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->''"This was the best movie I never want to see again."''
-->-- '''WebVideo/TheSpoonyExperiment'''

''Grave of the Fireflies''[[labelnote:Japanese]]火垂るの墓, ''Hotaru no Haka''[[/labelnote]] is a 1988 film directed by Creator/IsaoTakahata and produced by Creator/StudioGhibli. It was released theatrically as one-half of a double feature; the other half was the [[MoodWhiplash uplifting]] ''Anime/MyNeighborTotoro''.

The film is based on the short story of the same name written by Akiyuki Nosaka, who based much of the plot on his own childhood in Japan during and after UsefulNotes/WorldWarII. The film begins with Seita dying and reuniting his little sister Setsuko as a ghost and [[HowWeGotHere the two have another look at the last few months of their life]], starting with the loss of their home and their mother in the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Kobe_in_World_War_II 1945 bombing of Kobe]] until Setsuko’s death.

Compare ''Manga/{{Barefoot Gen}}''.

Not to be confused with the 2008 film.

'''Spoilers below.'''

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!!This movie provides examples of:

* AdultsAreUseless: Almost understandable considering the wartime. Even the kind farmer who lends Seita his wagon wishes he could afford to share his rice with Seita.
* AdultFear:
** Losing your home [[spoiler:and both your parents]].
** If you are a parent, [[spoiler:your children dying]].
** Utterly failing those in your care.
* AnimalMotifs: Fireflies. They are mentioned to be short-lived creatures just like the two main characters.
* AuthorAvatar: Seita was this for Akiyuki Nosaka.
* BandageMummy: [[spoiler:The mother]], after being horrifically burned in the first round of bombings. [[spoiler:She doesn’t get better.]]
* BigBrotherInstinct: This is Seita’s defining trait. He’s even willing to steal to look out for his little sister.
* BilingualBonus: Rather than using the typical Japanese kanji for firefly in the title (蛍), the word is spelled out phonetically, with the kanji for fire and something hanging down, like a drop of water from a leaf (火垂). Some people consider this to be a description of fireflies as ‘droplets of fire’, like fireworks (which can symbolize the impermanence of life in Japanese culture), or like the ‘drops of fire’ used to burn Kobe to the ground, or a reference to the tin of fruit drops that serves as a literal and metaphorical grave of the fireflies. Fireflies themselves also symbolize the impermanence of life, and represent souls of the dead (especially due to war).
* BioluminescenceIsCool: The glowing fireflies.
* BittersweetEnding: The ForegoneConclusion. The final shot shows [[spoiler:Seita and Setsuko looking at Kobe after it has been rebuilt]].
* BlushSticker: Setsuko has these, and from time to time they're a source of MoodDissonance. [[spoiler:She loses them as her body grows weaker and thinner from starvation.]]
* BreakTheCutie: Doesn't even ''begins'' to describe what these two kids go through.
* BreakingTheFourthWall: Seita glancing at the audience near the end. [[EverybodyIsJesusInPurgatory Some saw this gesture]] as a massive ThisLoserIsYou message to the Japanese youth at the time. Juvenile delinquency was high, and quite a few film critics concluded this film was made to show them they should be more thankful for what they have. [[{{Jossed}} It wasn't]], though it was easy enough to misread it that way give the period when it was released.
* BrotherSisterIncest: In the original short story, Seita is deprived of all other female company, and Setsuko has to grow up really quickly because of the circumstances, so their relationship develops undertones of this. Thankfully, the film left out this theme. There is, however, a subtle hint in the scene in which he rolls towards her when she sleeping and seems to try to kiss her, which makes her to push him away.
* ChasingAButterfly:
** Seita and Setsuko enjoy chasing fireflies.
** Setsuko chases a dragonfly at one point during the ReallyDeadMontage.
* CheerfulChild: Setsuko, throughout the film. Even when she cries, Seita usually finds a way to cheer her up.
* CherryBlossoms
* [[CoolBigSis Cool Big Bro]]: Seita is this to Setsuko.
* DeathFromAbove: The plot kicks off with bombers flying over the city of Kobe, dropping small incendiary pellets that set everything they touch on fire.
