Hotaru no Haka (1988)

Hotaru no Haka

  • Grave of the Fireflies
  • directed by Isao Takahata
  • Studio Ghibli



‘Hotaru no Haka’ takes place during the end of World War II in 1945. Japan is suffering a massive destruction due to the bombings of the Americans. They are destroying city after city. In fact, the story is about the lives of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, filled with the horrors of the war. They have lost everything: their mother, their father, their home and even any prospective future. Seita and Setsuko are homeless and orphans who suffer from starving and diseases. They try to live a normal live in horrible times like these. They also have to experience that even the kindest people turn out to be very cruel.

The movie shows cruel scenes during World War II. Americans bombing city after city which seems to have no ending. Every time the bomb alert sounds, people are running into shelters. The aftermath and consequences of the war are illustrated: many destroyed cities, burning houses, people having lost their homes and live now on the streets. Even bomb shelters were not safe enough. People have lost everything they owned and do have to live on. Moreover, it is a different kind of a war movie; it shows how the war affected the lives of two homeless and innocent young children. In fact, the anime is not really a war movie, its focus is more on the adventures of these two children who fight for their survival.

One of the main topics are the consequences of the war. The two main protagonists, Seita and his sister Setsuko, are homeless after being kicked out by their aunt. Seita manages to get food by himself to provide for his sister. However, this seems to be a heavy battle because they do not own much money and are weak due to malnutrition. Seita tries his best to take care of his sister and makes her smiling and laughing. He always suppresses his feelings towards his sister but could not manage to keep it. He has an emotional outburst in front of her. The movie also shows that even though the war is over, Seita is still afraid of air raids as a plane passes.


‘Grave of the Fireflies’, how the movie is called in English, contains many sad and terrifying scenes. For instance, the depiction of the loss of their mother is not for faint-hearted people. Seita, the oldest child, witnesses his own mother covered in maggots. The bombing and destruction of the cities are very heartrending. The anime also shows many pictures of dead bodies. For example, as Seita and his little sister Setsuku are playing on the beach, she finds a dead body. Moreover, the suffering of both siblings are also very well shown. Even though, the anime contains of many sad scenes, it also somehow lacks of emotions in terms of the characters, especially Seita. However a strong brother-sister bound is also presented. The love between both siblings is very powerful and strong. Seita protects his sister by not telling her that their mother had died to avoid making her crying.

There are also some negative aspects in the movie. Both children indeed have a caring aunt who helps them a lot, but Seita only plays with his younger sister and eats her food instead of going to school or to work as the other children. In fact, Seita takes very immature and stupid decisions and he does not apologize to his aunt because of his pride. In other words, he rather risks his sister’s life instead of apologizing or helping his aunt.

Even though the anime movie is very old, it consists of a good animation. Characters and even the background are well drawn. All in all, the consequences of the war are well shown in the movie but we expected more of the movie. It was a bit boring due to the lack of the emotions of the characters.



MikaYuu Hyakuya

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