Grave of the Fireflies

Grave Of The Fireflies(1988) – A Harrowing War Anime

This anime, was originally titled “Hotaru No Haka” which translates into Grave of The Fireflies, was initially released in 1988 in Japan. The theatrical release was accompanied by another well acclaimed and relatively light-hearted anime, My Neighbour Totoro.
Even though Grave Of The Fireflies was overshadowed by “My Neighbour Totoro”, the film turned out to be one of the most acclaimed creations of Studio Ghibli.
Despite the commercial failure on the big screen in subsequent years, Grave of The Fireflies turned out to be one of the most acclaimed creations of Studio Ghibli. Later DVDs of the movie were released in the USA in 1998 and the UK in 2004. Disney acquired the rights to the film in 2011.
Written and directed by Isao Takahata, it is a harrowing story of a brother and sister during World War 2 in war-torn Japan. The affliction of war and the anguish of survival of two helpless siblings portrayed in a realistically and rather mortifyingly that ought to make your tears flow.

Grave of the Fireflies Plot

The movie begins with Seita’s spirit saying “September 21st 1945, that was the night I died”. Then it shows janitors finding Seita’s dead body in a subway with a tin box on it, which they throw away. The tin box filled with Seita’s little sister Setsuko’s ashes, and we see spirits of Seita and Setsuko walking away smiling.
Seita and Setsuko
The main storyline kick starts with the bombing of allied forces in Kobe in World War II, where Seita and Setsuko lived happily with their mother while their father was away fighting the war in the Japanese navy.
Seita and Setsuko
Seita and Setsuko fled the bombing, but their mother fails to escape and get badly hurt. Later she dies in a nursing shelter. Dejected by their mother’s death, Seita assures his sister that their mother is hurt, and she is being looked after in the hospital.
Seita and Setsuko
Then they are sent to live with their aunt. Seita had a tin box from which he has been giving Setsuko fruit drops to cheer her up throughout the movie. He did not tell his aunt about their mother’s death, because he wanted to spare his little sister from the grief.
The aunt constantly nags Seita about going to school and working, despite both the places being demolished by bombing. She was resentful about them eating the food, and later she compels Seita to sell their mother’s kimonos so they can buy rice.
Grave of the fireflies characters
When they trade their mother’s kimonos, they finally have rice, but their aunt remained resentful because they didn’t work for their food in this crisis. Their aunt only provides them with rice porridge, and Setsuko is always starved and hungry.
Seita and Setsuko's aunt
So Seita goes to the bank to withdraw money from their mother’s bank account to buy stove and food items to do their cooking. But their aunt thinks they did it to spite her. They decide to leave their aunt’s house and discover an air-raid shelter near the forest and started living there. He buys food and straw from a farmer to cook and eat.
Seita and Setsuko playing with fireflies
They tried to remain cheerful by playing around while living there all by themselves. Setsuko plays with fireflies and digs the grave for them when they die, and she disclosed to her brother that she knows that their mother is in a grave too. With a heavy heart, Seita tells his sister that someday they will visit their mother’s grave.
Soon Seita discovers that there is nothing left to trade for their food. They are both plagued with lice and starved. Setsuko becomes ill, and Seita encourages her to eat. Seita steals crops to feed his sister. He even gets in trouble while stealing crops and gets beaten up by the farmer.
Stealing crops
Seita takes his sister to the doctor, he tells Seita to get her food because she is malnutrition. Seita goes to the bank again to withdraw money for their food, and he also comes to know that the Japanese fleet has been sunk, and their father is dead. He buys food for his sister but discovers that Setsuko has been eating marbles and mud. She becomes seriously ill, and later that day she dies.
Seita and Setsuko
Seita puts her body in a casket and cremates his little sister and puts her ashes in the candy tin, which is later discovered by the janitor as shown earlier in the movie. When Seita dies of starvation, and we finally see the spirits of Seita and Setsuko, reunited and happy.

Grave of the Fireflies Characters(Main)

  • Setsuko Yokokawa:  She is a preschool student and the younger sister of Seita Yokokawa.
  • Seita Yokokawa: He is the fourteen-year-old protagonist of Grave of the Fireflies.
  • Kiyoshi Yokokawa: The captain of the Japanese navy army, the husband of Mrs. Yokokawa, and the father of Seita Yokokawa and Setsuko Yokokawa.
  • Mrs. Yokokawa : The loving wife of Kiyoshi Yokokawa and the mother of Seita Yokokawa and Setsuko Yokokawa.
  • Aunt: The aunt of Seita and Setsuko Yokokawa, the sister of Kiyoshi Yokokawa, and the sister-in-law of Mrs. Yokokawa. 

Grave of the Fireflies Trailer

I cried a river while watching this movie. Despite the melancholic gloomy plot, the movie does depict the impact of war on the population very realistically. That’s why it’s a well-acclaimed highly rated anime.
Do give it a watch if you haven’t yet and if you have already watched it do let us know in the comments how much you cried watching it. And if you like anime don’t forget to check out our anime section.
Grave of the Fireflies
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