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Manga / Hotarubi no Mori e

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"I first met him when I was six years old. On a scorching hot summer day, in the forest that legend says is home to many spirits and monsters, I got lost. I ran everywhere, trying to find the way out, and I quickly got tired. Because of fear and loneliness I began to cry, and then... He appeared."
—Hotaru Takegawa

Hotarubi no Mori e, which translates to Into the Forest of Fireflies' Light in English, is a manga containing several one-shots by Yuki Midorikawa. The main story (the second chapter of the manga) was adapted into an anime film in 2011.

Six-year-old Hotaru Takegawa (Ayane Sakura) is visiting her grandfather's house over the summer when she gets lost in the Yamagami Forest and meets a youkai named Gin (Kōki Uchiyama). Gin and Hotaru develop a fast friendship—with Hotaru visiting Gin every summer from when she is a child to when she begins attending high school—and this friendship eventually blossoms into love. However, Hotaru is carefully reminded by Gin, as well as the other youkai that dwell in the forest, not to touch him because his curse: if Gin is touched by a human, then he'll disappear forever.

The other one-shot stories are Overhearing a Flower Song, The Following of Autumn Leaves, and Deepening the Scar. They, along with Into the Forest of Fireflies' Light, each notably represent a season.

The anime film adaptation is directed by Takahiro Omori and is produced by Aniplex and Brains Base.

Hotarubi no Mori e (the main story) contains the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The anime film depicts a present day, teenage Hotaru narrating the events of her childhood while she's on her way to her grandfather's house, Hotaru's home life (both at home and when she's staying with her grandfather) is shown, and Hotaru's moments with Gin are expanded.
  • Amusing Injuries:
    • Six-year-old Hotaru is often a victim of this. Gin hits her with a log whenever she tries to hug him, as she often forgets that she's not supposed to, and she is later hit by her grandfather for running off into the forest and worrying him.
    • When Gin surprises Hotaru by being awake a moment after she removes his mask, she hastily shoves the mask into his face, hurting him.
  • Anachronic Order: In the anime film. It begins with a present day Hotaru on her way to her grandfather's house in the summer and then goes through her time spent with Gin from a child to a teenager while her present day self is briefly shown in-between.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: While Gin is asleep, Hotaru takes the opportunity to remove his mask and see his face. Subverted in that Gin was pretending to sleep, and when he opens his eyes, she quickly slams the mask back onto him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Gin accidentally touches a human and disappears, but not before Hotaru and he can finally touch and embrace each other. The youkai thank Hotaru; they wanted to stay with Gin forever, but they know that Gin has always wanted to touch humans. And though Hotaru will be unable to look forward to summer anymore and is saddened over Gin's loss, she will remember Gin's touch, her memories with him, and will be able to move forward.
  • Blessed with Suck: Gin reveals that he is not a youkai but was originally a human child abandoned in the forest by his parents. He was found by Yamagami, whose magic keeps Gin alive when he should have died as a child. This magic, however, prevents him from going to Heaven or touching humans (in fear of disappearing), as well as keeping him stuck on Earth like a ghost.
  • Cuddle Bug: Six-year-old Hotaru tries to be affectionate to Gin with hugs and cuddles, but she only gets reprimanded by him in the process. By the time Hotaru enters high school, she doesn't try to hug Gin anymore, having already learned her lesson. However, there is an exchange between them where she playfully considers it. And by the end of the film, they finally get that hug.
    Hotaru: [after Gin says that he'll protect her] When you say things like that, I just want to pounce on you.
    Gin: That would make me really happy. I'm telling the truth.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Hotaru's grandfather mentions that when he was younger several kids thought they saw a festival in the forest before Gin tells Hotaru about it.
    • When Gin takes Hotaru to the Summer Festival of Monsters, he tells her that monsters pretend to be humans and sometimes a few humans slip into the festival, and no one can tell the difference. Gin ends up accidentally helping a human boy and is forced to disappear in the end.
  • Hates Being Touched: Gin has always wanted to touch humans, but the fear of disappearing prevents him from doing so. During their third summer together, Gin nearly tries to catch Hotaru when she falls off of a tree before stopping himself and remembering that he shouldn't.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Hotaru. It is implied in the manga, but it is shown more explicitly in the anime film.
  • Holding Hands: Gin and Hotaru are unable to physically hold hands because of Gin's curse, so they find ways around it (e.g. holding each end of a log, wrapping a long piece of cloth around their wrists). During the winter while Hotaru attends junior high school, a male classmate of Hotaru's holds her hand while they're walking so she won't slip on the ice. This gesture only makes her think of Gin.
  • I Will Wait for You: Gin waits at the Yamagami Forest shrine gate every summer to meet with Hotaru. However, it eventually reaches to a point where Hotaru considers living closer to the forest after graduation so she can see Gin everyday, and Gin tells Hotaru that he can't wait for summer anymore and wants to be near her. This causes Hotaru to realize that next summer, Gin might not be waiting for her at the shrine gate. She's right.
  • Invisible Parents: Because most of Hotarubi no Mori e takes place during Hotaru's summer visits to her grandfather's house, her parents aren't shown in the manga. In the anime film, her mother appears in the beginning of the anime film, and both of her parents appear briefly while she's at home during junior high.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • Gin and other youkai in the Yamagami Forest constantly remind Hotaru not to touch Gin or he'll disappear; Hotaru often forgets this and is hit by Gin whenever she tries to hug him. The reminder only sticks in Hotaru's head once she falls out of a tree and Gin nearly catches her before remembering what'll happen if he does. Hotaru, realizing Gin could have disappeared, then reminders Gin not to touch her and starts crying.
    • Gin holds onto a log and lets a six-year-old Hotaru hold onto the other end so she won't get lost. She remarks that it's like a date, and he replies, "What an insipid date." Years later, when Gin takes Hotaru to the Summer Festival of Monsters and wraps a cloth around their wrists so Hotaru won't get lost, she says the same thing as before. Only this time, Gin replies, "It is a date."
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Hotaru means "firefly" and her name is also a part of the manga's title.
    • Gin means "silver." Naturally, he's a white-haired guy.
  • Memento MacGuffin/Tragic Keepsake: Gin gives Hotaru his mask, and it is one of the few things that remain after he disappears.
  • Motif: Butterflies, seasons, and the ability to touch.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Hotaru reacts with delight, rather than dread, when she learns that Gin is a monster, and she later gets excited when she encounters a fox spirit that initially tries to scare her.
    Hotaru: [after seeing the fox spirit] That's so cool! It's my first time meeting a monster!
    Gin: What do you take me for?
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: During the Summer Festival of Monsters, Gin helps a young boy who nearly trips while playing with his friends. The boy turns out to be a human, which causes Gin to disappear.
  • Parental Abandonment: Gin's parents abandoned him in the Yamagami Forest when he was a child.
  • Vague Age: Gin. Physically, Gin is a teenager, but he doesn't age at the normal rate of humans because of Yamagami's magic and it is unknown how long he's been kept alive by Yamagami.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Though Gin was originally a human, Yamagami's magic seems to prevent him from aging at a normal rate. He's a child when Yamagami and the other youkai find him, but by the time Hotaru meets him, Gin is physically a teenager. Hotaru notes that Gin looks the same whenever she visits him and realizes that one day she'll eventually grow older than him.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Gin meets Hotaru when she is a child and (given their physical age difference) they have a relationship that's somewhere between friendship and Like Brother and Sister, but as Hotaru grows up and the gap between them lessens, they eventually fall in love with each other.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Hotaru is aware that someday she will grow physically older than Gin and time will eventually separate them, but until then, she wants to spend as much time with him as possible and even considers moving near the forest after graduating from high school so she can see him every day.

