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Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
"Hotaru no haka" (original title)

8.5
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Ratings: 8.5/10 from 91,146 users  
Reviews: 451 user | 133 critic

A tragic film covering a young boy and his little sister's struggle to survive in Japan during World War II.

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Title: Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Tsutomu Tatsumi ...
Seita (voice)
Ayano Shiraishi ...
Setsuko (voice)
Yoshiko Shinohara ...
Mother (voice)
Akemi Yamaguchi ...
Aunt (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Rhoda Chrosite ...
Setsuko (voice)
Shannon Conley ...
Additional Voices (voice)
...
Additional Voices (voice)
Dan Green ...
Additional Voices (voice)
Amy Jones ...
Aunt (voice)
George Leaver ...
Additional Voices (voice)
...
Seita (voice)
Nick Sullivan ...
Additional Voices (voice)
Veronica Taylor ...
Mother (voice)
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Storyline

Setsuko and Seita 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. Written by Corrected by Liron

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

japan | shelter | food | boy | hunger | See more »

Genres:

Animation | Drama | War

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

16 April 1988 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Grave of the Fireflies  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| (as Dolby Stereo) (theatrical print)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This is the only Ghibili theatrical feature film to not be part of the Disney-Tokuma deal. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Seita: September 21, 1945... that was the night I died.
See more »

Connections

References Oliver! (1968) See more »

Soundtracks

Home Sweet Home
Performed by Amelita Galli-Curci
Courtesy of RCA Victor Red Seal, a division of BMG Classics
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Heartbreaking...
3 January 2006 | by (Kent, UK) – See all my reviews

This film proves without any doubt that animation isn't just suited to tales of fantasy, sci-fi or cartoon comedy and violence. This absolutely heartbreaking Japanese anime tells the story of a young boy, Seito and his younger sister, Setsuko, as they attempt to survive the American bombings on Japan in the last year of World War II.

The story itself, based on a true story, is powerful enough but the decision to animate the film truly elevates this film to a higher level. This would have been a powerful enough live action drama, along the lines of Spielberg's Empire of the Sun or even Schindler's List. However, the Studio Ghibli team, have brought an extraordinary amount of life to all the characters, but especially the young siblings. Now we're not talking realism as such here - the characters are in no way photo-realistic, they do have the usual characteristics of Japanese anime humans, large eyes and exaggerated expressions. What this achieves however is a heightened level of subtle nuances in expression which are arguably more powerful and provocative than anything a real-life actor may achieve. Some may claim this is overly manipulative or sentimental, but coupled with the characters movements and actions, it gives the characters such a strong, and very human, presence. You truly care for these kids, which is an astonishing achievement. The voice cast (original Japanese) contributes significantly here also.

It is the tiny moments which give this film so much power and emotional depth - from subtle expressions to brief scenes showing Seito playing with his sister at bath time, attempting, unsuccessfully, to cheer her up when she misses her mother. The painted backgrounds are works of art in themselves, just beautiful. And of course the scenes with the fireflies bring a touch of pure magic - a heightened innocent reality to contrast the horrific realities of the war.

The greatest achievement of this film is that, apart from a couple of obviously sentimental scenes, such as Setsuko's sobbing or illness, it doesn't force any false emotion on the viewer. It really comes from your involvement with the characters. It's completely honest to it's own story and even cuts off scenes abruptly, which could potentially have been milked for cheap sentiment. It often seems to say - This is what happened, you don't need to see anymore. Another of it's strengths is that it really doesn't comment on the politics of the war in any way, just the effects on innocent people.

This is an intensely moving film and a masterpiece of animation. If you aren't moved by these characters, you really need to check your pulse. 10/10


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