Anime Classical: The Best Operatic Moment in Anime Was Also Its Saddest

(By Gene Yraola)

Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli has been known for its incredible film scores in their anime productions but their use of the adapted piece “Home! Sweet Home!” from John Howard Payne’s 1823 opera Clari, or the Maid of Milan in the 1988 World War II-set film Grave of the Fireflies remains as one of the most powerful uses of opera in any anime feature to date. More than fifteen years after its release, Grave of the Fireflies‘ use of soprano Amelita Galli-Curci’s performance of “Home! Sweet Home!” remains not only as one of the most recognizable uses of the song but also the most heart-wrenching moment in all of anime. The film centers around the day-to-day struggles of young adolescent male Seita and his baby sister Setsuko vying to survive and find a “home” in Japan during WWII without the presence of their parents.

The scene which many fans and critics alike harken as one of the finest in animation takes place as Seita returns from scavenging rations to bring back to his starving sister, disillusioned from hunger and eating items imagined as viable food options. As soprano Amelita Galli-Curci placidly sings “Home! Sweet Home!” during the film’s emotional climax featuring a trail of flashbacks, not a single dry eye can be held back.

(Spoiler alert)

Anime features generally have not been the best film mediums for positioning opera music but the use of the mono/phonograph recording of Payne’s iconic tune is without question the best operatic inclusion in any animation production to date and proves when done right can exponentially add to the emotional grip of a scene. In the case of Grave of the Fireflies, it made the scene.

Hear another clip of Amelita Galli-Curci’s performance of “Home! Sweet Home!” from a live oldschool phonograph player below:

Listen to a pure digital recording from the original 1917 pressing of Amelita Galli-Curci’s performance of “Home! Sweet Home!” below:


“Anime Classical” is AltoRiot’s ongoing series that looks at some of the interesting moments of classical music fused into the ever growing and popular animated medium.  Unlike traditional western animated series and films, anime heavily integrates the use of classical music not only as backing tracks but in the culture of their characters and lifestyles.  Anime Classical takes a deeper cultural look at how these two often niche genres merge together.  See more Anime Classical posts by clicking here.

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