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574 of 599 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transcends Anime to be one of the saddest forms of any media
I generally don't cry at movies. I love any movie that can move me enough to shed a tear or two. Grave Of the Fireflies is not one of those movies. In those movies even though I'm sad the final scenes leave me with a residual hope that while some tragic event has just occured the charecters involved will grow and live better. Grave of the Fireflies doesn't do this. There...
Published on January 11, 2004 by Ian Krupnick

37 of 51 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The 2004 Central Park Media release is better.
This is not a review of the story (I love it, but watch it in Japanese with subtitles). This is a review of the "remastered" 2012 Sentai Filmworks edition (Amazon lists it as Section 23). I have the 2004 Central Park Media edition. I was disappointed that this is the only Studio Ghibli production that is an NTSC to DVD transfer and not a Pure Film to DVD transfer. I...
Published on March 13, 2012 by R. Shaffer

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574 of 599 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transcends Anime to be one of the saddest forms of any media, January 11, 2004
Ian Krupnick (Colorado Springs, Colorado United States) - See all my reviews
I generally don't cry at movies. I love any movie that can move me enough to shed a tear or two. Grave Of the Fireflies is not one of those movies. In those movies even though I'm sad the final scenes leave me with a residual hope that while some tragic event has just occured the charecters involved will grow and live better. Grave of the Fireflies doesn't do this. There is no hope or possiabilty of things getting better. This is Life at it's cruelest. Life that will never get better. This movie doesn't move you, it shatters you.
Seita And Setsuko (the boy and His little sister) aren't Heros and their abusive aunt isn't the villian. Neither for that matter is either side of the war protrayed as good or bad in these movie. This is just a story of people being people. some kind, some indiffrent and some compleatly harsh. Seita makes mistakes that many children in his position would.
Although fifteen years old this film is still very beatiful. The images it portrays are quiet and subdued yet elegent. The final scene is something that shall forever be burned into my brain. It's touching and heartwrenching finality should break most people.
Well I love Grave of the Fireflies. I Love it for it's unflinching look at war and life, It's graceful bueaty as it portrays a young girl playing amidst Fireflies, and for what it does to me at the end.
Why must fireflies die so young?
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356 of 374 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally powerful, hauntingly poetic, anti-war anime, February 5, 2003
Amazon Customer (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
"Grave of the Fireflies" ("Hotaru no haka") is one of the most powerful anti-war films I have ever seen, which means that it has no competition when it comes to emotional impact in terms of animated films. The death of Bambi's mother was a traumatic shock, but nothing like the sense of despair and grief that overwhelms you by the end of this film. The film begins with the spirit of a young boy showing us his death in a train station, after which we follow the fireflies into the past to see his story. At the beginning of the original movie of "Brian's Song" we were told: "All true stories end in death. This is a true story." So is "Grave of the Fireflies" because I have no problem granting the legitimacy of "truth" to fiction.

In the last months of World War II an American fire bomb raid destroys the port city of Kobe, where almost all of the buildings are made of wood. Seita (Tsutomu Tatsumi/J. Robert Spencer) is a 14-year old boy who survives along with his 4-year old sister Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi/Rhoda Chrosite). They were separated from their mother during the raid, which spares them from her fate. Their father is a navy officer serving in the Imperial Navy at sea, and the two kids go off to live with an aunt. With both his school and the war factory where we worked gone, Seita does not know what to do. So he tries to take care of his sister. But his aunt constantly berates him and after trading his mother's kimonos for rice that she stingly shares with the children, Seita decides to take Setsuko and live in a couple of caves dug for bomb shelters. For a while their live remains idyllic, but then there is nothing left to trade for food, and no food to be bought for money. Seita has to steal food to survive while Setsuko is getting weaker and weaker from hunger.

This film is based on the semi-autobiographical novel written by Akiyuki Nosaka, which won the Naoli Prize, the Japanese equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Like Seita, he survived the fire bombing with a younger sister, who died in his care. Obviously the story stems from a sense of guilty and I believe telling this story was confessional rather than cathartic for Nosaka. Writer-director Isao Takahata turns this tragedy into what can only be described as a poetic experience, achieving a cinematic lyricism that could never have been accomplished in a live-action film (e.g., the way the fireflies have a counterpoint in the pieces of ash that drift on the wind after the fire bombings). There is a quietness to this film, a sense of contemplation that emphasizes important and small moments alike, and makes scenes linger as the heart-rending story plays out to its fatal conclusion. The voice work by both of the young girls playing Setsuko is extremely effective; I have a slight preference for that done by Ayano Shiriashi simply because it is much more naturalistic than what you usually find in anime depicting children.