* DespairEventHorizon:
** Despite managing to bury it a lot of the time (see above), Seita crosses this and has to live with it for so much of the movie that one would think that he's a CosmicPlaything.
** Akiyuki Nosaka wrote the short story during a despair event horizon. Seita was his AuthorAvatar, and when his sister starved to death, he "died" as well.
* DiedHappilyEverAfter: At the start of the movie, we see Seita's soul taking a train ride and it ends with the now very long dead siblings going to sleep just outside modern-day Kobe. No explanation is offered as to what this final scene actually means, although it is implied that they're at peace TogetherInDeath.
* DiegeticSwitch: After Setsuko's death, Seita walks by a family who has just returned home to find all their belongings still intact, including their phonograph. They then switch it on to play Amelita Galli-Curci's "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mypgywe49VI Home Sweet Home]]", which becomes the BackgroundMusic for Setsuko's ReallyDeadMontage and eventual cremation.
* DisappearedDad: Seita and Setsuko’s father is away in the navy. Seita tries to write to him, but he gets no response. [[spoiler:The ship that he is shown to be on, Japanese cruiser ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_cruiser_Maya Maya]]'', was a real ship that was sunk in October 1944 with the loss of 479 men. Thus it’s obliquely implied that he died even before the events of the movie.]]
* DoomedHometown: Kobe.
* DoomedProtagonist: The very first words we hear from Seita at the beginning of the film tell us he doesn't make it.
* DownerBeginning: [[HowWeGotHere Seita’s and Setsuko’s hometown is bombed and]] [[spoiler:[[HowWeGotHere their mother killed]]]]. Things only [[FromBadToWorse get worse from there]].
* DueToTheDead: After Setsuko dies, Seita prepares a funeral pyre for her. Also, the wooden box that Seita is seen carrying on the train [[spoiler:contains his mother’s ashes]].
* DyingAlone: Seita in the opening scene. Ironically, he's in the middle of a crowded train station.
* EmpathyDollShot: Setsuko’s doll acts as this at certain points [[spoiler:and is eventually burned along with her corpse]].
* TheFaceless: The Americans are rarely seen, and even more rarely discussed. The war itself is treated as a sort of unending natural disaster the Japanese are trying to survive.
* FatalFlaw: Sympathetic as he may be, [[spoiler:Seita’s pride was the cause of both his and his sister’s deaths]].
* FliesEqualsEvil:
** Averted with the titular fireflies that accomplish to cheer up the two siblings and help to illuminate the bomb shelter.
** Flies equals death in the case of [[spoiler:the mother]]'s maggot-infested corpse and the flies surrounding the body Setsuko finds at the beach.
* FoodPorn:
** Heartbreakingly justified. There are long, lingering shots on much of the food in this movie, whether it be a bowl of soup, a jar of pickled plums, a handful of fruit drops, or a rice ball. When someone is enjoying the thing they’re eating, it’s made very apparent. And this makes perfect sense; when you're starving, ''any'' meal is food porn.
** Right at the beginning of the short story, there’s a bit of stream-of-consciousness blurting out of all kinds of food in the narration (likely influenced by some black-market sales going on nearby), as a delirious and dying Seita begins to fade.
* ForegoneConclusion: The movie opens with [[StartsWithTheirFuneral Seita dying]] and [[TogetherInDeath meeting Setsuko's spirit in the afterlife]]. As the movie [[HowWeGotHere goes back to show their lives]] and their struggle against famine, it's already a given that their efforts aren't going to end well.
* FromBadToWorse: As worse as it can possibly get.
* GoOutWithASmile: Setsuko, heartbreakingly. [[spoiler:In her case, it's because she was suffering from severe malnutrition, to the point where she was delirious. Reduced to eating balls of dirt that she had mistaken for food, she died with a weak smile on her face.]]
* HarsherInHindsight: The movie is bookended by both in-universe and real life examples:
