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Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies (火垂の墓 Hotaru no Haka) (1988) is an anime (animated) movie written and directed by Takahata Isao for Studio Ghibli. It takes place during the end of World War Two in Japan. Two young children, Seita and his baby sister Setsuko, who lost their mother in the firebombing of Kobe, try to make a living in the famine which followed the war. The film is an adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by NOSAKA Akiyuki.

Although about a period including the American occupation after the war, this movie is more about the destruction of families in war and the callousness and indifference to suffering that war can cause, than about the war itself. There is very little about the war or Americans in this movie; the main story is about the relationships surrounding the children who are the two main characters. It is a very moving story with rather graphic depictions of the suffering which occurred at that time.

This movie gives an excellent view into Japanese culture, where the needs of the individual are less important than the needs of the family and the nation.

This film is also noteworthy for its excellent artwork and animation.

About the title

In the Japanese title of the film the word hotaru (firefly) is written not with its usual kanji (蛍) but with the two kanji 火 (hi: fire) and 垂 (tareru: to dangle down, as a droplet of water about to fall from a leaf). This is intended to evoke images of fireflies as droplets of fire and also of the rain of fire which destroyed Kobe.

Japanese nouns do not conjugate to form plurals, so hotaru can refer to one firefly or many. It may be that Setsuko is the "firefly" of the title. If so, A Grave for a Firefly. Or to maintain the lack of distinction over plurals, Firefly Grave could also be used.

Fireflies are a symbol of death in Japanese culture.

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