"Graves of the Fireflies" is an unforgettable film, one which will reduce most viewers to tears if not outright sobbing. Watching it is a painful experience, but then a film depicting the horrors of war and showing what happens to young children is supposed to have that effect. Viewing it a second time makes the experience even more intense (you probably will not catch what Setsuko's last words are the first time through, but be prepared for what it will do to you when you watch the film again). You will never, ever forget this film and you should be very, very careful about showing it to younger children, because it will change forever what they think about animated films. It will do that for you as well.
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110 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful And Relevant Anime Classic: A Journey Of True Love And Heartbreak Remastered For A New Generation, December 15, 2011
This review is from: Grave of the Fireflies (DVD)
Note: It seems a crime that this classic has been off the DVD market. Now this digitally remastered and restored version will be able to reintroduce the film to a new generation.

"Grave of the Fireflies" is a film that I'd heard about for years before I finally got around to viewing it. As one of the most well-respected early anime classics--of course, I expected great things. I knew vaguely what the picture was about and knew that its tone strove for realism as opposed to fantasy. But what I didn't really comprehend is that it would be such a mature story geared toward adult audiences. The sophistication, complicated subject matter, and sorrow contained within "Grave of the Fireflies" made it one of the more surprisingly moving films that I'd seen in quite some time.

The story is simplistic. Set in war-torn Japan near the end of the World War II, two kids must deal with the unexpected death of their mother in a bombing attack. With no one to care for them and their home destroyed, they attempt to live independently. Naturally, there are many obstacles to overcome, and the horrors of war are depicted with surprising candor. I had not expected the film to be so forthright in its depiction of such a serious subject matter.

What really distinguishes "Grave" is that it becomes a powerful story of love and commitment. As the brother embraces the responsibility of caring for his much younger sister, we see him take the reins of adulthood. It is a coming-of-age story by necessity. The relationship between the siblings is amazingly realistic and thoughtful. And even though the film is animated, it is perhaps one of the most stirring tales of familial loyalty that you can see. The plot unfolds in a heartbreaking way with moments of such tenderness, such love, and such inevitability. The film never condescends to its characters or its audience.

Not a cheerful or easy film, "Grave" easily transcends most animated endeavors. The film has, through the years, reduced many of my friends to tears. For a realsitic anime film to elicit genuine and earned emotions, that's an enormous success. One note on the technical animation. Keep in mind that the film was made in 1988, it's not going to be a glossy or polished Pixar film. Instead its appearance and style is appropriate for its timeframe and narrative. But beyond the visuals, more importantly, the film is a powerful and relevant meditation on war and family. KGHarris, 11/06.
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113 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound look at the other casualties of war, September 3, 2000
First off, to get this out of the way, you should be watching this movie so you can know how beautiful and incredible animation can be - this is a visually gorgeous and lush movie.
Beyond the animation, Grave of the Fireflies is truly in the top of perfectly written scripts. The subject matter of the film is war and death, but specifically how war affects the innocents. This is Japan in the end months of WWII during the firebombings, when food was scarce, and children without parents were left to die.
This story is incredibly sad, but so important to hear and see it - not like a mainstream Hollywood sad movie that might make you cry while watching, but otherwise has no power to alter your perceptions of life. This is truly sad - the young kids die, and they die very horribly - sickness and starvation. The whole process is so well-written, you'll feel the hunger and the sickness yourself, and the animation adds to the effect.
It is so welcome to have a movie that doesn't turn out all right in the end, but turns out awfully darn depressing, because a lot of times, life just plain sucks and isn't fair, if not for me, then for many other people. It is good to remember that not everything always turns out okay, and nothing is wrong in showing this realistically in a movie. Would I show this to young kids? Hell yes - I think young kids would identify very strongly. And if we can get our young kids to see the ridiculous nature of war at an early age, mayhaps we shall finally have a generation that doesn't feel a need to kill each other over irrelevant philosophic, racial, genetic, geographic, etc., BS.
This movie and the story has not left my mind since I saw it - a point of proof that this is an incredible movie. But do be prepared to feel amazingly sad. I saw this movie in the winter. Then about 5 months later, in the summer, when I saw my first fireflies of the year, I was overcome with an incredible sadness. That's how powerful this movie is.
I will be using this with my youth groups, probably for many years. It has so much worthy of deconstructing and analyzing - this is truly artwork, for it does all things that art is supposed to do - it has the power to change you, and the power to not let you forget the story. Excellent all the way around!
And make sure to get one that is letterboxed, to get the whole movie (why are movies even released without being letterboxed? People are stupid...). And get a copy that is in Japanese with subtitles (unless, of course, you speak Japanese). You really, really have to hear the original Japanese, and the original actors. Amazing movie. A billion stars.
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My 2 cents worth: Should be Required Viewing, May 5, 2003
PokeMac (Cincinnati, OH) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Grave of the Fireflies (DVD)
With nearly 300 reviews in the queue, I'm not sure anyone will ever read this.... BUT, if you do, then know that this movie can't be recommended enough. If you've read any other comments, then you know that this is a depressing film. Oh yeah. I actually read the script about a year before I ordered the movie. And I broke into tears reading the script!! We're talking powerful stuff. Now, we've all seen war movies and gory movies and we read the newspapers with the horrors of our modern life, so you'd think this would be nothing. I think the brilliance of this movie is that by presenting it in anime form it disarms the mind, and allows us to really become the characters. Since they aren't real, we transpose ourselves into their roles, and their roles are heartbreaking. Alone, and betrayed by adults both familial and strange : adults who ought to know better. But this is real life. We know it. We know that this is how adults turn on others, and how they turn on the weak, and become selfish. The children symbolize the weakness and helplessness of man in a modern and indifferent world. In a sense, we are all children, and we are all abandoned. If you have a heart, if you have intellect and a mind willing to listen and see, then you will not fail to be touched by this movie. Now, I will say that this is not necessarily an anti-war movie. I mean, on the other hand, is anyone really pro-war? This movie tries to merely speak some truth. War is a reality, and in some cases a sad necessity, but in my view the real point of the story is to show how thin, how very thin, is the veneer of civilisation.
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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars jesus, January 2, 2006
im a diesel mechanic working on buoy tender ships in northern michigan, where its negative 30 degrees. i have a full sleeve tattoo, and a jagged scar on my face. my wife is ex military and a lumberjack's daughter. we bawled at this movie.

