Grave of the Fireflies (2005 film)

Grave of the Fireflies

Live-action version of Grave of the Fireflies.
Based on Grave of the Fireflies
by Akiyuki Nosaka
Screenplay by Yumiko Inoue
Directed by Tôya Satô
Starring Hōshi Ishida
Mao Sasaki
Nanako Matsushima
Mao Inoue
Tsuyoshi Ihara
Theme music composer Kan Sawada
Country of origin Japan
Original language(s) Japanese
Producer(s) Mamoru Koizumi
Ken Murase
Toshiaki Nanba
Production company(s) Nippon Television Network
Original release
  • November 1, 2005 (2005-11-01)

Grave of the Fireflies is a live-action TV drama of Grave of the Fireflies, made by NTV in Japan. It was produced in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. The drama aired on November 1, 2005. Like the anime, the live-action version of Grave of the Fireflies focuses on two siblings struggling to survive the final days of the war in Kobe, Japan. Unlike the animated version, it tells the story from the point of view of their cousin (the aunt's daughter) and deals with the issue of how the war-time environment could change a kind lady into a hard-hearted woman. It stars Nanako Matsushima as the aunt, as well as Mao Inoue as their cousin.


The film is something of an epilogue; set in 2005, 60 years after the war, it opens at a crematorium in Kobe, just after the aunt, Hisako Sawano, has died at the age of 95. The funeral director comments how a person who lived through the Meiji, Taishō, Shōwa and Heisei eras had finally gone to rest. After the funeral, Natsu (Seita's and Setsuko's cousin), who is now a grandmother herself, sorts through the aunt's belongings with her granddaughter, who unexpectedly finds the metal fruit-drop tin. When her granddaughter asks why the tin is important, Natsu begins to tell her about the family's struggle to survive during the Second World War, and the emotional scars that it left.

In the anime film, Seita's aunt is his father's sister, while in this film, Seita's mother is the first cousin of the "aunt".

Just prior to Seita's death in September 1945, someone let his aunt and cousin know that Seita was still alive, though with no sign of his sister Setsuko and living near the central railway station in Kobe. The aunt and cousin go to the station in hope of finding him, but cannot. However, Seita's cousin finds a janitor, and asks him if he saw "a third-year middle-school student, Seita Yokokawa, from Kobe 1st Middle School", wearing a school cap and with his little sister. This triggers the memory of the janitor, who recalls that the previous night, he and another janitor had seen a dead boy matching Seita's description in a corner of the station. While carrying his corpse to be cremated, a metal fruit-drop tin had fallen from his clothes; thinking it rubbish, the janitor had tossed it into a field.

The aunt locates the tin; while her daughter looks on, she opens it and turns it over. Two small bits of white bone fall into her palm – Setsuko's. The aunt falls silent, while her daughter, who understands what had happened to her cousins, tearfully blames her mother for causing their deaths, and walks away. However, the aunt notices something – under the tin are two small, glowing fireflies. As they fly off, tears come to her eyes. Knowing she is forgiven, the aunt whispers a soft thanks.

It is the 18th year of Showa – 1943. Seita's father, a Captain in the Imperial Navy, privately reveals to him that the war is going badly for Japan, telling him that he must now look after the family as he will soon be deployed, and that he is willing to die in the Emperor's service. Seita gives his father his assurance, and his father promises that Japan will win the war despite the current situation. Meanwhile, his uncle, Genzo Sawano, a carpenter, has been drafted into the army, and his aunt is trying to hold back her tears at his departure.

After the departure of both husbands, Hisako and Kyoko bump into each other; they spend the day together and Hisako gives Setsuko a tin with candy fruits. Hisako and Kyoko agree to try to help each other out while both their husbands are away.

As time progresses, an ever-increasing number of people are forced to deal with bombing raid and worsening shortages of food. On the day of the Kobe city firebombings, Seita is burying food in his yard. Kyoko leaves to go to the bomb shelter as Seita and Setsuko soon follow. Both Seita and Setsuko are caught in the middle of the bombing but escape unharmed and Setsuko loses one of her sandals. After the bombings, they go to a school where doctors are giving medical attention to those hurt. As they arrive at the school, Hisako meets both of them outside and says that Kyoko was injured. He goes to see her while Hisako watches Setsuko. Inside, Seita finds his mother wrapped in bandages, the doctor says one of the bombs got into the shelter and went off. She dies soon after.

