Grave of Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988, Japan)

#97 in my list of top 100 spiritually literate films is Grave of Fireflies. This is the heartbreaking anime story of two orphans left to survive on their own after air raids wipe out their town and kill their mother. The older brother is caring, protective, and selfless as he stops at nothing to give his younger brother the best life possible in unimaginable circumstances. When he finds that even his extended family has turned their backs on their plight he must resort to the any means necessary to survive and provide for his brother.

Through their harrowing journey we are confronted with our own selfishness, thoughtlessness, and ignorance of the destitute and grieving. Many times, the most vulnerable and hurting are far from our home and therefore far from our hearts but when we experience their struggle up close it makes the call of Christ to love and serve “the least of these” all the more personal.

Towards the end of the film there is a profound scene where some exquisitely dressed young women are enjoying some time at a mansion on a lake. While they are discussing fond memories we can see the children’s shelter for these lost and lonely orphans of the war just on the other side of the lake.

This film is hard to watch at times but is powerfully told and beautifully animated. It is a film that reminds us that there is always far more happening in the world than what is right before our eyes. This is a film about selflessness, love, and sacrifice. It is also a film about cruelty and war. It shows us that suffering is real and, whatever the cause of our suffering, we must choose to suffer well by keeping our integrity and innocence. Films like this are rare but they have to exist. And in the world of a Christ follower they must exist all the more.

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