Hotaru no Haka

Title:Hotaru no Haka
Grave of the Fireflies
Keywords: , , , , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - Studio Ghibli
R1 License - ADV (Renamed)
A brother and sister try to survive after they are left orphans from the fire-bombing of Kobe in World War II.

[Movie, 1988, 88 min.]

Originally licensed by CPM and then ↗CPM went belly-up in April '09, so ADV picked up the R1 License to distribute this title in the US.
2:31min Movie Trailer - YouTube Video
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Buy 9 9 9 10 10 Ggultra2764 [series:63#1552]
The Pros: Grave of the Fireflies is an emotionally powerful film portraying the inevitable harsh realties of an actual war from a civilian perspective. In this case, the harsh reality is explored from the perspectives of two orphaned children trying to live as normal a life as possible while the adults around them are working and rationing food to help support the war effort, hoping that their country perseveres in World War II. The film doesn’t hold back in its tragic portrayal of Japan’s inevitable loss through the air raids delivered to cities, hospitals filled with injured civilians, and the bodies of those killed during air raids. The moments of normalcy that Seita and Setsuko have in enjoying their lives to escape the reality of war, such as their visit to a beach, make for brief scenes of peace in the film’s intense plot. The movie’s soundtrack is a powerful one filled with mellow, soft musical pieces during peaceful scenes and dramatic, sad tones during tragic, intense scenes from civilian losses. The animation has a good amount of quality for a 1988 animated film as there are vivid backgrounds and scenery and good-looking character designs, which are to be expected from the animated talents of Studio Ghibli.

The Cons: There are no flaws to be found in this film. Grave of the Fireflies serves as a definitive example of the emotionally powerful animated films that can be devised through the world of anime. It’s one of the few flawless anime masterpieces to be found.

Facts on the Movie:

-Based on a semi-autobiographical book written by Akiyuki Nosaka who wrote the book to come to terms with his own personal losses from World War II, including the loss of his younger sister from malnutrition.

-Released as a double-feature with My Neighbor Totoro in theaters in 1988. This required both films to be worked by two separate animation studios: Shinchosa for Grave of the Fireflies and Tokuma Studios for Totoro. Because the film was not animated through Tokuma, Grave of the Fireflies was not a part of the Disney-Tokuma Deal, an agreement which gave Walt Disney Studios the right to commercially release Ghibli films in both theaters and home distribution in America and other countries outside of Japan.

-Directed by co-founder of Studio Ghibli, animation director Isao Takahata.

Last updated Wednesday, January 09 2008. Created Saturday, January 05 2008.
Buy 9 10 7 7 8 manganime [series:63#1633]
One of a kind anime. A very powerful movie which depicts the life of a brother and sister during the tough time through WWII in Japan. There are still parts which I find a bit silly but none the less this movie is still brilliant although it's not one of those you'd really wanna watch many times over.

Grave of the Fireflies will be an anime that will be remembered for years to come as a classic.

Last updated Friday, March 17 2006. Created Friday, March 17 2006.
Buy 9 9 8 8 9 Devil Doll [series:63#752]
[Score: 85% = maximum "Buy-"]
  • Drama: Med/High (you'll see the tragedy in the opening scene already)
  • Comedy: None (you'll wish there were some)
  • Action: Low (it's WW2 but no Hollywood movie)
  • SciFi: None (plain old world, normal people)
  • Ecchi: None (clean, recommended for teenagers)
This is one of the most difficult "Buy" ratings I've ever given. Yes, this movie is that good - but I'm not sure how often I can endure watching it. The impact this story can make to the audience is so impressive that it can last for months. Go rent this movie, and the decide whether you want to buy it.

When I started to watch this I expected a classic anti-war story - and that's what the movie is considered by most reviewers (see below). But actually its most important message is what AstroNerdBoy only noted as a side aspect: Pride.
This story is based upon a semi-autobiographic novel whose author Nosaka Akiyuki lost his sister during the WW II due to malnutrition as well, and he blamed himself for her death. In this story, his alter ego Seita has to face one crucial decision (at two occasions - when he left the house of his aunt and when the man on the field rejected him): Either stay with the wicked aunt, work, earn money and face reality (the "adult" choice), or run away from reality, play hide and seek, pretend to have control of the situation... and finally cause not only his own death but the death of his beloved sister as well. The second of these moments is the turning points of the whole story, and also the moment when I stopped pitying this boy: He deliberately chose pride over reason. Maybe this is based on his upbringing in the Japanese society of his war time, with a glorified father fighting at sea. But he is still responsible for the outcome.
I do pity poor Setsuko of course - she had no choice, she is not responsible for her fate. This is the other important message of this story: The ugly face of war, causing casualties amongst the innocent. And the aunt doesn't really care either - she doesn't understand Seita and isn't aware that he is just a boy. She expects him to behave like an adult, which he is not.

