So real quick before I start: Grave of the Fireflies (1988) is universally considered a masterpiece that revolutionized the world of animation and put Studio Ghibli on the map. It's also considered one of the saddest films to have ever been made. With that in mind, let's do this.
Also, if you're so inclined to, feel free to listen to the soundtrack of this film while you read this:
Hey! It's the Studio Ghibli opening intro. Totoro is on there, so this must mean that I'm in for an exciting adventure! RIGHT?
WRONG! Shit gets dark real fast.
He spends his final seconds of life sitting alone in a train station, surrounded by, for lack of a better term, DICKS.
Except for this person who leaves some food for him.
Seita takes one final breath, falls over, and dies.
FLASHBACK! Air raid sirens are going off! American planes are about to hit up Seita and Setsuko's hometown, but they stay behind to bury groceries, while the mom heads over to a bomb shelter.
As Seita and Setsuko run out of their house, hell rains down on the town and shit gets real.
This is what was left of their hometown:
But even in the midst of chaos and destruction, Setsuko still has her innocence intact. Here, she shows Seita just how much money she has.
Seita and Setsuko go to a school for first aid, and eventually find their mom, but she looks...well...not good:
Seita tells his sister that their mom is sick and needs to stay in the hospital. Setsuko understandably loses her shit.
Seita tries cheering her up by doing some Spider-Man acrobatics:
We find out that their mom succumbs to her injuries and dies. Her body is riddled with maggots and flies, proving once and for all that WAR. FUCKING. SUCKS.
They dump her body in a mass grave and set it on fire while Seita watches. They give him his mother's leftover ashes.
Seita and Setsuko move in with their aunt, and all is OK. But Seita keeps lying to his sister about their mother's condition.
Seita goes back to his "home" to dig up the groceries he left behind and...HEY! It's a red candy tin box!
And throughout the film, he uses the fruit drops from the red candy tin box to cheer his sister up when she's feeling down.
And he takes her to the beach because who doesn't like the beach??
But all her happiness comes to a screeching halt when she stumbles upon a random decaying dead body.
At one point, the aunt turns into a total asshole. She takes all their food, forces them to sell their mother's belongings, and calls them "pests." She's just a terrible person.
The aunt eventually gets fed up with her nephews (because she's awful), so Seita and Setsuko peace out and move into an abandoned bomb shelter.
Nevertheless, Seita keeps his sister happy. He collects a bunch of fireflies and lets them loose inside of the bomb shelter.
And then we have this beautiful, heartwarming shot of Seita and Setsuko cuddling with each other as they fall asleep.
The next day, Setsuko digs up a hole and throws a bunch of the dead fireflies inside. Seita asks what she's doing and then she drops this line:
"Auntie told me. She said mama died and she's in a grave now."
We see this horrifying image of the mom being thrown into the mass grave:
And for the first time, at 57:13, we finally see Seita cry.
Time passes, and while Setsuko is still charming as ever, she's starting to show signs of deteriorating health. Her hair is full of lice...
...and her back is looking like absolute shit.
And then, there's this:
One day, Seita gets caught stealing from a sugar cane field, so the farmer beats the shit out of him in front of Setsuko and drags him to the police station, who doesn't know what the hell is going on.
The police let him go, and as soon as Seita walks out, Setsuko is standing there waiting for him. She sees him crying and says this:
And homie breaks down.
One day, Seita comes home to find Setsuko passed out, so he FINALLY takes her to a doctor.
But the doctor simply says, "Weakening from malnutrition...from the diarrhea" and goes on to his next patient. Seita flips out and screams at the doctor because FUCK. THAT. DOCTOR.
But at the same time, Seita isn't doing what's best for his sister. He should go back to his aunt (even though she's the devil), and get his sister some food so she can live.
At the bank, Seita finds out his dad is dead. The Japanese have surrendered, and the Japanese naval fleet is "gone."
He gets back to the bomb shelter, and his sister is sucking on marbles, pretending like their fruit drops.
She tells Seita that she made some rice balls for him. They weren't rice balls. They're just rocks.
Seita quickly cuts up a watermelon and gives her a slice. He tells her that everything is gonna be alright and he's gonna cook up some chicken and rice for her.
And then a chilling voice over:
And then, there's this truly heartbreaking shot of Seita holding his dead 4-year-old sister:
We see a montage, set to a slow and somber opera, of Setsuko happily running around and playing in the abandoned bomb shelter. There are shots of the dishes left behind, the leftover food that was never eaten, and their dead mother's ashes.
Seita prepares to cremate his sister. He places her doll, her blue scarf, and her mini-purse inside the box with her.
But he keeps the red candy tin box.
After Seita finishes burning his sister's body, he leaves the bomb shelter once and for all. We then see the spirits of Seita and Setsuko, sitting on a park bench...happy.
And the final shot of the film is of them looking at modern-day Kobe, the city where all of this mayhem took place.
Share This Article
Keep up with the latest daily buzz with the BuzzFeed Daily newsletter!