Grave of the Fireflies (Movie)

13 Dec


Hara, Toru. (Producer). Takahata, Isao. (Director). (1988). Grave of the Fireflies [DVD]. Studio Ghibli. 88 min.

Plot Summary:

Set towards the end of World War II in Japan. The scene shows up the main character, fourteen year old Seita, sitting at the bus station in rags on the verge of death. A janitor searches his possessions and finds a tin filled with bones and ashes, and pronounces Seita dead. He throws the tin, and it lands in a bed of flowers and out of the ashes Seita and his sister, Setsuko’s, spirits are released. Seita then tells up how he ended up dead, starting with town being bombed. Seita and Setsuko’s father is off fighting in the war and their mother suffers from a heart condition. Seita and Setsuko are left to secure the house while their mother heads for a bomb shelter. The bombs start dropping before they can make it to a shelter, but they are left unscathed, however, they mother was hit and badly injured. She dies a couple days later and the siblings are sent to live with their aunt. Things don’t go well at their aunts house, so they leave to live on their own. Seita struggles to take care of his Setsuko and himself, but it is tougher than he thought it would be.

Critical Evaluation:

This is a heartbreaking animated film about a boy, Seita, and his little sister, Setsuko, during World War II. It is based on the semi-autobiography, Grave of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka, which was intended to be an apology to his own sister.  Even though the ending is foretold to us in the beginning, it is still incredibly sad. The story is told as a narrative by Seita’s spirit, shortly after he dies. Seita is a strong character, taking care of himself and his younger sister on his own during those rough times of war, but in the end he fails her and dies of his guilt of not being able to take care of Setsuko better. Setsuko shows up the vulnerability of people during the war and how a lot of people struggled to survive, but were ultimately left to die. However, the animation is beautiful and will draw you in, making you feel for the characters as if they were real. Probably one of the best war films in a long time.

Reader’s Annotation:

Seita and Setsuko are left to fend for themselves, but life keeps throwing misfortunes at them, one after the other.


Isao Takahata (高畑 勲 Takahata Isao) was born on October 29, 1935 and is a Japanese anime filmmaker that have earned critical international acclaim for his work as a director. He is a co-founder of Studio Ghibli and a long-time collaborative partner of Hayao Miyazaki. He has directed films such as Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday, Pom Poko, and My Neighbors the Yamadas.

Takahata does not draw and has never worked as an animator before he become a director. According to Hayao Miyazaki, “Music and study are his hobbies”. He was born in the same town as fellow director Kon Ichikawa.He graduated from the University of Tokya with a degree in French literature in 1959.



Curriculum Ties:

World History – World War II

Booktalking Ideas:

This is how he died.

Two young siblings with nobody to care for them.

Interest Level:


Challenge Issues:


Why I included this movie:

I chose this movie because it really is one of the greatest war movies I have ever seen, and it is animated, I wanted to add an animated film, but it had to be at the young adult level. This movie fits well.

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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in LIBR 265-10 Database Project/Blog


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