Education About Asia: Online Archives

Grave of the Fireflies and Japan’s Memories of World War II

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“September 21, 1945 . . . That was the night I died,” says the spirit of Seita, a fourteenyear-old boy, at the beginning of the 1988 animated film, Grave of the Fireflies.1 The movie opens in a train station in Kobe, Japan. Orphaned and alone, he lost his family and home during the firebomb raids, and he finally succumbed to weakness and delirium caused by slow starvation. The boy dies clutching his only possession, a small candy tin that had become his four-year-old sister’s funeral urn. Seita spent his last days trying to care for his sister Setsuko, but he was unable to keep her alive, and with her passing, he lost the will to persevere. The movie then flashes back to the beginning of the story and recounts, through Seita’s eyes, the tragic events that brought the children to this end. Their story provides a window into the troubled and chaotic world that existed in Japan during the final months of World War II.

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