The Grave of Fireflies Review by Shahzaib Ikram

  • The Grave of Fireflies

    Review by Shahzaib Ikram

    The grave of fireflies is a masterpiece depicting the sorrow of the American-Japanese war. This film was released in 1988 reliving the bloodiest days during World War 2. The story revolves around a young boy (Seita) and his little sister (Setsuko) who lost their mother in a firebomb attack led by the American Air fleet. The whole of the town was burned to ashes leaving hundreds killed and thousands injured. The films highlight the heartbreaking struggle of two orphans who are left alone, during the days of the war, to fight for their lives against hunger and malnutrition.

    The opening scene of the film shows a young boy laying at a subway station, suffering from malnutrition with a few other people laying in the background as well. The boy dies of hunger and weakness on the spot, remembering his past and calling his name “Setsuko” as his last words. Meanwhile, a genitor nearby is cleaning the floor of the subway station for the welcoming of Americans. The genitor finds the boy dead and a fruit berry can lie beside him. Genitor picked up the can and throws it outside in the dark. In reaction, a lot of fireflies merge out from the grass creating a beautiful scene. Two characters, a young boy and a little girl came out from the dark in the swarm of fireflies. The boy picked up the can and takes a fruit berry out from it and gives it to the girl. This scene of the film depicts the end of the story where the two souls are happy to meet each other after suffering a lot of hardships and cruelty in their lives.

    The film in my opinion is one of the saddest films I have gone through, so far. But a few of the most important lessons we learned from it are:

    • War is deadly not only for soldiers but also for innocent poor civilians.
    • During the war periods human love for others except for family decreases.
    • Crisis brings negativity in humans to fulfill their basic needs.
    • No one is there for you in difficult times especially when you have nothing to offer.


    War is deadly not only for soldiers but also for innocent poor civilians:

    Throughout the movie, the horror of wars on innocent lives is represented in various ways. There are some highly disturbing scenes as well. For example, when Seita’s mother was under treatment in the hospital after a firebomb attack. She was fully covered with bandages all over her body. After she died her body was covered with bad wounds and flies, depicting the lack of medicine and health care during the war period. There was another scene showing, a lot of burned and decomposed human dead bodies pilled over each other giving a sight as if during the war there are so many causalities and a lack of resources that even human remains are difficult to settle. There was another scene where mass burial was shown, bodies were thrown into dumps in an unusual way. All these scenes and many other shows that during wars innocent people are affected the most. According to my opinion war brings destruction and chaos to humanity both directly and indirectly as shown in the film.

    During the war period human love for others (except family) decreases.

    The second lesson that is given through picturization is that during a crisis humans become selfish. The love of others decreases due to a lack of resources and extreme competition to fulfill the basic needs of one’s family. In this movie, many scenes are showing that during war people who are directly affected by war have a great economic, social, and psychological effect on them. This is a fact that when you are not able to fulfill your basic needs you become helpless and, in this state, you become very dangerous as a human. In one of the scenes from this film, we saw that the doctor who was examining Setsuko was very cold-hearted. He was not taking much interest in the poor little girl instead he drew his attention to another patient who was sitting beside the dying girl. Another scene was when Seita was stealing food from a farmer’s crop and was caught by the farmer. The farmer knew that he is stealing for his little sister but cold-heartedly the farmer beat him and took him to the police station. Another scene was the starting scene of the film where a scavenger was cleaning the floor of the subway station and many poor people suffering from malnutrition were laying and waiting for their end but unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of passengers were passing by as if no one is dying before their eyes.

    Crisis brings negativity in humans to fulfill their basic needs.

    In a crisis when we have nothing to serve our loved ones, we are compelled to take such steps which we never had imagined. In this film, Seita also tried his best to give food to her poor little sister but when he failed to fulfill her basic need he took the wrong path to fill her hungry belly. He tried to steal food from a farmer’s crop but was caught and beaten brutally. He also steals various things from houses that were left open during American air attacks so that he may sell them for some food to bring back for her sister who was dying from malnutrition. This shows the hardships of a striving young brother for her sister.

    No one is there for you in difficult times especially when you have nothing to offer.

    It is the bitter reality that we humans are materialistic. we need all the luxuries of life at any cost. This concept is also shown in the movie in various ways. For example, the ant of these two orphans kept them in her house unless they had something to offer. But the moment she realized that they are of no use to her she started scolding them for no reason knowing they are helpless.


    This film is indeed a masterpiece in many ways which I have explained in the above writing.