Hisako takes Setsuko home with her while Seita stays for the evening. He is given an urn with his mother's ashes in it. He returns to Hisako's house where he says that he will now be responsible for taking care of Setsuko, even though Hisako thinks he should go to school and she will watch Setsuko. Seita writes his father and tells him about the death of his mother and that he and Setsuko and staying with their aunt. He gives Setsuko their mother's jade ring, which Setsuko treasures, and wears on a necklace.

As food rations are dropping, Hisako starts to worry about how she will feed her children and nephew and niece. She then sells her Kimonos for money and is chastised for taking in two other children and how they don't help in time of war. As she is walking home. She gets word that her husband was killed in action, in a jeweled death. As she and her children grieve over his death, Seita tells her that she should feel happy and that his death has meaning; Hisako does not take this lightly. At night, her son is suffering from asthma; Setsuko starts crying. Hisako then leaves to try to find a doctor.

The next day, as they are eating, Seita and Setsuko are only served soup with no rice; they continue to get served very little while her children get plenty. During another bombing, Seita and Setsuko take refuge in an abandoned bomb shelter, seeing the bombing from a distance, it reminds them of a fireworks show they saw some years ago.

Hisako gets on to Seita about leaving on his own during the bombing and how he should start to help by letting Hisako sell his mother's jade ring for rice; Seita is hesitant at first but gives her the ring. Setsuko is very upset and gets mad at him for selling the ring.

Hisako continues to feed Seita and Setsuko very little, even making them start to provide their own water. Natsu chastises her mother for how she is treating them but Hisako ignores her. Seita and Setsuko leave and go to live in the shelter. Hisako says nothing but lets them go.

While at the shelter, Seita entertains Setsuko by having fireflies inside. The following morning when she buries them, she tells Seita that she knows their mother was killed; Seita assures Setsuko that Japan will win the war and their father will return to them.

Meanwhile, Hisako's brother-in-law, Yoshie, gives her some money and leaves her home. Seita and Setsuko begin to starve and Seita resorts to stealing food; Natsu witnesses the theft and is shocked; when the farmer catches him and asks if she knows him, she makes no comment and Seita leaves in shock with Setsuko. Setsuko becomes ill and when she is taken to the hospital, the doctor does very little to help.

During another bombing, Seita breaks into a shop and steals food but is caught by the store owner and taken to the police. After the bombing, Hisako comes to get him and is warned that if he does it again, she will be held responsible. As they are walking, Seita tries to explain his actions but Hisako tells him that she cannot feed them properly, Seita then runs away in anger back to the shelter where he breaks down and Setsuko comforts him.

The following morning, Setsuko is eating marbles, thinking they are fruit drops. Seita decides use the remaining money he has and buy her food. An announcement is made by the emperor about the surrender of Japan; while Natsu is shocked by this announcement, Hisako goes to cook. When Seita hears the news, he also hears that the imperial fleet was wiped out as well, knowing his father has died in the process. At the shop, the store owners throw him out but he begs them to sell him food.

He returns to the shelter to cook some food only to find out that Setsuko has died. Meanwhile, Natsu and Hisako go to find them; they find the shelter they have been living in and are shocked to see how they have been living. Seita takes Setsuko to the top of a hill and places her body in straw casket and cremates her, he then takes some of her bones and places them in the candy tin. After this he goes to the railway station in Kobe, and dies.

Following this flashback, both Natsu and Hisako leave the station, Natsu goes to the bridge where they saw fireflies the first time. Nastu feels guilty for what they did to them, but Hisako slaps her only to say that the real war has begun. After the war, Hisako and her children moved to Tokyo to start a new life and a law was passed to protect orphans affected by war.

In the present day, Natsu and her granddaughter are on the same bridge she was on years ago and Natsu reflects on how the war changed everyone; she takes out Setsuko's remains and throws them into the river. Two fireflies then fly away, symbolizing Seita and Setsuko.


The drama is liberal in deviating from the original work. The author will be grateful if my novel, being adapted now, 60 years after the war, could convey the brutality of wars, even just a little bit, to the people living in the present days.

—Akiyuki Nosaka[1]

Commenting on the dramatization, Akiyuki Nosaka noted that the drama was liberal in deviating from his original work but also said that he would nevertheless remain thankful if it could convey the brutality of wars to the people of the present days.[1]



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