Two Japanese children try to survive alone after their parents are killed and their city firebombed towards the end of World War II. An unflinching tale of the terrible personal tragedies of war.
Our Western sensibilities have trained us to think of animated features, and films starring children, as being for children. Yet this is a most adult, and artful, and depressing picture. It was produced concurrently with the delightful My Neighbour Totoro, and the two were released as a double feature - but they could not be more different. One is about the loss of innocence, the other embodies the purest innocence. One is about the consequences of conflict, the other avoids conflict altogether.
If you get a chance to see this, don't watch the awful dubbed version. The voices are so silly it takes most of the impact away. Why couldn't they do a decent job with the dubbing, like they did with My Neighbour Totoro! (Probable answer: this is one of the few exceptions to the Disney-Tokuma international distribution deal.)
SPOILER ALERT! Read no further if you haven't seen the film. Sadly, the film is based on a true story. Akiyuki Nosaka lost his little sister during the war to malnutrition and blamed himself for her death. His 1967 novel, on which this movie is based, was written to come to terms with the loss.