The other one-shot stories contain the following tropes:

  • Brother–Sister Incest: Between Sou and Ritsu, who develop an attraction towards each other and are unable to regain their sibling relationship after eight years of separation. Because of this, Sou decides to leave after he graduates.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Kaede and Tsubaki. Shima thinks there's something between Fujimura and Mikako, which may or may not be true (or at the very least is one-sided on Fujimura's part), but Mikako turns out to have a boyfriend.
  • Children Are Innocent: A big factor in Deepening the Scar is that Sou and Ritsu start off as innocent when they are children, but because they are separated for eight years and grow up apart from each other, they grow attracted to each other when they are finally reunited and realize that they aren't as "innocent" as they used to be and cannot go back to the way things were when they were children.
  • Declaration of Protection: Initially gender-flipped between Kaede and Tsubaki, but it eventually becomes a two-way street.
  • Delinquent: Fujimura comes off as this with his intimidating physical features and tendency to pick fights.
  • Disappeared Dad: After a fight, Ritsu's and Sou's father decides to leave. Sou goes with their father, and Ritsu stays with their mother.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Tsubaki comes to the conclusion that Kaede may not want her defending him, as it only wounds his pride. Kaede seems feel more concerned with the fact that Tsubaki isn't treating friendship on equal terms and that he's unable to protect her.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Subverted in Overhearing a Flower Song. Played straight in The Following of Autumn Leaves and Deepening the Scar.
  • Important Haircut: Ritsu cuts her hair short like it was when she was a child in an attempt to regain her sibling relationship with Sou. It doesn't work.
  • Ninja: Tsubaki always wanted to become a ninja to protect Kaede. She eventually learns that protecting Kaede might not be the best thing (as she feels that it might wound his pride), but she ultimately decides to continue it nevertheless in order to be by his side.
  • Solomon Divorce: In Deepening the Scar. Sou left with their father while Ritsu stayed with their mother. The parents eventually get back together, but the eight year separation leaves repercussions for Sou and Ritsu.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The letters that Sou and Ritsu have written to each other as children. Sou and Ritsu both keep these letters and have a moment where they tease each other for writing corny things (e.g. "Onii-chan, I'm really lonely. Please come back soon." "Ritsu, even though it's really cold here, everyone is warm and kind."). They eventually becomes a Tragic Keepsake for Ritsu once Sou goes away after graduation and leaves behind the letters Ritsu had given him.