Last updated Wednesday, August 10 2011. Created Monday, December 13 2004.
Buy keiichi tsuchiya [series:63#1264]
The whole movie is very sentimental. I bougth it from a friend that told me it was a good piece of art. Actually in my concept it is!! Worth looking!! Buy it if you like to have a very good film that can´t be seen more that two times per day or else you´ll go straigt to the shrink! Very depressing!!

Last updated Friday, March 12 2004. Created Friday, March 12 2004.
Buy 9 8 9 8 10 HunterD [series:63#606]
I fianlly got to see this flick after hearing so much about it. I read that it would make you cry... I never thought that any piece of anime would own me like this movie did. The story was so well told its unbelieveable. The movie dident start owning me till when his sister died after that it was all over the last scene was just so powerful..

Last updated Sunday, November 16 2003. Created Sunday, November 16 2003.
Buy 8 8 9 8 Corin [series:63#1027]
Ectremely sad..I actually cried..

Last updated Monday, October 20 2003. Created Monday, October 20 2003.
Buy 7 7 7 7 MasterYoshidino [series:63#598]
Hotaru no Haka is very old, and its brownish overall look very much shows the grim and dirty enviroment of the Japanese bombings of WWII. A very enjoyable anime as Seita struggled pillaging bombed villages and Setsuko tugging around, slowly getting weaker from famine and malnutrition. (stop before I spoil the ending, hehe)
The music is not special, nor is the animation, but then again this is from 1988 so obviously Hotaru no Haka was difficult for CPM (whom also make H movies i.e. Yakin Byoutou) to digital restore. Very saddening to see what happens to Setsuko after the bombing ended...
Very much worth buying, but watchout for the lack of color, there is way too much brown in this anime.

Last updated Friday, October 03 2003. Created Friday, October 03 2003.
Watch [series:63#802]
Grave of the Fireflies is a great movie about a boy and his young sister during WW2. It's a rather emotional movie, and it's often called one of the best anti-war movies ever. I don't buy that this movie is at all anti-war. It's much more of a personal experience than anything. This is a story about the human spirit. The film never seems to point fingers or lay blame.
First off, this is indeed an extremely good movie. The story is great and the characters are very likable. The Japanese voices are spot on, even the girl. All the parts are well written, and very believable. Nothing seems stretched to the absurd.
The art is simply beautiful. Fans of movies such as Kiki's Delivery Service or Mononoke will notice things feel very familiar, due to being these all being from the same studio. The colors range from dark and sad to bright and cheery, sometimes fitting with the mood and other times as a stark contrast to the reality around them.
At any rate, it's a really good story and one that's hard to forget. It's well told, it's memorable, it's likable, and it's at times quite sad. If you're looking for something different and serious rather than the normally light-hearted crowd of anime, give this a shot. You won't be disappointed.
Reviews & Fan Art

Last updated Tuesday, June 24 2003. Created Tuesday, June 24 2003.
Buy 10 10 9 10 10 AstroNerdBoy [series:63#436]
War is an ugly thing even if good comes of it. This movie follows the lives of Seita (age 12?) and his sister Setsuko (age 3-4?). It is World War II and the tide of war has started to turn against Japan and American bombers have started attacking. In one such firebombing raid, Seita and Setsuko's mother is killed. Their father is in the navy, so they go to live with a great aunt and her family. While the aunt is grateful for the extra food Seita brings and for all the rice his mother's elegant kimono's sell for (they apparently could not get much rice before this), she resents the orphaned children living with her and her family. She feels Seita should be out there doing something to help the nation win the war. Seita only wishes to take care of his little sister and wait for their father's return.