i canNOT express how good this was.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-wrenching Masterpiece, April 30, 2005
Kaspy (Toronto, ON) - See all my reviews
If you haven't seen this movie yet, you may want to be cautious about reading the reviews here because some of them contain spoilers which may ruin the experience. I also highly recommend watching the film in Japanese with subtitles so that all the nuances of the original voice-overs are preserved; it also provides a more authentic feel.

Grave of the Fireflies (Japanese title "Hotaru No Haka") is a haunting and tragic tale of a teenage boy, Seita, and his five-year-old sister, Setsuko, who are orphaned during World War II. After living with their aunt, who becomes verbally abusive, they decide to seek shelter in a nearby cave and struggle to survive on what little they have. The movie is a semi-autobiography, based on the book by Akiyuki Nosaka.

I first saw this movie when I was 15, and remember being deeply overwhelmed with grief. To say that Grave of the Fireflies is moving would be a complete understatement, devastating and heart breaking are more appropriate descriptions. It has some haunting scenes that will remain with me for the rest of my life, the scene showing their mother in bloody bandages being just one of them. It also includes some beautifully touching scenes that are equally unforgettable.

Unlike some viewers, I don't see this as only an anti-war film. I see it as a movie about the love between a brother and sister. While watching the movie, notice all the little things each of them do for each other. In one particularly poignant scene, Setsuko is sobbing gently after being told that they can't visit their mother yet (Seita had lied to Setsuko about their mother being dead to protect her). Although devastated himself, he tries to cheer her up by swinging on a bar and says, "watch me." In another disturbing scene, a weak and malnourished Setsuko kindly offers Seita food she made for him using dirt. Seita looks in horror, and realizes just how sad their situation has become. We also see in this movie how the very little things, like the pretty glow of a firefly can bring such joy.

I think the reason this film has touched so many viewers is that, thanks to the realistic animation, Seita, and in particular Setsuko, are so easy to relate to. Setsuko could easily be your younger sister, daughter, niece, or friend.

When we find out that they're orphaned, we can't help but feel sorry for them. From then on, we can easily identify with them and feel all the pain and desperation they go through. As a side note, the viewers (and probably the aunt) know that his father, a navy officer, is most likely dead after he fails to reply to Seita's letter. Seita, being just a child, cannot bring himself to believe or even think that his father is dead as well. He is in a constant state of denial until the very end, when he is told that there are no survivors in the fleet.

