Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka) (1988)



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


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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 (36) | Top Critics (2)

Writer-director Isao Takahata, a frequent collaborator of Miyazaki's at Studio Ghibli, adapted a partly autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka, and his handling of the tragic story is masterfully understated.

Jul 14, 2002 | Full Review…

An emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation.

Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

This film isn't easy to watch but it's essential viewing among the great works of animation--or really of all film, for that matter.

Jul 3, 2018 | Full Review…

Once seen, this is seared in your heart, deep as your worst relationship break-up.

Sep 5, 2017 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Isao Takahata's masterpiece is one of the most profound anti-war statements ever brought to cinema

Feb 20, 2014 | Rating: A+ | Full Review…

...a well-made and heartfelt drama that's just not as engrossing as it should be.

Nov 30, 2013 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

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

This work follows a brother and sister trying to survive in Japan near the end of WW2. It walks a very careful line as it begs sympathy for Japan (through the eyes of innocence, of children) for a war that they initiated. The close relationship between the children is certainly moving and effectively works to engage sympathy, but I couldn't help but wonder for say similar children, say of Nanking for instance. A tough watch.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


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 Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

One of the saddest films of all time and one of the greatest anti-war films ever created (even if it wasn't director Isao Takahata's exact intentions but that is a different discussion entirely and is irrelevant to this review). A harrowing tale of innocent children caught up in the terribly indifferent effects of wartime. This is no heroic tale of differing ideologies and factions, this is a very emotionally-taxing tale set in the waning days of WWII that will leave you feeling depressed as a brother and sister are physically and emotionally worn-away by the cold world that deprived them of their parents. Be sure to have plenty of tissues upon viewing this tear-jerking masterpiece. Can't believe this was released together with 'My Neighbor Totoro' (practically the happiest movie ever made). Talk about a bi-polar double-bill.

Christopher Heim
Christopher Heim

Super Reviewer


without question one of the saddest films i have ever seen. its films like this that have contributed so much to my near pacifism. the world is so dark, and life is so fragile, and often times its the most innocent among us that suffer the most. incredibly moving.

danny d
danny d

Super Reviewer

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