While the horrors of war are the primary focus of this anime, the evils of pride are seen too. The Japanese could not conceive the thought that the war they started would have such terrible consequences for them. By the same token, both the aunt and Seita's pride have terrible consequences on top of the pain caused by the war.

Bottom line: This is a moving title and despite its age, it is beautiful in its art and animation. I'm not sure I could ever watch this again though. Don't forget to have some tissues close at hand.

Last updated Sunday, May 21 2006. Created Sunday, May 25 2003.
Buy 9 9 10 10 10 10 senoB [series:63#634]
One of the best animated films ever, bar none. Wonderfully touching and heart-rendingly sad, Hotaru no Haka (Graveyard of the Fireflies) is an absolute masterpiece in both animation or film. Its age shows (it's 15 years old!) but the story it tells is timeless. I especially enjoyed the sense of hope underlying the much more obvious sorrowful and loving atmosphere thoroughout the film. A definite buy for any self-respecting fan of anime. Even if one only has a passing interest in animated films and the like, it deserves a thorough watching at the very least. Rent it, watch it, and then buy it.
Warning: Not appropriate for immature children and adults alike. Graphic depiction of the tragedy of war in all its revolting "glory".
As long as humans fight wars, this film will feel very relevant.

Last updated Thursday, May 22 2003. Created Thursday, May 22 2003.
Watch 8 9 8 9 9 Jer Alford [series:63#614]
One of the most dramatic anime movies of all time. Truly showing the hardship of a nation during a time of war. Taking place in WWII in Japan, an orphened boy and his younger sister fight to survive in their povetry stricken country. At times very cute, but it becomes the ultimately tearjerking anime film ever. Wonderful imagery, brilliant character development, and a most impressive piece of cinematic splendor. Definately one to watch, but don't forget the kleenex.

Last updated Monday, December 08 2003. Created Wednesday, May 07 2003.
Buy 9 9 10 10 10 Ileenka [series:63#669]
A must have for all anime collectors of Miyazaki. And although not for tha avid collector, this anime is still *worth* every cent that you spent. I watched this anime 3 times, and i never failed to cry. I just couldn't help it. Not many movies or anime or any bastardy flicks out there can just make me cry. So what i'm trying to say is *UUMMPH!!!*
this is something which you gotta's one of the best anime that i have.again, *UUMMPH!* there. that's how positively strong i feel about this wonderful work of anime.

Last updated Thursday, May 01 2003. Created Thursday, May 01 2003.
Buy 9 9 10 9 9 Sesen Kelader [series:63#471]
It could greatly impact Americans when watching Grave of Fireflies, since the one who is doing the killing and bombing of innocent citizens in the anime is the Americans. It would let ppl re-think the justice of WAR, or is there even justice for war?
It's a clever technique to describe the saddness and tragedy of war by talking the story of a young brother and sister. The war destroys everything and changes happiness to sorrow. This anime is one of the rare pieces--or the only piece-- of Miyazaki that has an ending overflow of sadness. How the young brother recalls and dreams of happy life makes one wants to sob.
There is no justice side in a war. Saddness and sorrow is always beared by hopeless, powerless war vicitms who only hope for a quiet life.

Last updated Saturday, January 04 2003. Created Saturday, January 04 2003.
Buy 10 10 10 10 10 10 angelfury_13 [series:63#360]
Buy this anime. Just. Buy. While it didn't make me cry, it did make me fairly depressed for a while. The animation is wonderful, the colors are all faded, as if you were in some sort of nightmare. ;_;

Last updated Wednesday, August 07 2002. Created Wednesday, August 07 2002.
Buy 10 10 10 10 10 Krisha [series:63#68]
This has got to be the most touching movie I have ever seen; I've never seen an American film come close to this level of emotion in film regarding this part of WWII.
The music, the animation, the characters while not exactly earth shaking are perfectly fitted to the tone of the movie and that is why I give them such high scores.
Not only is this movie a classic but it is an important film as well, while we as American's tend to focus on the part of the war that took place in Europe it is important that we also remember the war with Japan, and never forget.
Buy it, watch it again, it's painful but watch it again. Share it with your family, your friends anyone who will watch, don't let anyone forget. This is not anime,this is film.

