The Los Angeles Animation Festival, which takes place March 7-11, will have a rare screening of Studio Ghibli’s  火垂るの墓 (Hotaru no Haka/Grave of the Fireflies, 1988, dir. by Takahata Isao) on March 11th. Tickets are at $10 and can be purchased here.

Hotaru no Haka is one of Studio Ghibli’s most heartwrenching productions, and is often described by people as one of the saddest films they have ever seen. It is the sort of animated film that, at this point in time, we are unlikely to ever see made by any of the major animation studios in the West. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel of Nosaka Akiyuki (野坂 昭如), it tells the story of a teenage boy, Seita, and his 4-year old sister Setsuko towards the end of World War II.

The film is still on my own to-watch list, but it’s enough to read just a few lines of Hotaru no Haka plot summaries to know that the film is “an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation” (quote: Roger Ebert):

“The movie begins in Sannomiya Station and portrays Seita, in rags and dying of starvation. A janitor comes and digs through his possessions, and finds a candy tin containing ashes and bones. He throws it out, and from it spring the spirits of Setsuko and Seita, as well as a cloud of fireflies.”

Go watch it – just be sure to bring plenty of tissues.


  • Full programme for the LA Animation Festival: LAAFEST. If you are interested in Japanese animation, take note that there will also be a rare public screening of アキラ (Akira) – the first in many years (in the US, I presume).
  • There is also a 2005 film adaptation of Hotaru no Haka. Also on my to-watch list.