I watched the terrific Japanese animated movie Grave of the Fireflies this weekend after Fitz mentioned it last month. I hadn't seen it since it came out -- I was in high school in 1988. I remembered it being terribly sad and affecting, while Fitz took typical notice of the gorgeous anime (take a look at the stiletto-sharp drawings of boats and planes, and contrast it with the almost-impressionist countryside. Look at the boy's reflection distorted by the water fountain. It's beautiful.) The concept of unintended consequence is not completely unlike the also-very-sad-and-affecting Faithful Elephants.
The odd thing is, I didn't find Grave of the Fireflies all that sad and affecting this time around. I had just listened to Studio 360 that morning. Kurt Anderson, who used to edit, with Graydon Carter, Spy, presented a series on the concept of CUTE. Because you can't do a show on CUTE without talking about Japanese kiddie culture, there was a fascinating segment with the artist Takashi Murakami, with whom I know Jessica is familiar. All the elements Murakami identified in his (translated) interview were there in the movie. It was particularly startling to see the main characters, a cute little girl and her cute older brother, located so firmly in the waning days of WWII, precisely where Murakami locates the modern origins of Japanese cuteness. The pathetic, humiliating defeat of Japan (directly referenced in the film: "unconditional surrender") and its loss as a socio-military "hard power" gave rise to the kitschy "soft power" of Sanrio and Sailor Moon. Grave of the Fireflies was all of this writ large and adorable. Weird.