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Written on April 1st, 2002
I have only seen the movie two times. The first time around four years ago when it was shown late night on Bravo!. The second time was when I had to rewatch it to write the synopsis. I could not bring myself to watch the film in between the four year's time. I think this is one of the best films ever made, and a very important film. I believe it is necessary to see it at least once because the film does carry a very important message of how war affects people.

One of the most striking moments of the film is the very very end. Seita just stares straight ahead, as though into the eyes of the audience. Why? Perhaps to say we are the ones who are responsible. After all, it is people who create wars. Perhaps the message is not so much to accuse but to challenge us to remember. It would be very sad if someone was to leave the film without thinking about the wars taking place around us and the many lives they have taken away. Does anyone honestly believe bullets only hit the bad guys?

After the first time I saw the film, I blamed Seita. I felt he should not have left his Aunt's in the first place. Yes, some of the things she said was a bit mean, but a lot of the things she said made sense. She did take in the children and she fed them (even if a bit less than others) but it was a time of war when everyone was stressed and in fear. Should she be faulted for wanting Seita to contribute more to the war effort? I felt he should have at least swallowed his pride and taken Setsuko back to the Aunt when Setsuko became sick. Setsuko's death would have been prevented.

The second time I saw it, I blamed him less because I recognized Seita as a child after all. Though he fulfilled the roles and faced the realities of an adult in the film, it should not be forgotten he was still a child. Even though he saw his mother died, Seita still believed everything was going to be okay...his Father was going to come back and his sister will get well. He believed he could take care of himself and he did try his best to provide for Setsuko. Maybe it was the innocence that remained, the belief that everything will be okay, that prevented him from going back.

To me, Setsuko is one of the most endearing characters in all Ghibli films. Even though I knew from the beginning of the film that she was going to die, when she became sick in the end, I was still crushed. At times, she is so young...giggling and laughing....and then the times when she cries in acknowledgement of harsh grown-up realities....it is very heartbreaking. Setsuko is around the same age as Mei from My Neighbor Totoro. It is interesting that the movies were shown back to back. Seita and Setsuko may have been able to grow up with the same happiness and joy that Satsuki and Mei have. Only war provided the two sets of siblings with very different endings.

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