Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

100% – Critics
95% – Audience

Grave of the Fireflies Storyline

Setsuko (aged 4) and Seita (aged 14) are brother and sister living in wartime Japan. After their mother is killed in an air raid they find a temporary home with relatives. Having quarreled with their aunt they leave the city and make their home in an abandoned shelter. While their soldier father’s destiny is unknown, the two must depend on each other to somehow keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. When everything is in short supply, they gradually succumb to hunger and their only entertainment is the light of the fireflies.

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Turkishsubtitle Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka) 23.976 FPS

Grave of the Fireflies Movie Reviews

A powerful film that shows the true cost of war

“Grave of the Fireflies” is one of the most ambitious, depressing, and quite frankly, best films that I’ve ever seen. I was nearly moved to tears by this film’s brave treatment of such critical subject matter. Yes, it’s an Anime’ piece, but surprisingly, it came out in 1988, during a time where most Japanese animation films were either relentless bloodbaths, borderline pornography, or both.

As a fan of the Anime’ genre of film-making, many great pieces have achieved some sort of cult status here in America, yet none have really reached mainstream success. Some have broken through the barrier and have gained acceptance with American critics, like Katsuhiro Otomo’s “Akira,” or “Princess Mononoke,” or “Spirited Away” (both films directed by Hayao Miyazaki). One that I’ve seen and has been barely mentioned by most critics is “Grave of the Fireflies.”

What we have with “Grave of the Fireflies,” is a story of innocence lost and two children who ultimately face a losing battle with trying to survive in a small Japanese village in the closing days of World War II. WWII was the costliest conflict in world history, with millions dead and thousands left to pick up the pieces.

In the center of it, are the aforementioned two children, who are pretty much left to fend for themselves after their mother is killed in a bombing raid. Because their father is off fighting in the war and they have no way of contacting any other family, they’re sent to live with their aunt, who is at first warm and welcoming to them, but eventually becomes very cruel and the children are forced to live in a nearby bomb shelter. From that point on, the two children embark on a journey that is every bit as unpleasant and difficult as the grim realities of the world around them.

Very easily one of the best Anime’ films that I’ve ever seen (or any animated film for that matter), I find it difficult to believe just how truly overlooked “Grave of the Fireflies” is. The animation is beautiful, though certainly not dated by any means (even though Japanese animation has progressed well since this film was made).

We get a sense of the dread of the two lead characters, who watch as the world around them crumbles into heaps of ashes, and aircraft loom ominously overhead, dropping their deadly, incendiary cargo on unsuspecting Japanese villagers.

The director, Isao Takahata, obviously has a special resentment of the war, but manages to avoid condemning it outright. The director instead lets us focus in on the conflict as seen through the eyes of the two children, who watch unflinchingly as the realities of their world begin to falter before them.

“Grave of the Fireflies” is a bold statement on the condition of the human soul during conflict. I probably shouldn’t say this but I am anyways, but this film has to be the “Schindler’s List” of animated pieces. It’s brave, it’s not overly sentimental, but it is relentless in its dramatization of a dangerous reality. It should be required viewing in any high school world history class.

A beautiful film; not to be missed by anyone.

Super-depressing, but an exceptional film

Had I been able to see this film in Japanese subtitles, I might have scored it higher. The version shown on TCM was dubbed and I think the dubbing detracted from the film because the characters didn’t seem the least bit Japanese. While this may not matter as much with some full-length Anime movies, this one was based on real people living through the final months of WWII with all its privations on the Japanese people. So, to me, it just didn’t seem appropriate having the characters sounding like Americans–this seemed a bit tacky. This is all pretty sad, as the film itself is a marvelous film featuring some of the better animation I have ever seen and exceptional production values.

The story is about two siblings whose mother is killed early in the film during a fire bombing. The movie is spent trying to survive on their own and deal with starvation.

The film is apparently based on the writer’s own experiences and is extremely important for adults and older kids, as it gives a side of war that is seldom mentioned in films. Although it will probably depress your older kids, it would be a good film to watch with them provided you take the time to discuss the film and process what they see as it is a disturbing episode in history.

I do NOT recommend this to younger or less mature kids. Oddly, when the film was released, it was combined with MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO as a double-feature!!! This was so wrong–combining a sweet movie targeted for the youngest kids in the audience with this realistic and heart-wrenching film about death and starvation! What were they thinking?! I do recommend you see the film, but if possible, try to find the Japanese language version with subtitles.

Beautiful, haunting and emotionally devastating

What an amazing film! Very rarely have I been moved this much by an animated film. Watership Down yes, Bambi yes, Secret of NIMH yes, Beauty and the Beast yes, Land Before Time yes, but Grave of the Fireflies is in a different league. A film that is once seen and never forgotten, a film that is beautiful, haunting and emotionally devastating. It is slow moving perhaps and “depressing” but it is very poignant as well. I find it very difficult to fight back tears at the film’s end. The animation is amazingly detailed, the backgrounds and characters are drawn with such care and you just marvel at the detail that goes into it. The music is both haunting and melancholic and one of the main reasons why the film is as it is. The story is harrowing, as it details Seita and Setsuko’s hopelessness. The characters are easy to relate, Setsuko isn’t precocious or obnoxious, instead she is quite cute, and Seita shows real love for his sister as well as being a strong protagonist. There are many memorable sequences, but one that springs to mind is the one with the nocturnal fireflies, which is something of true melancholic beauty. Overall, a masterpiece, pure and simple. 10/10 Bethany Cox