Hotaru no Haka
(Grave of the Fireflies)
|Synopsis - Chapter Five: War Effort|
It's dinnertime, and Seita's aunt is serving a rice soup of some kind. As she ladles the food into the bowls, it's clear that the daughter and the aunt's lodger are getting rice, while Seita and Setsuko are simply receiving broth. All the while, the aunt is talking about the "war effort," which basically consists of the citizens who work at factories building war machines and ammunition or who help fight the fires after during the air raids. The people who contribute something to the war, like the aunt's daughter and the lodger. "We're getting ready for when they finally invade," the lodger says.
"You're right," the aunt says, handing Seita his bowl of broth. "That's why food's getting so hard to find." She hands a hearty bowl of rice and broth to her daughter, who looks at Seita and Setsuko and blushes as she hold her bowl up so they can't see.
An air-raid siren wails. "Not again," the aunt complains.
Seita, after putting his wash on the line, asks Setsuko if she'd like to go to the ocean, and of course, she's excited about going. They walk at first, but then Seita lifts her onto his shoulders, still full of energy. They pass by vegetable gardens and wet rice fields, a biplane in a hanger and a trolley. They look out on the ocean for probably the first time since the bombing. It looks normal, as if nothing has happened. They run onto the sand, doing cartwheels. Seita takes off his shirt, and the outline of his ribcage is visible through his skin. Setsuko points out an old woman and a child standing in the shallow part of the ocean. Seita explains that they're making sea salt, because salt and soy sauce is being rationed.
Setsuko slowly undresses as Seita runs into the ocean. She follows him in, and he washes her back, which is covered with rashes. Then she runs in deeper, dunking herself into the "giant bathtub." Seita chases her back to shore and across the sand, pretending to be a big bear. The old lady and the boy stare at them. Seita catches her, and then they sit down against the levy and suck on fruit drops. Setsuko follows a crab over to a dead body. Seita guides her away, saying, "Don't look at that."
As they walk off the beach, Seita remembers another time he and Setsuko were at the beach, back when their mother was still alive. Seita was swimming out to a buoy, while Setsuko was building a sand castle. He came in to help her, and then their mother called to them. She was standing on the beach, carrying a pink umbrella. "You're hungry, aren't you?" she said.
As they ran to her, the umbrella got caught in the wind and was yanked from her hand. Inside the house, they ate ramen noodles, cooled in ice.
A siren breaks Seita out of his memory. He and his sister hurry down the road. Along the way, they see a young woman greeting her visiting mother. Staring at them, Setsuko says, "I'm hungry," and asks Seita to carry her. Seita sighs. The bombers come into sight over the ocean, but flying towards a different part of the city.
The aunt comes into Seita's room, while Setsuko is sleeping, carrying a box of his mother's kimonos. "Your mother won't be needing them," she says pragmatically, offering to trade them in for rice. Seita is amazed by how much rice the aunt says that he can get (one toh, an old measurement which has something to do with the amount of rice that a property is worth) and agrees. But Setsuko isn't really asleep, so just as the aunt is leaving, she jumps up and tries to take the kimonos away from her. Seita grabs his struggling sister, who screams and screams as the aunt leaves.
Even the spirit Seita, listening from the hallway, grits his teeth and covers his ears. He wills himself to remember a more pleasant moment in his life: a photo shoot with all four family members together in a forest of cherry trees. It was early spring, and the cherry blossoms were falling.
The aunt pours part of the bag of rice into a glass jar about the size of Seita's trunk. The rest she keeps, presumably to make dinners of everybody. She screws the lid on the jar and leaves. Still, Seita seems happy with the exchange. He tries to get Setsuko to look at the rice, but she refuses. When he pokes her shoulder, she cries.