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

Unrated  |   |  Animation, Drama, War  |  16 April 1988 (Japan)
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Ratings: 8.5/10 from 122,926 users  
Reviews: 492 user | 151 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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Complete credited cast:
Tsutomu Tatsumi ...
Seita (voice)
Ayano Shiraishi ...
Setsuko (voice)
Yoshiko Shinohara ...
Mother (voice)
Akemi Yamaguchi ...
Aunt (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Shannon Conley ...
Additional Voices (voice)
Doctors / Old Man (voice)
Dan Green ...
Additional Voices (voice)
Amy Jones ...
Aunt (voice)
George Leaver ...
Additional Voices (voice)
Setsuko (voice) (as Rhoda Chrosite)
J. Robert Spencer ...
Seita (voice)
Additional Voices (voice)
Veronica Taylor ...
Mother (voice)


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 | wartime | shelter | food | boy | See All (253) »


Animation | Drama | War


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

16 April 1988 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Grave of the Fireflies  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| (as Dolby Stereo) (theatrical print)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film was initially distributed with My Neighbor Totoro (1988) because it was the only way that Miyazaki could have been able to make "Totoro." The reason being that the original film pitch for that film was rejected, so they pitched a double feature with "Grave of the Fireflies," and the project was eventually backed financially by the original writer of the book on which "Grave" is based. It often was overlooked as a film because whenever "Totoro" was screened first, people were left happy and did not wish to be saddened by "Grave" afterward. See more »


Right at the beginning, someone places what looks like a rice ball loosely wrapped in some tree bark as a protective cover next to the boy known as Seita. The scene cuts to Seita's face and soon after he collapses, the wrapped rice ball is nowhere to be seen. See more »


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


Referenced in Spirited Away (2001) See more »


Home Sweet Home
Performed by Amelita Galli-Curci
Courtesy of RCA Victor Red Seal, a division of BMG Classics
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

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

57 of 61 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Not much sympathy from me as a Korean-American. dhydro_lics88
Seita was not stupid nor selfish jenn4394
To me this movie is aweful merelientje
How many minutes did you cry? veeshman
Did anyone else feel this way days after watching it? thebedtimestory
Should I watch the English dubbed one billchat12
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