During my winter vacation while I was fighting a high fever and a serious chest cold, I watched the movie Hotaru no Haka. Several coworkers and quite a few students mentioned that Hotaru no Haka was a sad cartoon. I listened, but thought to myself “It’s just a cartoon, how bad could it be?” So I watched it. I am here to report that Hotaru no Haka was without a doubt the saddest cartoon I have ever seen in my life! Oh my God! I was already sick…and watching that Ghibli film just depressed me.
Believe or not, Hotaru no Haka (also known as Grave of the Fireflies or Tombstone of the Fireflies) is based on a true story from autobiographical novel “Hotaru no Haka” by Nosaka Akiyuki. The Ghibli film looks at World War II from the Japanese civilians’ perspective. We follow a young man named Seita, his younger sister Setsuko, and members of his family during the final stages of the war. Your heart just goes out to these people in Kobe…they aren’t soldiers, they’re just regular people facing the terrors of war. The constant threat of air raids, the sheer scarcity of the food and supplies we take for granted everyday, the burning of the dead in shallow, open graves…all of it is heart-wrenching.
The film was so powerful because it gives you insight into how tough times must have been for Japanese civilians. The anime is touching because you see young Seita have to grow up far to quickly and face the realities of life and death far too soon.
I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone, so I’ll just say that one saddest moment for me is when you see the flash back and hear the phonograph playing “There’s No Place Like Home.” Of course there are sadder moments, but that’s one I can say without giving up too much.
I highly recommend that you watch this anime because it’s masterfully done, but it’s also incredibly sad (or at least I thought so). If you decide to watch it, have some comedies ready to watch afterwards or make sure you’re in a super good mood before you start watching.
What’s the saddest anime/cartoon you’ve ever watched?