Grave of the Fireflies

“Fruit Drops VS Fire Bombs”


Grave of the Fireflies is a Japanese animated war drama film released in 1988 written and directed by Isao Takahata and animated by Studio Ghibli (pronounced “jiburi”). Any fans of Japanese anime are sure to have heard about the famed Studio Ghibli. Eight of their films are among the fifteen highest grossing anime films made in Japan, with “Spirited Away” being the highest which won a “Golden Bear” in 2002 and an “Academy Award” for “Best Animated Feature Film” in 2003. Roger Ebert of the Chicago-Sun Times considered it to be one of the best and most powerful war films.

Having seen “Spirited Away” and having absolutely fallen in love with it, i was on the hunt to find every piece of work that came out of Studio Ghibli. This is when i happened upon “Grave of the Fireflies”. It is one of those lost and forgotten treasures of cinema that you wont usually find on any of the “Top 10 Anime Movies” lists out there. The best thing about this movie is that if you are not sure what to expect going in, which was certainly the case for me, you will be surprised.


The Story

The film begins at Sannomiya station on 21st september 1945, shortly after the end of world war II. A boy “Seita” stares right at us and speaks a single sentence without moving his lips “September 21st, 1945 that was the night i died”.

American bombers dropped napalm canisters on japanese cities during world war II. The story follows two children, “Seita” the big brother and man of the house and little sister “Setsuko”, who are made homeless by these fire bombs . With their dad serving in the Japanese navy and mother gravely injured they are forced to fend for themselves, trying to find a place to stay and food to eat, in war-torn Japan.

The story itself is based on a semi-auto biographical short story by the same name written by Akiyuki Nosaka in 1967.

 “Seita” and “Setsuko” stand between hundreds of fireflies that illuminate the night

The Fireflies

On one occasion seita and setsuko are seen lighting their shelter with fireflies and on another setsuko is seen digging a grave for dead fireflies (one of the more moving scenes in the film).The fireflies are a recurring theme and an incredible use of heartbreaking metaphor, anything more i say about this will potentially spoil key plots of the story so i would leave it at that.

“Seita” and “Setsuko” witness from a distance hundreds of firebombs raining from the sky that illuminate the night

… Continued on the next page

Published by Samartha Ingle

Game designer and writer

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