Isao Takahata’s ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ is a classic war movie that acquaint viewers with the daily-lives of desperate civilians at a time of widespread global political and economic instability. Instead of focusing on the violent battle between two enemy countries, the movie introduces the audience to two young children who are trying to find a sense of normalcy. Setsuko and Seita’s father Kiyoshi Yokokawa is the captain of the Japanese navy army who is fighting for his country on the frontline as World War II is about to reach its conclusion in 1945.

The film begins with the siblings playing innocently with each other but it does not take long for the ugly circumstances of war to snatch away whatever little happiness they have found. But even though their world falls apart right in front of them, Setsuko and Seita continue to be each other’s rock and help one another face tragedies head-on despite their young age. The mundane day-to-day life that ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ captures sometimes, may make the viewers forget that the siblings are living through a world war and have lost more than most people ever do in their entire lifetime.

However, the transient sense of normalcy soon gives way to the brutality and desperation of war that again reminds one of the hardships that children and by extension even adults face in such times. Capturing war from the eyes of two kids helps ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ stand-out from most post-war popular culture and the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine just goes on to show that such suffering is still not just a ghost of the past but an everyday reality for millions of people. Ukrainian children sometimes with or without their parents have to flee to other nations or live in constant fear of shelling.

Such is the tragedy that now hounds innocent civilians who have never done anything in their lives to deserve persecution and threats of nuclear war. It has been 44 years since the release of ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ and its message is relevant more than ever before. As the Russian invasion unfolds in the coming months, the reports of persecution are likely going to give us a modern account of brutality of war. But just like in the late 80s when Isao Takahata’s critically-acclaimed film first premiered, humanity still faces the same question- Have we learned our lessons from wars or countless children still need to pay the price of irrational choices of modern demogogues.