Grave Of The Fireflies (1988) Review

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Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)
Hotaru no haka
Japanese: 火垂るの墓

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 104 as of 01/01/2013

Directed by Isao Takahata

Based on Grave of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka

Starring Voice Actors:
Tsutomu Tatsumi
Ayano Shiraishi
Yoshiko Shinohara
Akemi Yamaguchi

(English dub voice cast: Adam Gibbs, Emily Neves, Shelley Calene-Black, Marcy Bannor)

Running time: 89 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in the city of Kobe, Japan, the film tells the story of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, and their desperate struggle to survive during the final months of the Second World War.

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My Opinion:

Version watched: Japanese with English subtitles

Okay – here we are with the movie that got second place when I asked you all to vote for which movie I should review next (Spirited Away won – I reviewed that HERE yesterday). Knowing I would be spending January reviewing a bunch of Studio Ghibli films, I actually watched Grave Of The Fireflies late on New Year’s Eve. Do I know how to party or WHAT?!

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And… then I never reviewed it. What can I say about Grave Of The Fireflies that hasn’t been said already? It’s already widely known that it’s one of the saddest & most heartbreaking movies you can watch. I love Studio Ghibli so I knew the time had finally come for me to watch it if I was going to dedicate a bunch of my time to eventually reviewing every Ghibli film on my blog. But I’ve never been one to want to watch a sad movie – I watch movies for their escapism, not to be reminded that humanity sucks. So I had a little bit to drink as it was New Year’s Eve, put on Grave Of The Fireflies, then distracted myself by chatting with a friend through most of it in order to make it a little more bearable (thanks to that person!). It still wasn’t an easy watch although it’s a beautiful film.

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I was happy that Grave Of The Fireflies wasn’t at all political (in my opinion). I wouldn’t even say it’s exactly anti-war – it simply tells the story in a very matter-of-fact manner of a young boy & his little sister in the final months of World War II. I’ve looked but I’m not sure of the ages of the brother & sister – I think she’s around 4 & he’s maybe 14? There are a few times throughout the movie where you start to feel a little frustrated with the brother seeming to not always know the best way to take care of his little sister until you then remember that he’s just a child himself and how difficult it would be to try to survive on your own in a war torn country. These kids have nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help – all they have is each other and the boy does everything he can to take care of his little sister.

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Grave Of The Fireflies is one of those movies that I think everyone should watch at least once (kind of like Schindler’s List – you need to watch it but maybe don’t watch them both on the same night!). There’s just nothing I hate more than seeing little kids suffer, though, and it’s very hard to watch this little girl go through Hell while always maintaining her innocence and joy at life’s little pleasures (like a couple of fruit drop candies or some fireflies) in a way that only the very young can manage. I recommend this to everyone, not just fans of Studio Ghibli as it’s quite unlike the other Ghiblis anyway, but you’ll need to be in the right frame of mind.

My Rating: 8/10

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25 thoughts on “Grave Of The Fireflies (1988) Review

  1. Great review! And yes, anime cannot be written off as just a cartoon! That’s a travesty! Especially if it’s Studio Ghibli 😉

    This movie is soooo heartbreaking. I love love love it. Now I’m going to go cry in a corner.

    • Hehe. Well, that’s Eric for you – he’s not a Ghibli type… 😉 I know – I’d avoided this one for YEARS. I’m of course glad I finally watched it but I’m not sure if I ever will again. 😦

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    • I know… 😦 It was great but I really can’t see me watching it again. I saw it on TV but I’ll probably get the DVD now. And also never actually watch it after I get it… 😉

    • Thanks, Anna! I struggled knowing what to say about this one. I’m glad the poll forced me to finally review it. It’s a GREAT film but, if I ever watch it again, it won’t be for a very long time… 😦

  3. As sad as it is, I loooove this film. I agree movies should be escapism, but sometimes a good cry is needed, and this is one of the only movies that can still make me sob like a child. Its realism was such a far cry from Spirited Away’s weirdness that Fireflies singlehandedly convinced me to give the other Ghiblis a try. Like you said, though, it’s not for the suicidal. Great review!

    • Thanks! 🙂 Interesting that this one made you give other Ghiblis a try. It was Princess Mononoke for me. Fireflies is certainly not like any of the other Ghiblis I’ve seen so far, though. Excellent film. Not sure if I’ll watch it again! Not soon anyway….

  4. Miffers. This one sounds rough Cutey Mutey. But I love Studio Ghibli so I must at some point brave this. I think all of their films have some sort of depressing theme or element to them but by the sounds of it Grave of the Fireflies really fixates on a somber tone…

    • Oh yes – this one is FAR more depressing than any others! Unless you believe the “Totoro is the God of Death” theory…. Lol. You really need to see Fireflies if you’re a Ghibli fan. It’s an excellent film. I’d love to know your thoughts if/when you see it. Actually, I demand you watch it! 😉 Most my regulars aren’t Ghibli fans so I get a little lonely in my love of Ghibli. 😦

    • Well, it’s an excellent film but sooooo sad. You’d really have to be in the mood for that sort of thing. 😦 I’d rather watch things like My Neighbor Totoro again.

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  9. finally saw this film.. yes I was FORCED to watch it, and I liked it a lot despite its sad ambiance. Like u, I liked the way that they tried to tell the story matter of factly making it seem all the more realistic (it is based on a true story).

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