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Grave of the Fireflies

A movie directed by Isao Takahata

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Grave of the Fireflies

  • Dec 9, 2011
I had done a review on "Grave of the Fireflies" awhile ago, but I wanted to revisit on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Another film by Studio Ghibli, directed by Isao Takahata, is a very, very, very powerful movie about the aftermath of war in Japan after World War 2. WARNING: this movie is incredibly emmotional, even for us guys. If you don't tear up, or at least get a lump in your throat, then there is something very wrong with you...

The movie chronicles the plight of Seita (15 yo)and his younger sister, Setsuko (4yo) in the end days of the war with Japan. The anime starts with the death of Seita in a subway station: a janitor finds his body and pulls a small tin out of Seita's pocket, he throws it away when all he finds in it are ashes and dead fireflies. As the tin hits the floor, Seita's spirit emerges and he tells his story of what happened.

Seita's mother is burned in a bombing raid and dies shortly after the attack. Seita and his sister go to their aunt's house to find shelter. She reluctantly takes them in, considering them to be burden more than anything else...and lets the children know. At one point she convinces Seita to sell their mother's kimono for rice, the kimono is their tangible item of their mother, since the bombing raid burned down their home. After a series of clashes like this, Seita takes hi sister and they make a home in a cave...which they light up with captured fireflies. However, the next morning, they are all dead and Setsuko asks Seita about death and why did their mother died.

After awhile their food and money runs out. Seita is forced to steal from neighboring farms. But even then that is not enough; Setsuko grows weaker with malnutrition. Seita eventually goes back to the city, gathers together enough money and supplies for himself and his sister. He left Setsuko alone in the cave, promising to return with food, but she grows even weaker as he cooks it for her. You will need to watch the rest of the movie to see how it ends...keep the tissues nearby.

The movie is based on an autobiographical book by Akiyuki Nosaka. It is, in itself, a powerful read that I would recommend as well. Again, this is a very intense and heart-wrenching story, so be prepapred!

As I said before, I chose to revisit this anime because of the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. It was a reflection for me, not only on that war, but the current wars going on around the world, and the almost untold stories of those who survive the armageddon, but are challenged by its afterrmath. While this is a hard movie to watch becuase of the content, I would say that anyone who would call themselves an anime fan MUST watch this outstanding film

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December 28, 2011
Excellent write up, this is a great one for sure.
December 28, 2011
Excellent write up, this is a great one for sure.
December 09, 2011
I've loved every Studio Ghibli I've seen, but have yet to see this one. It sounds really good and I can't believe it's from 1988! I'll have to check it out. Thanks for sharing!
December 09, 2011
Dev, you need to see this is one of the best anime films I've seen!
December 09, 2011
This was an amzing movie and stands as proof that animation can be a very dramatic and powerful medium. Very much enjoyed reading your thoughts on the movie. Thanks for sharing it in our community!
More Grave of the Fireflies reviews
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2012
posted in ASIANatomy
While I've only seen about 120 anime titles in my life, I seriously doubt there's an anime I haven't seen yet that can beat out Grave of the Fireflies in my list as #1 in "best anime titles ever."      I seriously can't find anything wrong with this anime.  The characters feel so realistic, the story is nothing short of powerful, the animation and artwork is top-notch, the music is perfect, and portrays one of the best delivered, realistic anti-war …
review by . November 15, 2011
The first sentence in Grave of the Fireflies is "September 21, 1945...that was the night I died."       The voice belongs to 14-year-old Seita, and his spirit tells us what happened to him and his five-year-old sister, Setsuko, in the weeks before. This is one of the saddest films I've ever seen, and a great one. Many elements of the plot are discussed, so read no further if that bothers you.       Seita, his mother and sister live …
Quick Tip by . February 17, 2012
posted in ASIANatomy
Movies quality is more on people's different tastes....But I wonder if anyone ever said that "Grave of the Fireflies" is not one of the greatest films ever produced. This film elevated Japanese anime to heights never before seen. It was proof that animation did not have to be aimed for kids.      Truly heart-wrenching and touching, this creation is a triumphant exercise in Japanese filmmaking...animated or otherwise.     
review by . October 14, 2009
Grave of the Fireflies has to be one of the most depressing films that I have ever watched.  Life in Japan is horrible during the final days of the World War II.  Starvation looms it's head over the civilian population as the people to everything they can to keep from dying of hunger.  Two orphans Seita and Setsuko wander the countryside after losing their mother and home to the bombing of their city.  Driving by constant search for food Seita does everything he can to keep the …
review by . June 19, 2009
I normally do not like anime.  Most of the crap shown on American TV is violent and really rather stupid.  However, there is another group of anime that is very special.  There is, of course, the absolutely wonderful anime of Miyazaki which I will review later on.  Then there is this one.  I could not believe how involved in a movie I could get until I got into this one.  I was hooked quickly, and then I started literally bawling my eyes out.  This is WW2 as seen …
review by . February 08, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Subtle story-telling, emotional impact, beauty of both idea and presentation      Cons: Not a {insert an expletive here} thing      The Bottom Line: If you have no heart or you don't like its strings pulled, then see this movie.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.      The Grave of the Fireflies places a pair of warm, gentle hands around your heart; these …
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Steve Gearhart ()
Ranked #26
Just a guy who likes anime and all things Asian!
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About this movie


In post-World War II Japan, a janitor finds a deathly ill boy lying beside a metal candy container. The janitor unwittingly tosses the possession into the night, beginning a most unusual tale of survival set amid the atrocities of war in the Animi GRAVE OF FIREFLIES. Brother and sister Seita and Setsuko, ages 14 and 4, flee their disheveled home and deceased parents to make their bid for a new life. Before American troops begin to occupy their country, the children resort to dwelling in an abandoned bomb shelter in the countryside. Though these siblings later get a sense of safety, they realize necessities such as food and water will not be easy to come by.

A1988 animated film written and directed by Isao Takahata. This is the first film produced by Shinchosha, who hired Studio Ghibli to do the animation production work. It is an adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka, intended as a personal apology to the author's own sister.


Taking place toward the end of World War II in Japan, Grave of the Fireflies is the tale of the relationship between two orphaned children, Seita (清太) and his younger sister Setsuko (節子). The children lose their mother in the firebombing of Kobe, and their father in service to the Imperial Japanese Navy, and as a result are forced to try to survive amidst widespread famine and the callous indifference of their countrymen, some of whom are their own extended family members.

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Director: Isao Takahata
Genre: Drama
Release Date: April 16, 1988
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: Central Park Media (October 08, 2002)
Runtime: 1hr 28min
Studio: Shinchosha Company
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