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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.

The movie begins in Sannomiya Station and shows the second main character, Seita, in rags and dying of starvation. A janitor comes and digs through his things, and finds a candy tin containing Setsuko's ashes. He throws it out, and from it springs the spirit of Setsuko, Seita and a group of fireflies. The two spirits provide narrative throughout the story. The film is, in effect, an extended flashback to Japan at the end of World War II, during the Kobe firebombings. Setsuko and Seita, the two siblings, are left to secure the house and their belongings, allowing their mother, who suffers from a heart complaint, to go to a bomb shelter. They are caught off-guard by a batch of bombs dropped in their vicinity. Although they survive unscathed, their mother is caught in the air raid and dies from burns. Having nowhere else to go, Setsuko and Seita go to live with their aunt and write letters to their father. On the second day that they stay there, Seita goes out to retrieve leftover supplies he had buried in the ground before the bombing. He gives all of it to his aunt, but hides a small tin of fruit drops. (This tin of fruit drops becomes a recurrent icon in the film.) Their aunt barely gives them enough food, insults them and sells their mother's kimonos for rice which she keeps for herself.

Seita and Setsuko finally decide to go and live in an abandoned bomb shelter. Gradually, they begin to run out of rice, and Seita is forced to steal food from local farmers. When he is eventually caught, he is unable to feed Setsuko enough before she begins to starve. In desperation, Seita withdraws all the money from their mother's bank account. At the same time, he learns of his father's death. He buys a large quantity of food and rushes back to the shelter, where he finds Setsuko hallucinating. She is sucking marbles which she believes are fruit drops and offers him 'rice balls' which are really only rocks. Finally, she dies of starvation. Seita cremates her, using supplies donated to him by a farmer and puts her ashes in the fruit tin, which he carries with his father's photograph, until his death on September 21, 1945.

At the end of the film, the spirits of Seita and Setsuko are seen, no longer raggedy and etiolated but healthy and well-dressed, sitting side by side as they look down on the modern-day city of Kobe.

Source: Wikipedia

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CastTsutomu Tatsumi
DirectorIsao 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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More Grave of the Fireflies reviews
review by . December 09, 2011
posted in ASIANatomy
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 …
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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