Off the Beaten Path


Image courtesy of (amazon.com)

Notable Cast Members:

Tsutomu Tatsumi……….Seita (voice)
Ayano Shiraishi……….Setsuko (voice)

J. Robert Spencer……….Seita (voice: English version)
Rhoda Chrosite……….Setsuko (voice: English version)

Directed By: Isao Takahata

Film Synopsis:

“Sept. 21, 1945, that was the night I died,” is the opening line of this heart wrenching film. We see a young man, Seita, skinny from lack of food, sitting alone in a bus station. He is dirty, he is worn down, he slides to the floor and utters a name with his last breath, “Setsuko.” Outside the bus station the spirit of a young girl sees him and goes to run inside. This is Setsuko, Seita’s four-year-old sister. A hand falls on her shoulder, stopping her. The young girl looks up to see Seita. Brother and sister are reunited and with that we go into flashback and the astonishing story of Seita and Setsuko is told.

When their small Japanese village is fire bombed by the Americans during WWII and their parents are killed, this brother and sister must survive by any means necessary. But as we learn from the first moments of the film, there is no happy ending for these kids. Seita does everything in his power to keep his sister’s spirits up and her stomach full. But he is powerless to stop the inevitable.

This hardly seems the proper story of a cartoon and one might ask: why didn’t they just make this live action? I don’t think this film could have been done live action. You could never find a girl to play Setsuko. No one could play the pain and anguish that Setsuko goes through. Also, if made live action it would easily be rated R and would limit the amount of people who can see this phenomenal and important story.

It’s not an easy film to watch, and not for everyone, certainly not a movie to show little kids. But it’s an important film that I think everyone should give a chance. It shows a side of war rarely, if ever, seen in cinema.


Seita and Setsuko collecting fireflies.

The Story Behind It:

I’ve never been an anime fan. In fact I used to make fun of my roommates who watched anime in college. All that changed when I saw Spirited Away in the theater. That movie blew me away and made me think that there might be more to anime that I previously thought.

So my wife and I went to Blockbuster to check out the anime section and see if anything else looked interesting. I picked up the DVD you see pictured above. My wife and I were both intrigued so we rented it. While we watched the movie we were both silent. By the end the tears were streaming. This movie moved me in ways no live action film could ever dream of doing.

This is one of the most powerful war films I’ve ever seen. You keep hoping and praying that they make it, that though all their hardship and struggle that something good will come of it. Anyone who watches this film and doesn’t cry has no soul. Seriously.

I’m still not a huge anime fan. I pretty much stick to later Miyazaki films and Grave Of The Fireflies, which was also produced by Studio Ghibli. But I rate Fireflies as one of my all time favorite movies, so that’s a start.