The overwhelming tone of this movie is loneliness: Seita and Setsuko are two children with nothing but each other. And ultimately, this movie is about how the innocence of these two children was lost.

Grave of the Fireflies belongs in a category all by itself when it comes to emotional impact. It will have you thinking about it for days, even years later. And that's when you know when you've seen a truly great film.


The following is an excerpt from an interview with Akiyuki Nosaka (the writer of the original book) in 1987. I found it to be interesting, so I've included it in my review.

"My sister's death is an exact match with the novel. It was one week after the end of the war. At the countryside of Fukui prefecture where I was, it was the day the restrictions on lighting were removed. It must have been the 22nd. It was evening, and I was picking up my sister's bones. I was coming home in a daze when I saw the village lit up. There was nothing like my surprise then. My sister died in my side of the world, and the light was coming back in the other.

Honestly speaking, there was also relief that she died and my burden was gone. No one would wake me up in the night like she did with her crying, and I wouldn't have to wander around with a child on my back any more. I'm very sorry to say this about my sister, but I did have those feelings too. That's why I haven't gone back to my novel (Grave of the Fireflies, published in 1967) to re-read it, since I hate that. It's so hypocritical. It must be absolutely true that Seita must have thought of his sister as a burden too. He must have thought that he could have escaped better if it weren't for her.

There are many things that I just couldn't get myself to write into the story. During composition, the older brother got increasingly transformed into a better human being. I was trying to compensate for everything I couldn't do myself. I always thought I wanted to perform these generous acts in my head, but I couldn't do so. I always thought I wouldn't eat and would give the food to my little sister, but when I actually had the piece of food in my hand, I was hungry after all, so I'd eat it. And there was nothing like the deliciousness of eating in a situation like that. And the pain that followed was just as big. I'd think there is no one more hopeless in the world than me. I didn't put anything about this in the novel."