Last updated Monday, July 08 2002. Created Monday, July 08 2002.
Rent Barry [series:63#122]
On the recommendation of a friend, a real tough guy, who told me he'd cried like a baby when he saw this, I picked up /Hotaru no haka/ on a Hong Kong double-DVD with /Majo no takkyuubin/. I knew that I'd have to be emotionally prepared for the movie, so I literally put off watching it for months, instead taking in Kiki's wonderful movie (which I'll probably review very soon) several times.
When I finally worked up the nerve to flip the disc over and give Grave of the Fireflies a whirl, I was surprised at how well I was doing, shedding not a tear as the miserable lives of Seita and Setsuko played out before my eyes. I even shrugged off little Setsuko's "Why do fireflies die so young?" line with nary a sniffle. What a manly man am I!
I can remember the exact second that I crumbled from a well-disciplined pillar of masculinity into a weepy pile of goo. The scene of the morning after the night that Seita and Setsuko played with the fireflies in their crude cave/house. When Seita saw his little sister piling all the dead fireflies into a tiny hole she'd dug for them and flashed back to when he'd seen the Japanese soldiers piling all the dead bodies from a firebombing into a mass grave... that destroyed me. I spent the rest of the movie shell-shocked, hit again and again over the head with human misery. How I wished I could go back in time and prevent that terrible war, prevent all wars!... but all I could do was helplessly watch and shed tears for all the children who would never reach their adulthood because of them.
To put it simply, if you have any kind of a heart, this movie will wreck you. You may only want to watch it once. For some, that might be all it takes. But, go ahead and watch it, for any film that can elicit this kind of emotional response from viewers can truly be called one of the great works of our time.
*sniffle, blows nose*
Excuse me.. I've got something in my eye...

Last updated Monday, January 14 2002. Created Monday, January 14 2002.
Buy 8 9 10 9 10 Courtney [series:63#80]
Im always impressed by a movie that can make me cry from time to time. GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES is a moving story that doesnt bother to hide its touching ending from the first few moments of the film (A technique that can be either dangerous or effective to a plot). Still, you watch this movie, get an amazing feel for the era, and develop a strong love of the characters as you hope that maybe it wont end the way you know it will. Deep and touching, the author of the book sharing the same titles wrote this as a tribute to his sister who was killed in the attack. After watching GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES you cant help but be touched to your soul as you feel just how much he must have loved his little sister to compose something so heartfelt.
Other Touching Tales:

Last updated Tuesday, November 27 2001. Created Tuesday, October 16 2001.
Buy 9 9 10 10 10 The Coyote [series:63#64]
Absoultly correct this is the only thing I put in the same relm as The Ruroni Kenshin OAV's (Sameri X) The story line is powerful and hart wrenching I loved this anime It sands above it's medium and is truly an epic peice of work this is an absolute must bye I can not empesize that enough. Comparisons to Saving private ryan and Schindler's list are right on this movie touchs the horor of war like no other anime out there. Truly a moving and epic piece of work.

Last updated Monday, October 15 2001. Created Monday, October 15 2001.
Buy 10 10 6 10 10 Midnighter [series:63#94]
Words cannot do this film justice, so my review will be brief.
Grave of the Fireflies is one of the best films ever made, period. The emotional power it delivers is on a par with "Saving Private Ryan" and "Schindler's List."
The story is about a boy and his sister living in the horrible aftermath of the American bombing campaign. After losing their mother, they attempt to make it on their own and find happiness in horror.
While I personally did not care much for the character designs, as they were the Miyazaki-style, the rest of the series id a perfect 10. Gorgeous art transports the viewer back to 1945, and wonderful animation brings it alive. The writing is simple and poignant, effectively conveying the emotion behind it. Grave of the Fireflies brought me to tears; this movie must be seen by everyone.
I just cannot say enough about this peice of art. Buy it, watch it, remember it. A simple, powerful story of humanity, horror, and hope, Grave of the Fireflies is a masterpiece with-out equal.

Last updated Tuesday, December 11 2001. Created Thursday, January 18 2001.
Buy 8 8 8 8 10 o [series:63#15]
Yes, this may not be the most spectacular anime in terms of art and animation, but as a whole it is still one of the best movies *ever* made. Takahata made sure that this semi-autobiographical anime did justice to the horrors of war, and that's what makes it fantastic. It's painful, but for its noble look into real life (in anime!), it's worth keeping. See the Hotaru link at

Last updated Sunday, September 12 1999. Created Sunday, September 12 1999.

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