Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

One of the greatest of all Japanese anime from the master Isao Takahata, this holds enough emotional power to reduce any grownup into a sobering mess.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dir. Isao Takahata
1988 | Japan | Animation/Drama/War | 93 mins | 1.85:1 | Japanese
PG (passed clean)

Cast: Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara 
Plot: After their mother dies following an air raid, a young brother and sister in Japan at the height of WWII struggle to survive and protect one another in an abandoned shelter.
Source: Shinchosha Company

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Human Condition
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: DVD
First Published: 23 Mar 2007
Spoilers: No

There are certain kinds of films that when the end credits roll, viewers are most likely to engage in some form of discussion (silly or intellectual whatsoever).  But there are other kinds of films that any word spoken, when the film concludes, is akin to committing a crime. 

Grave of the Fireflies belongs to the latter.  It documents the lives of two Japanese children in tragic detail.  Both are physically, and emotionally torn apart by the American bombings of Japanese cities in WWII.  

In the film, we observe the loss of childhood innocence, the loss of dignity of fellow Japanese citizens, but also witness the remarkable will of the human spirit to survive in extraordinary circumstances.

“Why do fireflies have to die so soon?”

The animation created is like a piece of fine art, almost like a collage of watercolor paintings.  The most notable aspect is how the lead characters are able to elude their personalities so vividly, that any viewer would be able to connect with them at the deepest emotional level.

This is arguably the best animated work I’ve seen in my life (other than Miyazaki’s Spirited Away).  In fact, Grave of the Fireflies carries more meaning, and illustrates a story that’s able to relate to anyone who has been ravaged by war, or are consumed by the knowledge that war (and the suffering it brings) still exists even till today.

Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most deeply affecting motion pictures ever to be produced.  Do not be put off just because it’s a ‘Japanese cartoon’. It holds tremendous power to reduce a grownup into a sobering mess.  

Grade: A+




  1. Great review and I’m glad this movie has been getting attention. Grave of the Fireflies is my favorite Ghibli film and one of the very few movies that can still make me cry as an adult. It’s definitely one of the most powerful movies out there animated or live action.

    Liked by 1 person


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