Excerpt from the English translation published in Animerica Vol. 2, No. 11, 1994.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a perfect specimen of cinema/anime as an art form, November 8, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Grave of the Fireflies (DVD)
Towards the end of this excellent and unparalleled anti-war and very human movie, right when the Japanese declared their defeat, Galli-Curci's rendition of the standard Home Sweet Home came on, and all the hitherto untapped well of emotions in me (and others who've seen it) broke lose. The scratchy sound of the LP, Galli-Curci's quavering and sorrow-filled voice (I rushed out and buy the CD), and the harrowing feeling in the face of the young protagonist's courage and the unfeeling violence around him all combined to create a truly unique moment that turns art into life itself. Like some of the other reviewers, I rarely if ever cry during a film, but this film did it, it makes me cry everytime I watch it: the music, the animation, the storyline are very powerful.
It's hard to describe the emotional impact it has on me and on everyone I've recommended it to (and I've recommended it to everyone I care about). I once showed it to three of my nieces (ages 10-13) on their visit and three years later, they were still talking about it and asking to see it again and again: such is the impact of this once-in-a-lifetime film. It's very organic, not preachy at all, yet its anti-war message is so clear, and it zeroes in on the human in all of us instead of trying to manipulate emotions from the outside.
All in all, one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. Watch it with someone you love, be it your brother or sister or parents or children or boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse. It's very harrowing yet uplifting at the same time; watching it is an experience to be savored and shared with a loved one for a long time to come.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A touching, depressing story of love and endurance., May 27, 2002
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This review is from: Grave of the Fireflies (DVD)
For those who insist that cartoons of all forms, and particularly anime, are for children, I present you with Grave of the Fireflies. This amazingly well-done anime has some of the most touching, most depressing scenes I've ever seen on a screen, regardless of format.
This film is set in Japan near the end of World War 2. Seita and Setsuko live in Kobe with their mother, whom they adore. When the air raid sirens sound, Seita and Setsuko run ahead to the bomb shelter, leaving their mother (who has a heart condition and cannot run) to follow. Seita is obviously not happy with this situation, but the early teen youth cannot carry both his toddler sister and his mother, so he agrees, sure his mother will join them at the shelter.
From here begins the long, sad tale of the losses that Seita and Setsuko suffer through together. This is very much the story of a young man forced into the role of provider, protector, and nurturer years ahead of time, and of his little sister who adores him. Seita struggles to provide for himself and for Setsuko, and refuses to surrender himself to despair, regardless of the obstacles he is presented.
I feel that this movie is all the more heart-wrenching for the way that the hurt and the pain and the fear are interspersed with the moments of joy and lightheartedness. For much of the movie, it is almost possible to believe that Seita and Setsuko will come out of this together. Of course, since the movie opens with Seita dying, alone, you know that your hope is misplaced, but you want them to survive. The love they share, and the joy they take from one another make you root for them.
The characters in Grave of the Fireflies are remarkably well acted. Seita, standing strong, doing whatever is necessary to take care of his little sister. Setsuko is the perfect toddler. Happy one moment, crying the next, unsure of why anything is happening, but sure that Seita can fix everything. The childrens' aunt, a cold, sarcastic, bitter woman, taking every opportunity to ensure the children, especially Seita, is aware of how much they impose upon her and her patriotic family.
In addition to the quality of the story and the caliber of the actors, the beauty of the artwork is just incredible. The facial expressions, the landscapes, the atmosphere. It's all wonderful, drawing you into the story. I found myself checking to see if the prone form of Setsuko was breathing as she lie ill, then realizing that wait, this is animation.
This provocative, compelling tragedy is based upon a true story. The original author, Nosaka Akiyuki, wrote a novel based upon his real-life experiences at the end of the war in Japan. This story was then turned into a manga (Japanese comic book), and the story became very popular and well-known.
Trivia buffs might be interested in knowing exactly how this movie made it to the screen. A director by the name of Hayao Miyazaki was working on a project named "My Neighbor Totoro" but the production company was worried that nobody would be interested in the tale of two little kids and a monster living in rural Japan. Therefore, they decided to make a movie they felt would draw viewers based upon the familiarity of the tale and for the educational value of the story, and make it a double-feature with "My Neighbor Totoro", billing and packaging the two movies together. Those who are familiar with both movies find the concept of packaging or viewing the cheery, light-hearted romp that is Totoro with such somber, depressing fare as "Grave of the Fireflies" mind-boggling, but the tactic seemed to work, though Totoro has become far more popular and well-known of the two movies.
I cannot recommend this movie enough. It is a poignant story of the love shared by a pair of siblings in the worst possible conditions. And you'll never look at fruit drops the same way again.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars how many people will have cried by watching the movie?, December 30, 2004
This review is from: Grave of the Fireflies (DVD)
Maybe, in U.S.A even the name of Hayao Miyazaki will be known here and there. He made many movies till now, Spirited Away, Totoro etc. But the best work that I was moved very much is this movie, Grave of the Fireflies. In Japan, though this movie have been taken high evaluation from all Japanese, is not known more than other Miyazaki's works like Spirited Away. Maybe the same thing will be said in U.S.A. It is very regretable. For instance, this movie was roadshowed with Neighbor Totoro. Main movie was Totoro, and Grave was sab movie.

If the watchers are children, their favorite work may be Totoro, but in the point of letting us think about more deep things, peace, love, tenderness, the strong bond between brothers or our happiness that can eat many foods, this movie will be more high splendid movie than Totoro. When I watch this movie, I feel that I am getting many things than the age of this movie, especially foods, but in the other hands, I thought that I was losing many things, tenderness for others etc for letting me fllow in daily benefit, money. Ceatainly they had many trouble on surface aspect, but in the mental points, I am inferior to them because they had the strong family bond like never broken even if they were in the severe condition.

This movie is true story on Akiyuki Nosaka's same title novel book. In the movie, the shelter cave where Nosaki and his sister lived actually was re-showed. Nosaka was very surprised to the animation re-creation power.

I was eight years old when I watched the movie first time. At that time, I felt why they went out from their aunt's house and dared to live in shelter cave, should live in the house even if they flattered to the aunt. But as I have grown, the thinking changed little by little. Though the selection might not be clever, they wished to live by themselves and be free.

If there may be opinions that children should not watch the movie. But though I watched the work in my child age, there was never the bad influence, to the contrary even now the movie have strong impact for me on good meaning. Because this movie is on true story, we should not turn our eyes away from the movie. If we gaze to true things, peace will be made too. I do not dare to talk about which countries should have the war responsibility. The most expecting thing is that people over the world can feel the non sence of war by watching the sorrow movie. If war broke on the point of the benefit of countries, we should stop war by feeling the sympathy to sacrifices for absurd wars.

Thank you for reading poor English to last scentence.
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Grave of the Fireflies [Blu-ray]
Grave of the Fireflies [Blu-ray] by Isao Takahata (Blu-ray - 2012)
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