a young boy who tries to look after his little sister during the period when Japan was being firebombed in 1945. Unlike the Miyazaki films, which I love, this one is realistic anime but it, too, has a focus on the natural world and the story of young people caught up in great upheavals. The animation isn't spectacular but the overall feel - the complexity of emotions and the detail and quiet movement of many of the scenes - is what makes this film. I'm told that the drawing was done with brown ink rather than black and there are references to Japanese wood block prints in the detail. The final scene, using a version of the song 'Home Sweet Home', is almost too much to bear. Although it's presumably a kids' film, I would think it's not at all suitable for young kiddies as it would be very distressing. Heck, I was distressed. The fireflies are very beautiful, however. Worth tracking down on DVD if you can.