A Question About Grave of the Fireflies
August 1, 2006 8:44 PM   Subscribe

I have a question regarding the plot of the very moving film Grave of the Fireflies. SPOILERS INSIDE!

In the film, right before Setsuko passes away, and earlier in the film as I recall, Seita is shown withdrawing money from his father's account.

My question is: why didn't he withdraw money before? When he realized both he and his sister were starving why didn't he take money from the account and buy some food? It's been quite a while since I've seen this film so maybe I'm mistaken in my memory of the plot but I was always wondering why he didn't withdraw more money earlier.
posted by LeeJay to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
Yeah that's a good question, and bugged me a bit when watching the film.

I figured it was at least partly due to the rationing. If you recall, shortly after he leaves his aunts house he is told that everything is now rationed, presumably you are given your share and can't buy any more. Also remember when he tries to buy rice from the old farmer that he is eventually refused, as the farmer claims he doesn't ave enough even for himself.
posted by scodger at 8:55 PM on August 1, 2006

Response by poster: I figured it was at least partly due to the rationing.

That was my first thought. But it seemed so random. Yes, with the surrender of Japanese forces I'm sure it was assumed that his Navy father was dead, but surely that doesn't account for Seita's being able to withdraw money since he was able to earlier in the film. I'm assuming I'm missing some crucial middle step in which his father's account was full yet not accessible.

Neither I nor the friend I was discussing this with earlier own the film so we're relying on memory to see us through. I'm prepared to admit that I missed something but this has bothered me since my first viewing and I must have watched the DVD three or four times. What am I forgetting?
posted by LeeJay at 9:08 PM on August 1, 2006

I showed this movie in March as part of a weekly film program I run with a few friends at my university. The group discussion following it included a few questions about how rationing may or may not have affected the value or accessibility of this account.

I've always assumed that it was a cultural insight that I've missed over the years in watching it.
posted by vkxmai at 9:35 PM on August 1, 2006

Maybe the money was withdrawn from the account to pay for the father's medical debts, if any, prior to his dying, and then perhaps there were burial costs or something. Also, some problem may have developed with the account, or the bank/account may have been shut down in the war's aftermath. The account also may have been something akin to a checking account, which only had money from the most recent paycheck—and with his father dead, perhaps that money had no longer been deposited. Alternately, there may have been a problem with identification—perhaps Seita lost his identification in the aftermath of all the bombing, and thus wouldn't have been able to access the account. Or perhaps he wasn't thinking entirely clearly due to starvation.

It's been a long time since I saw the film, so I don't recall most of the details...but those are some speculations, based upon my dim recollection.
posted by limeonaire at 9:51 PM on August 1, 2006

I always thought the issue wasn't access to the account, but availability of food--Seita had money to try and buy things on the black market, but there wasn't anything available on the black market. Having money was moot, since it couldn't buy anything.

Of course, it's been a while since I've seen it, and I don't feel like depressing myself by watching it anytime soon.
posted by leesh at 4:03 AM on August 2, 2006

Best answer: I believe the reason that she died was a combination of sky high food prices and food shortages. As prices grew the government imposed strict price controls, however, farmers got around this by selling directly to nieghboors. Japan imported a lot of its food from the West Indies and the shortages became acute after supply lines were cut off.

I also thought that Seita was budgeting in order to make the money in his (I thought it was) his mother's account. He had no idea when the war would end and little chance of finding work.
posted by Alison at 5:07 AM on August 2, 2006

Best answer: I'm with Alison--I think at first he was trying to hoard money as insurance against an unknown future, and then all the wealth in the world couldn't buy the things they needed, rendering what remained useless.

The real-life Seita apparently blamed his sister's death on his inability to control himself while foraging for food. He'd scarf down what he found as he found it, leaving very little for his sister.
posted by xyzzy at 10:41 AM on August 2, 2006

I agree with xyzzy. It seemed like the boy was hoarding money, thinking he could use it in case of an emergency, and when the emergency came (not having anything to eat) the money became useless since there wasn't enough food around to buy.
posted by nakedsushi at 1:49 PM on August 2, 2006

Best answer: Withdrawing money from his father's account would mean admitting that his father was dead and probably not coming home.
posted by lazy robot at 4:45 PM on August 2, 2006

Best answer: I just saw the movie tonight and it was his mother's account. He found out that the war was over (and his father likely dead) while he was at the bank, so it wasn't that withdrawing the money meant his father was dead. In fact, IIRC he had already withdrawn it when he heard the man behind him say the war was over and the fleet destroyed.
posted by litlnemo at 3:35 AM on August 7, 2006

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