Toshiko Ei and her family are residents of Tokyo. Her father is a respected and skilled glass craftsmen so the family makes a good living. However, the Ei family soon finds itself having to suffer through many tragic hardships as a result of World War II.
I'm not into war movies. I don't hate the genre. I just never really found any war movies that really interested me or caught my eyes. A lot of the war movies that are made in America are much too melodramatic, action packed, and political for my tastes, and they focus too much on the struggles of the adults, especially adults in high positions like in the government or the White House, than on the struggles of middle class families and especially the children, and I've seen a few war movies that focus on the struggles of the children that are done surprisingly well, even
if they have different takes on their subject matter, like Grave of the Fireflies (I really need to finish that) and Who's Left Behind. However, this doesn't automatically mean that there aren't war movies about children that are generic or bad. I saw Glass Rabbit before I saw Who's Left Behind, mostly because I FINALLY found a place where I can watch it, even though the bad sound quality kinda irked me, though I endured it anyway. Where else would I be able to find it? However, while I did like Glass Rabbit to an extent and acknowledge the good things it does have, overall, it IS rather generic despite being based on a real person's story (just like Who's Left Behind).
Basically, the story's about Toshiko Ei who lives in Tokyo with her mother, father, older brothers, and two little sisters. Her father works in a glass factory and makes her a rabbit made out of glass (which is pretty much a MacGuffin used to symbolize the happy memories they had before the war went out of control). Soon, her brothers are drafted to work as soldiers in the war and once the destruction comes sneaking up on them, they have to evacuate in case they get hit by firebombs. Not everyone in her family is happy about the sudden changes in their lives, however. But in the end, it doesn't even matter, as Toshiko loses the majority of her family members one by one, and wonders how she'll be able to survive in a war torn country with little to no infrastructure.
Sound familiar? Yeah, one reviewer I know who also saw this movie accused it of being a blatant rip-off of Who's Left Behind (and really, you can see the similarities). While I wouldn't accuse it of being this, as there are probably a lot of people who suffered the same tragedies as Toshiko did, the presentation of this movie is rather mediocre. It really doesn't have much personality or charm or themes other than the usual war is bad scenario. The animation isn't much to write home about, and some of the characters looked a bit off model at points. While I did like the music, it was rather dull. However, I definitely appreciated some details in this anime. For one thing, I learned in my Modern Japan class that after World War II, Japan made a new constitution preventing them from ever entering any wars, along with never having an Army, Navy, or any other military-related government. This movie reminds us of exactly that, and they at least get those details right, which definitely gives me the right to give the movie some credit. I also liked the little twist where a little baby saw the airplanes about to fire at them before they actually attacked. That was pretty cool.
Admittedly though, some of the things that happened in this movie really baffled me, especially since this is based on a real person's life. For one thing, Toshiko's little sisters, unhappy with living with their relatives, suddenly decide to GO BACK TO THEIR HOUSE ALL ON THEIR OWN and choose to stay there, even though it's practically a death sentence. Questions: how did they manage to get back? Did they take a train? And if they did, how did they get the money for it in a country where it's impossible to receive any kind of monetary income amongst internal turmoil? Are they even old enough to even know how to travel a long distance by foot and with the proper means? What? Yeah, I'm completely flummoxed. That was a pretty stupid decision on their part, and I have to wonder if kids in Japan are trained to be really self-sufficient, way before they even get put in situations where they should be self-sufficient. Also, did people really build makeshift houses like that back then? I don't remember my Modern Japan class talking about how people pitched in and built houses like that (though I know people made makeshift houses, cars, and even restaurants during an earthquake that hit Mexico in 1985 when the police and government decided to hide under a rock instead of help the citizens). Speaking of characters, admittedly they're rather one dimensional. We're constantly being reminded that Toshiko is strong, but we don't see her grow or develop, even though she does show some weakness, which I can appreciate. I did like the slice of life moments, especially the scenes where she befriends a goat and receives a lot of support from her friends after tragedy strikes. I liked those little moments, as things like that really do happen in real life. But no, I didn't cry at this. This movie's a bit too cheesy for me.
If you're not into sad movies, war movies, or generic melodrama, give it a miss. If you want something to kill some time with, this'll give you some solid entertainment.
When you make an anti-war movie, you must incorporate a few things. First of all, your message should always be "war is super bad, never think otherwise". Second, you have to have at least one enemy attack, a bombing, if possible. Third, you need to show people suffering (this is really just for getting the message of "war is super bad, never think otherwise" across). And fourth, there has to be hope for the future and the best scene to show that is homecoming. All you need now is to construct a story around all this and you're set.
Constructing a story is what "The Glass
Rabbit" has tried as well. Sadly, it did not really succeed.
The movie is about Toshiko, the daughter of a skillful guy who runs a glass factory. He is doing quite well, the family is obviously happy, but war is already present in their lives. And when it finally breaks out, Toshiko is thrown into a series of trials she has to overcome - or, well, a series of deaths and betrayals.
The sad thing is, the first half of the movie is actually quite decent. It's not so much about Toshiko but rather about the whole family trying to cope with the harsh reality of war and persevering somehow. The have to cut expenses, they have to move around, they have to separate a few times, they have to continue their life just like before - all that has made me somehow interested in what would happen next and there are only a few things to complain about, but then the movie starts to get worse.
It does so right at the point where the focus shifts from the family in general to Toshiko in particular and her long path of "suffering". With each death you notice more how it's all about shock value, as if there wasn't enough suffering before. There are some points in the movie where it basically says "Look, it's war, we need to be as cruel as we can get". Near the end the movie seems to forget all that made it watchable (much like it forgot the titular glass rabbit) and when the war finally comes to an end it's not only a sign of relief for the characters but for the viewers as well.
There isn't much to say otherwise. This is neither a new nor a big productoin, so you won't notice both the animation (which there isn't much of) and the sound. The characters are pretty one-dimensional for the most part, as you may have already guessed. Many of them are background characters anyway, serving either the purpose of dying or bullying Toshiko. Really, the only thing of actual worth in this movie is its historical value. Which there isn't much of, unfortunately. Oh, and the movie gets the message of "war is super bad, never think otherwise" across.
To sum things up, this is not a good movie. Your time is better spent with things like "Grave of the Fireflies" which may be not a good movie as well, but at least it's of actual value, since the movie and the novel it was based on were born of survivor's guilt. Or you can even watch "Chocchan's Story" instead which is not good as well, but at least it shows people who were relatively well-off during the war and didn't suffer horrible tragedies. This fact alone is pretty refreshing.