Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies is an anime movie in the Grave of the Fireflies Franchise
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A Studio Ghibli drama about a Japanese boy and his young sister, who struggle to survive on their own after they are orphaned during the firebombing of Kobe in the closing months of World War II.

Seita and his little sister Setsuko are left homeless by the firebombing of Kobe in 1945, which claims their mother's life. Unable to contact their father in the forces and knowing of no other place to turn, they move in with a shrewish aunt who constantly upbraids Seita for not contributing to the war effort. Eventually, they move to an air-raid shelter in the country, begging and stealing what food they can, but both starve to death.

Based on a semiautobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka, who lost his own sister to malnutrition during the war, this is an eerily quiet, sepia-toned apocalypse, accompanied by powerful subliminal messages. Throughout the entire film, we regularly return to the ghosts of Seita and Setsuko, lit in red, as they gaze accusingly at the countrymen who let them die, though these scenes are so fleeting as to pass most viewers by. Similarly, director Takahata loads on subtle guilt as to what might have been "if only" the slightest chance had been taken to make a difference. The firebombs seem almost laughable at their first appearance: tiny sputtering flames, leaning against a water trough and a fire bucket, but Seita doesn't stay to fight them. Instead, he runs to safety with his sister, only to see his old home burn from a distance, like the heroine of Kayoko's Diary. He doesn't mumble a simple apology to the shrewish aunt who has taken him in, forcing his own exile. And as his sister dies, he turns to nobody for help, since he has given up hope that help would be forthcoming. This crushingly sad story begins by revealing both characters will die and then dares the viewer to hope they won't. Tragic in the truest sense of the word, every moment of Takahata's masterpiece is loaded with portents of the suffering to come.

Much imitated in anime about World War II, most noticeably in Rail of the Star and Raining Fire, the film shows a very normal life wiped out by the horrors of war, however indirect. There are no frontline heroics here, merely two innocent children wasting away before our eyes, while an elder brother dutifully tries to assure his sister that everything will be all right. It is all the more effective for being animated, not only because the ruin and deprivation appears so insanely unreal, but because Seita and Setsuko destroy a raft of anime stereotypes. No perky victory in the face of overwhelming odds for these two; instead, they are crushed and left to gaze down on the lights of modern Kobe, expressionless, but ultimately condemnatory of something. Perhaps it is the Allies who defeated Japan (as with so many other anime of its ilk, it makes no mention of the reasons Japan is being bombed), perhaps the Japanese people who, as in Barefoot Gen, refused to see the light. More likely it is warfare itself, roundly rejected by just two of its many victims.

Producer Toshio Suzuki reputedly used the original novel's educational value to sell theater tickets to schools, thereby allowing him to also release a second film of doubtful potential as part of the same double bill: My Neighbor Totoro. Some of Nosaka's other works would also form the basis for the ten-episode anime TV series Akiyuki Nosaka's Tales of Wartime That Cannot Be Forgotten (1997, Nosaka Akiyuki Senso Dowashu: Wasurete wa Ikenai Monogatari).

In 2005, the story was adapted into a live-action TV movie as part of the 60th anniversary of World War II-a year that also saw Glass Rabbit and a remake of Kayoko's Diary. The TV version shifts the focus from Seita and Setsuko onto their aunt (played by Nanako Matsushima). To bring the story up to date, a framing device depicts their cousin Natsu as an old woman, recounting the story to her own granddaughter, and a closing montage shows children in the Middle East, who continue to suffer the effects of war. See also My Air Raid Shelter.

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Isao Takahata Director Isao Takahata is an acclaimed director/producer of anime films, co-founder of Studio Ghibli, and long-time collaborator of Hayao Miyazaki.
Yasuomi Umetsu Key Animator Animation Director.
Yoshifumi Kondo Animation Director

Original US Poster Art

General Information Edit
Name: Grave of the Fireflies
Release Date: Oct. 8, 2002
Name: Hotaru no Haka
Romaji: 火垂るの墓
Release Date: April 16, 1988
Rating: PG
Runtime: 85 (mins)
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