Grave of the Fireflies Review (Spoilers)

“Why must Fireflies die so soon?”…


Wow, this is a depressing movie. This movie Will make you cry with all of the sad and depressing aspects of it. The first line of the movie is literally “September 21st, 1945… That was the Night I Died”.



The first scene is September 21, 1945, at Sannomiya Station where a 14-year-old boy named Seita is seen dying of starvation. Later that night, a janitor goes through Seita’s possessions, and finds a candy tin containing ashes and bones, which he throws into a field. the spirits of Seita and his younger sister Setsuko are shown, and The spirit of Seita narrates their story. The rest of the movie is basically a flashback to Japan during World War II, beginning with the firebombing of Kobe on March 16, 1945.

Setsuko and Seita are left to secure the house and their belongings, while their mother, who suffers from a heart condition, leaves to get to a bomb shelter. Although they survive the bombings unscathed, their mother is caught in the air raid and is horribly burned. She is taken to a clinic in a school, but dies soon after. Having nowhere else to go, Setsuko and Seita move in with a distant aunt, who allows them to stay. Later, she convinces Seita to sell his mother’s kimonos for white rice. Seita goes out to get leftover supplies he had buried in the ground before the bombing. He gives all of it to his aunt, but hides a small tin of Sakuma fruit drops. Soon, as their food rations shrink due to the war, their aunt becomes increasingly resentful. She openly tells them they do nothing to earn the food she cooks, and calls them lazy brats.

Seita and Setsuko leave and move into an abandoned bomb shelter. They catch and release fireflies into the shelter for light, but Setsuko is upset to find them all dead the next morning. She digs them a grave and buries them all, asking why they have to die, and why her mother had to die. Soon, they run out of rice, and Seita is forced to steal food from farmers and loot homes during air raids. When he is caught and almost arrested, he realizes his situation, and takes Setsuko to a doctor, who informs him that Setsuko is suffering from malnutrition but offers no help. In a panic, Seita withdraws all the money in their mother’s bank account. As he is leaving the bank, he hears from a nearby crowd that Japan has surrendered to the Allied Powers, and that his father, a Captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy, is probably dead. He returns to the shelter with large quantities of food, only to find Setsuko hallucinating. Seita hurries to cook, but Setsuko dies of Starvation. Seita cremates Setsuko, and puts her ashes in the fruit tin, along with his father’s photograph. Seita later dies of Starvation in Sannomiya Station a few weeks later.



Seita – Seita is the Protagonist of the movie. After his mother dies, he is constantly doing everything he can to take care of his little sister, Setsuko. He even steals food so they could have something to eat. He later dies of Starvation. He is later seen as a spirit with Setsuko.

Setsuko – Setsuko is Seita’s little sister. She loves Fireflies, and gets upset when they die. She becomes increasingly sick due to malnutrition, and later dies of Starvation. She is cremated by Seita, and is later seen with Seita, both of them spirits.


the Aunt – I really dislike the Aunt. Seita has lost his school & work in the bombings, and thus has nowhere to go, but his Aunt still calls him lazy. He lost his mother (and later his father), but the Aunt goes and sells all of his mothers belongings. She calls him & Setsuko brats that do nothing to earn their food, telling Seita that they have to make their own food. When Seita goes out and buys a small stove so he can make his own food, she gets annoyed and says he only did this to spite her. Everything she does annoys me, and because of her actions, Seita & Setsuko moved out, leading to them starving to death. If she hadn’t been so rude and annoying, Seita & Setsuko would have probably still been alive. I know they were trying to show that wartime can turn even nice people in to cold-hearted jerks, but it was still annoying.



Grave of the Fireflies is based on a true story. Akiyuki Nosaka lost his little sister during WW2 due to malnutrition, and blamed himself for her death. He wrote the book “Hotaru no haka” (A Grave of Fireflies) in 1967 to help come to terms with her death.

Grave of the Fireflies was also made at the same time as “My Neighbor Totoro”. This was the only way Studio Ghibli could make Totoro, as the idea had been rejected the first time it was pitched. Miyazaki pitched the idea as a double feature (Grave of the Fireflies/Totoro) and the idea was financially backed by the original author of Grave of the Fireflies. Apparently the animators kept forgetting which movie they were animating due to the two films being made together. People who went to the double feature would leave after seeing Totoro, not wanting to be depressed by Grave of the Fireflies. On the other hand, people who saw Grave of the Fireflies first, would stay and watch Totoro to brighten the mood.

Many people say that this is an Anti-War film, but the director and author have both said that it’s not. It is directly inspired by the author’s real life, and mainly his little sister’s death.


My Rating:

As I mentioned before (multiple times), this is a Really Depressing Movie. I went from watching Laputa, which made me laugh, to watching a movie that made me sad and miserable throughout most of the movie. I generally don’t like watching depressing movies, but after watching this a second time, I’ve grown to like it more than I did on my first viewing. Despite all the depressing moments, and the jerk of an aunt, this film has many greats aspects to it. Seita & Setsuko are great, likable characters. The music is great, especially the main theme, which adds to the emotion of the film. It did a great job of showing how horrible the Air raids in Japan were during WW2. I give Grave of the Fireflies a 7/10.


Fun Fact:
The candy in the tin that Setsuko carries around in the movie, is an actual candy. Called “Sakuma Drop”, they sell it in a tin made to look exactly like in the movie, plus there’s a picture of Setsuko on the front of the tin. Here’s the link to where you can buy it, if you’re interested:

Sources: Google, Google images, IMDB, Wikipedia, Studio Ghibli