A while back we described the Fullmetal Alchemist milieu as full of horrible, tragic, and unexpected death. In this list we've decided to make good on that claim by serving up another of the brutal multimedia series' horrific moments.
Though much less shocking than many of the deaths to come later in the series, the expiration of Trisha Elric at the start of the manga, and both of its TV adaptations, remains a pretty nasty situation. Sure, it occurs at the very start of the story -- before we know what sort of tone to expect -- but it still hits the heart like a freight train full of thumbtacks.
It's not because Trisha, the single mother to our heroes Alphonse and Edward, loses her battle with a pesky plague. Orphaning the protagonists in the very first minutes of the very first chapter is rough, but hey: that sort of thing is bound to happen here and there. What's worse is what comes next, and kicks off perhaps one of the most pressing motivations for a pair of characters in anime history.
Having lost Momma Elric, the brothers prepare to do the incredibly stupid. That is, attempt to bring her back to life using the taboo (with good reason) form of alchemy called Human Transmutation. The result is most assuredly not a kind, caring, and probably underappreciated single parent. Instead the boys summon a pile of goo and gore made from their own body parts.
Edward gets the lighter part of the bargain, what with just losing a leg in the exchange. Al isn't so lucky, and gets his whole damn body swallowed up by Fullmetal Alchemist's kooky laws of physics. Ed drops a few more pounds (his right arm, to be specific) to keep just enough of his baby brother around to possess an old suit of armor. And so, the duo's quest for their own, robbed, rockin' bods begins.
But what about Jelly Mom? Well, reports differ. If you go by the original manga, and the anime redux Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, the quivering compost took just a few breaths before biting it as well. In the 2003 anime, however, the not-quite-a-corpse is regenerated into Sloth -- a rather unpleasant simulacrum of Trisha Elric. Her actions later in the series -- while maybe not as horrific as her own origins -- don't amount to much good, either.
By popular demand, we've opted to include Grave of the Fireflies in this collection. Not any one, specific moment: just the whole, damn movie. Start to finish, death to... more death. That's it. That's all you get.
Okay, fine. If there's one scene in particular that must be discussed from this harrowing horror it's the death of Setsuko. That is, one of the film's two protagonists who (spoilers on top of spoilers) is already shown as dead at the very start of the film. How did one half of the twin protagonists bite the dust, exactly? Well, that's pretty much the entire plot of the film.
Yes, this Studio Ghibli movie -- a product of the same company that brought us lovely stories like Spirited Away and Nausicaa -- introduces itself from the very start as the tale of two dead kids. Even considering that other films in the company's history certainly have bite, that's pretty harsh.
Oh, but before we get ahead of ourselves we should probably mention the second sibling. That is, Seita, the elder of the brother/sister combo trapped in the horrors of Japan during the waning days of World War II. If you've seen the movie, you'll recognize him as the character who dies of starvation seconds after the opening credits.
Anyway, after the unpleasant opening Gave of the Fireflies turns the clock back just enough to show us... Well, a lot more unpleasantness. Namely the loss of the children's mother, their escape from a resentful aunt, and the just, plain, entirely-too-believable, everyday illness that is trying to survive in a war-torn country.
The real kicker comes near the end of the story. After expending the last of their funds on some much needed food -- and in the process learning that their absent, naval father is likely dead at the hands of the Allied bombers -- Seita rushes to a starving Setsuko's aid. Unfortunately, help came too late and the younger child breathes their last just as her brother is cooking up some life-saving food.
Which leaves us with the horror of thinking not just on Setsuko's death, but the fact that her brother's efforts would have ultimately failed anyway given his equally untimely death as shown at the start of the film. Aren't cartoons just grand?