Grave of the fireflies (Studio Ghibli)

Leia o post do Túmulo dos vagalumes em português aqui.

Grave of the fireflies is an essential movie for those who want to enter the anime world [besides knowing the Japan’s side on the World War II].

Based on the homonym and semi-autobiographical book (1967) by Akiyuki Nosaka, Grave of the fireflies tells the story of 14 year-old boy Seita and his 4 year-old sister Setsuko,  who have to survive by themselves during II world war in Japan.

Anime • Guerra • Drama 88 min 1988 Japan

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Grave of the Fireflies (火 垂 る の 墓), by default, “cemetery of fireflies” would be written 蛍 の 墓, with kanji for “firefly”. But here hotaru is written as 火 垂 “drops of fire”, in reference to the American bombers that trigger the plot. The sound is similar but there are two parallel directions, one illustrated visually (check below).

(Som e sentido na lingüística dos kanji – Leonardo Boiko)


Grave of the Fireflies was such an important movie, that it was adapted in two live action versions, produced respectively on 2005 and 2008.

Akiyuki Nosaka makes use of his book as a way to redeem himself from his sister fate, to whom he believed to protect when he couldn’t even take care of himself.

I confess I haven’t watched any of the live actions.

The motion picture animation is so melancholic and realistic to the point that, after the end, I stood static looking at the screen for some time while the credits were rolling. Afterwards, I cried for some minutes. I could not forget it for about a week. And I know that happened to other people too.
It´s been about two years since I watched it but I still can´t listen to the theme song.

I don’t believe I’m strong enough to watch any of the live action adaptations, with a human, in the flesh, version of Seita and Setsuko.

Check some scenes from the live action movies.

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Back to the anime…

Although it is an animation, it’s very realistic: the way Setsuko moves like a toddler and the emotions on her face are lovely, and one can feel Seita’s caring, just by his voice and the way he looks at her.

I believe its realistic characteristics on the construction of the children will impress even more the ones who have kids at home, as mothers, aunties/uncles and older siblings. Especially if having toddlers.

Isao Takahata’s sensivity is amazing – not to mention his ability to transform lines and colors into a perfect portrait of the cruel side of humanity, and also, in a resonant punch in our stomach.

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Watching Grave of the Fireflies is worthy even if it doesn’t touch you the same way. As an opus, or as an historical source, or as an entertainment.  It’s a classic movie and a must-watch. 🙂

I recommend (in portuguese) an amazing and complete article on the website Chuva de Nanquim – Clássicos: Túmulo dos Vagalumes.


director Isao Takahata TITLE Hotaru no Haka IDIOM japanese
dubbed no online yes LEGENDA english


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