** The opening scene is of Seita's death and his reunion with Setsuko in the afterlife. It's a {{Tearjerker}} to begin with, but once you've actually seen the rest of the movie and realise what they've been through, it hits much, much harder.
** The closing scene is of Seita and Setsuko looking over what was, at the time of the film's creation, modern-day Kobe. A few years after the film was released, Kobe got hit by Japan's worst earthquake since the 1920s, killing over 6,000 people and causing over 10 trillion yen in damage.
* {{Heartwarming Orphan}}s: Seita and Setsuko.
* HeroicBSOD: What happened to Seita after Setsuko’s death.
* TheHeroDies: The ForegoneConclusion.
* HonorBeforeReason: Pride in Seita’s case, but they’re explicitly tied together by the story.
* HopeSpot: [[spoiler:Seita finally bringing food to a starving and delirious Setsuko, who even manages to eat a little bit of watermelon, can count as this.]]
* HowWeGotHere: Opening lines of the film: ‘On the night of September 21st, 1945, I died.’ Shortly after he’s shown reuniting as a spirit with Setsuko. Knowing this ahead of time doesn’t make it any less tragic, though.
* IDieFree: A metaphorical example of this happens with Seita after he dies, since he can now be at peace with his sister and free from the hardship they had to endure.
* IdiotBall: Seita’s repeatedly advised to swallow his pride and go back to his aunt as things keep getting worse, [[HonorBeforeReason which he ignores]] even as Setsuko starts dying.
* IllGirl:
** Setsuko, mainly from starvation.
** Their mother was also implied to have some sort of heart condition - her final line to Seita is to assure him that she has her medicine.
* InfantImmortality: [[spoiler:Averted with Setsuko, who dies of starvation.]]
* {{Irony}}:
** Seita dies alone, in the middle of a bustling crowd of people, all of whom avoid him.
** [[spoiler:Setsuko dies of starvation as Seita is busy preparing a decent meal for her. To add to the irony, she's holding a piece of barely-eaten watermelon in her hand.]]
* JustifiedCriminal: Seita only steals food and clothing because he has no other way to survive aside from going back to their aunt, as everyone tells him to do.
* KansaiRegionalAccent: As dictated by the setting (Kobe). It's not meant to be funny.
* KillEmAll
* KillTheCutie: Poor Setsuko.
* LiveActionAdaptation: A 2005 NTV production released to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the war’s end tells the story from the aunt’s perspective. It makes her a little more sympathetic, giving her a bigger family of her own to look after. It also explains why she became so cold and uncaring (she shut herself off emotionally after the war-related death of her husband). She also has a MyGodWhatHaveIDone reaction to the deaths of Seita and Setsuko, once she learns of them.
* MementoMacGuffin: Averted with the ring that belonged to the children’s mother, which makes one appearance in the film and then is never seen again. Played straighter with their father’s photo, though.
* MissingMom: Seita and Setsuko’s mother [[spoiler:is killed in the bombing of Kobe early on.]]
* MoodDissonance: The ReallyDeadMontage with Setsuko’s spirit/shade/memory shown playing around the pond is bad enough. But when that’s coupled with another family returning home to find literally ''everything'' intact (including the specifically mentioned old record player), and then playing a mournfully sweet rendition of "Home Sweet Home", the scene becomes even more poignant.
* MoodWhiplash:
** This was paired up with ''My Neighbor Totoro'' on both films' original release. They had people walking out after ''Totoro'' if that was shown first, while they stayed (and enjoyed) both if ''Grave of the Fireflies'' was the first shown.
** There are moments of mood whiplash in the movie itself. Sure, the entire thing is bleak, but some parts are happier than others. They could almost make you believe that things are going to end well, if you didn't know how the movie ended at the start.
** There’s also going from this story straight into the incredibly vulgar (although thematically similar) ''American Hijiki'', if you read the book.
* MyGreatestFailure: [[spoiler:Seita’s inability to prevent Setsuko’s death.]]
* NoAntagonist: Only the sibling orphans struggle to survive on their own during WWII.
* OrphansOrdeal: The plot centers around the two kids on the page image.
* PassedInTheirSleep: [[KillTheCutie Setsuko dies]] [[AdultFear of starvation]] [[TearJerker and sickness]] while she sleeps.
