Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka)

Critics Consensus

An achingly sad anti-war film, Grave of the Fireflies is one of Studio Ghibli's most profoundly beautiful, haunting works.



Total Count: 40


Audience Score

User Ratings: 68,742
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Movie Info

Grave of the Fireflies opens on an evening in 1945, after Japan's surrender at the end of World War II; and in a train station, the young Seita dies alone. The rest of the movie tells us, in flashback, how things have come to this. Seita and Setsuko are two young Japanese children growing up in the waning days of World War II. Much to Seita's pride, their father is in the Japanese navy, and they live fairly content lives in Kobe despite rationing and the other privations of war. When their mother dies from burns suffered during an American fire-bombing raid, a distant aunt takes them in -- and conflict eventually forces the children to try to survive on their own. At first, Seita and his little sister enjoy their idyllic lives in the country, but harsh reality eventually settles in as Seita begins to understand the difficulties of taking care of a young child when both food and compassion are scarce. ~ Emru Townsend, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka)

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (39) | Rotten (1)

Audience Reviews for Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka)

  • Jul 22, 2015
    Probably one of the saddest movies of all time, Studio Ghibli's aching testament to the effects war has on innocent people. Perhaps the real emotional impact of the film becomes more evident when one ponders it for a while after watching it. The two main characters are so likable that when their world literally crumbles around them, one feels their loss. With a riveting final image, Grave of the Fireflies presents itself as a sad but necessary film. Rating: 88
    Bradley J Super Reviewer
  • Jul 28, 2014
    Grave of the Fireflies is a bleak film; maybe one of the bleakest about war and its consequences. But this is ultimately a film, not about war per se, but rather about memory and oblivion, personal story and national history. The protagonists are shown as ghosts in the end of the film wandering against the background of Tokyo, which seems to have been modernized after the war. This is not an optimistic image, as in that there is afterlife and the brother and sister are together at last, but rather a symbolic one that shows the 'forgotten' and their personal story, excluded by history, which moves on. History cannot accomodate in its memory all the personal stories of its victims who die early as fireflies do. That's why in the beginning of the film we see the protagonist half-dead being made fun of by passersby who expect the Americans to come and bring the new order after Japan's defeat. It is this lack of any justice even on the level of memory that makes the film so emotionally devastating and counterbalances the melodrama. It is the fact that there is suffering but a suffering that is not known by anyone except from the sufferer, that never reaches the public sphere to become a narrative with meaning that works as its justification; the protagonists are denied being 'heroes' in their suffering. Of course their story becomes known to the viewer and that is the magic of film. Takahata escapes all the pitfalls of melodrama, despite the basic story can easily be described as that, also by subtly showing us details of the landscape instead of focusing on the characters too much in moments of tension. The best film of Studio Ghibli!
    George M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 26, 2013
    A devastating animation that never holds back in its haunting depiction of the horrors of war and the people whose lives are destroyed by it, and the result simply ranks among one of the most powerful anti-war films to be ever experienced - animated or not.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 20, 2013
    From the moment it was decided that 2Plus2Review was to be themed around WWII for the month of September this movie was my first pick. Not just because it is widely regarded as one of the most touching war movies ever, anime or otherwise. But because it's a very Crawf pick. I love anime, I am a massive Studio Ghibli fan and as often as i have watched it, it manages to touch me every time. The 1980's was a boom time for anime. Studio Ghibli were producing some of their best work and people were going nuts over a boy called Shôtarô, speeding round the streets of a metropolis on his red motor bike, in his red leather "get-up", in a movie called Akira. Anime had hit the big time and gave rise to the Otaku. The Grave of the Fireflies was released in the same year as Akira (1988). Akira was more popular at the box office and still today more widely known - another reason for my selection. Grave of the Fireflies is a beautiful, touching, delicate, moving, tragic and very human story about the effects of WWII on a Japenese family. It is not the easiest of films to watch as you are, in all intents and purposes, watching two children die. They are dieing as a result of the international conflict that Japan are a main part of. I regard Fireflies as one of the most powerful anti-war movies I have seen. It really does show that in many cases there is nothing bigger, than the little things. My favourite part of the fim is where Seita collects the Fireflies and releases them under the net to amuse his sister. It also showcases that anime is not always about tenticled aliens, ninjas with seemingly super human powers or humanoid robots (mecha). In some cases the power of Fireflies caused a major re-thinking of the genre. I just love this film. For me it's a ten out of ten (or a 5 / 5 in this case). I love the animation, which is great (especially considering it was released in '88). I love the haunting soundtrack. I love the point of the film. I love the characters and feel their desperation, fear and torture throughout. I love the humour and always find myself smiling at Setsuko's comments. I love that something so gentle can affect you so much. I love everything about this film. It's a perfect, pure, fragile and tender gem. Of all of the films that we have reviewed so far, this is my personal favourite by a mile.
    James C Super Reviewer

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