mattmav45’s review published on Letterboxd:
The first thing I noticed regarding this film was the harrowing realism on display. This is a film that is not into sugar-coating or rounding the edges. It is firmly and confidently set on showing war at its darkest. I thought it was somewhat amazing that an animated film was able to thrive off such genuine emotion.
The film is focused on brother and sister Seita and Setsuko trying to survive in WWII Japan. It is a draining but ultimately rewarding journey for the viewer. In particular I enjoyed how the film used a micro-level of the relationship between a brother and sister to provide scathing macro-level musings on war and all that it entails.
Despite this being film lying heavily in darkness, it is the upbeat moments that celebrate the human spirit that I will remember most. In particular the scenes portraying the relationship between Seita and Setsuko will forever be grained in my memory. There is much negativity to be found in human nature in war, but at the same time there is a great deal of heart and compassion to balance out the insanity. It is the latter that I tend to focus on.
There is no better and more affecting scene that that of the montage celebrating the life of Setsuko. A life so young and full of passion ended in such a haphazard manner as nothing more than a mundane war casualty. Brutal.
It may be hard to love, but there is no denying that this is an unforgettable film.