-->'''Seita:''' [''in a voiceover''] [[WhamLine She never woke up.]]
* PerspectiveFlip: The [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grave_of_the_Fireflies_%282005_film%29 2005 live action remake]] retold the story from the perspective of the Aunt.
* PleaseDontLeaveMe: Setsuko says this to Seita when [[spoiler:she gets sick]].
* PosthumousCharacter: Both siblings.
* PosthumousNarration: The opening lines from Seita.
* PromotionToParent: Seita tries to act as both mother and father to Setsuko with little success.
* ReallyDeadMontage: An emotionally crippling example, for Setsuko. From the start of the montage (if not a bit earlier) to the end of the movie itself... well, let’s just say [[InelegantBlubbering you’ll need a box of tissues handy]]. It doesn’t help that the montage lasts about 3 minutes, with a sadly sweet rendition of "Home Sweet Home" played in the background... by a family that had come through the war completely unscathed. One of the girls even comments that "Even the old record player’s still here!" And ''then'', just when you think the worst is over, we cut to the cremation.
* RealPlaceBackground: The film featured locations that were accurately based on real locations.[[note]]On the Australian DVD, real life location shots are shown as part of the extras and what became of them.[[/note]]
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: The army officer who rescues Seita from an angry farmer. He realizes that Seita was only stealing to feed himself, and the farmer was overreacting by trying to have him arrested for it.
* ResentfulGuardian: The aunt.
* RomanAClef: The story was based on the author's childhood during and after UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, except in this case, his AuthorAvatar, Seita, dies with his sister, Setsuko. The author had blamed himself for the death of his sister from malnutrition and had written the novel as a way to make amends to her.
* RulesOfOrphanEconomics: The worst-case scenario.
* [[TheRunaway Runaways]]
* SailorFuku: Setsuko is seen wearing a dress like this during a flashback to happier times at the beach.
* SanitySlippage: Setsuko, due to malnourishment and possibly malaria. She starts sucking ''marbles'', thinking they're fruit drops.
* ScareChord: During the bombings.
* SceneryGorn: The destruction of Kobe.
* SocialServicesDoesNotExist: It ''is'' WWII Japan.
* ShootTheShaggyDog: The whole film, but particularly the ending: [[spoiler: Seita withdraws all of his savings to buy food for Setsuko, but she’s already in too poor of a state to recover, and he can no longer use the money to save his own life.]]
* StepfordSmiler: Seita, for Setsuko's sake, [[spoiler:but sometimes even he can't contain his tears, and cries for the first time, when Setsuko tells him that their aunt told her their mother died]].
* StartsWithTheirFuneral: Such as it was, at any rate. The movie opens with Seita's death, and his reunion with his sister in the afterlife.
* SurvivorGuilt: What prompted Akiyuki Nosaka to write the story in the first place. He is not kind to his AuthorAvatar.
* ThereAreNoTherapists: Though this is {{justified|Trope}} by the time and place.
* ThisIsMyStory: The opening line of the movie:
-->'''Seita:''' September 21, 1945. That was the night that I died.
* TogetherInDeath: In the final scene, [[spoiler:the contented spirits / ghosts of Seita and Setsuko happily share a view of Kobe in 1988]].
* TooGoodForThisSinfulEarth: Setsuko, and also Seita to a certain degree.
* TrademarkFavoriteFood: Setsuko's fruit drops. See YourFavorite, below.
* UndyingLoyalty: Seita and Setsuko to each other. This is a literal case, as they are still TogetherInDeath.
* WarIsHell: Oddly enough, the point of the story ''wasn't'' to carry an {{Aesop}} about this, but damn does it hammer the point home anyway.
* WhamLine:
** "On the night of September 21, 1945, I died." [[labelnote: Japanese]]昭和20年9月21日夜、僕は死んだ。 [[/labelnote]] And that's the ''opening line.''
** "Setsuko never opened her eyes again." [[labelnote: Japanese]]節子は、そのまま目を覚まさなかった。 [[/labelnote]]
* UsefulNotes/WorldWarII: The film is set in 1945 Japan, just after the U.S. firebombing of Kobe.
* TheXOfY: ''Grave'' of the ''Fireflies.''
* YourFavorite: Seita brings Setsuko [[TrademarkFavoriteFood fruit drops]] whenever he can get them.

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