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Grave of the Fireflies Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 14 & under

Japanimation WWII tragedy the saddest. Cartoon. Ever.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that fans of Japanese animation -- heck, fans of all animation -- pretty much agree, this is the saddest cartoon of all time, a potentially traumatic viewing experience. Two sympathetic children sicken and slowly die (and their mother is hideously wounded before her own demise), with the only balm being that the kids' spirits have a tender afterlife reunion. There is a beating, wartime aerial bombardment and gunfire, and other dead bodies are shown, both soldiers and civilians. The larger issues of WWII (like why Americans might be incinerating Japanese villagers) are never discussed. A few minor plot details are best comprehended with a knowledge of Japanese custom and culture (especially funerals!).

  • Families can talk about the way the characters react to the strife of wartime. What might you have done in Seita's place?
  • Why does Seita make the calamitous decision to try and live with Setsuko all on his own?
  • Would this story have been equally as affecting if it had been told using live-action, not animation? What if characters had been grownups, not kids?

The good stuff
  • message true2

    Messages: Melancholy message is about civilians -- especially orphaned children -- being the most helpless and overlooked victims in the chaos of wartime, and the way the two in the story manage to construct a fragile, two-person society all by themselves, out of sibling love, sharing, and innocence. But it doesn't save them.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: Seita's existence (once his parents are lost) seems to revolve around his little sister, but he does show signs of irresponsibility and dangerous inattention, and he turns into a thief and looter to feed the two of them. His aunt scolds Seita for laziness and not doing his share, and she may be right. Other adults seem numbed into states of semi-indifference.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Aerial incendiary barrage kills civilians and leaves charred, dead/dying bodies, bloody wounds, and burns. A fighter plane strafes villages with bullets. Flies buzz around a covered corpse. Seita is beaten.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Not applicable

  • language false0

    Language: Not applicable

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: A brand of Japanese hard candy will go unrecognized by most English-speaking viewers.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not applicable