SPOILERS AHEAD. Though I am grateful that Ebert's praise brought many people's attention, including mine, to Takahata's work, I must disagree with his anti-war reading of this film. Rather, I view it more as a critique of nationalism since it's the main character's pride that leads to his and his sister's downfall. On the topic of the sister, I found her death and following montage too manipulative for my taste.
Jeezo, this was really hard to take. The ending is just so tough and uncompromising. Even though the whole film was kind of a downer, the ending still really took me by surprise. I didn't cry but I was close. Also how cute is that wee girl. I looked at the American version and the voice used there does not compare to the Japanese one. Definitely the best anime I've ever seen, as well as one of the best animations.
Gut-wrenching. Hard to walk away from this one feeling anything but rung-out and downtrodden. Regardless, Takahata masterfully constructs this heavy, resonant story of familial love. The film only works because as a viewer, you have no choice but to adore this children.
It's a brave animation, but in my opinion tends for the big drama. I really like some directing choices: the close ups, monologues, some action scenes: they make this look just like a war movie. But it's not the kind of gimmick I have strong feelings for: this won't make me cry - and it's funny how many people describe this as the "one film you are going to cry watching". Not my kind of saga.