My initial reaction when I spied this news at ScreenDaily.com was "What memory-sucking liquid were they drinking?" According to the site, "Tokyo-based Pal Entertainment is producing a live-action version of Studio Ghibli animation Grave Of The Fireflies, to be directed by Taro Hyugaji." Originally released in Japan in 1988, Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most exquisite, emotionally wrenching films I've ever seen. It tells of a boy and his sister who are left homeless by fire bombing in 1945 and their desperate struggle for survival. Roger Ebert described the film as "an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation."

Why remake it in live action? Ebert made a good argument for the advantages of animation with the material, based on a semi-autobiographical novel: "Live action would have been burdened by the weight of special effects, violence and action. Animation allows [director Isao] Takahata to concentrate on the essence of the story, and the lack of visual realism in his animated characters allows our imagination more play; freed from the literal fact of real actors, we can more easily merge the characters with our own associations." Bill Mousoulis at Senses of Cinema commented on the "heightened realist style" of the backdrops and other physical entities. He felt the "true magic" of the film lay in depicting the children's reactions, making it "a humanist masterpiece."

Nonetheless, this will be the second live action remake of the story. In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, NTV in Japan produced a version that aired in 2005, relating the story from the point of view of the children's aunt. Taro Hyugaji, the director of the new planned version, previously made Portrait of the Wind, a contemporary drama. He certainly has his work cut out for him.