I had heard about the greatness of this anime thousand times but I never believed it til I finally watched it with my own eyes. it's definitely worth to be listed in my Best Anime Movies of A-Life-Time. I gave 2 thumbs up for this anime, though made in the year 1988 it has a high quality for graphics and story. Definitely, it's one of the best classic anime I ever watched.
It began on September 21, 1945. The night when Seita died. He was one of the homeless postwar casualties who tried to survive with his lonesome. His body was found lifeless by a cleaning service man. Seita carried nothing with him but an empty fruits drop can where he kept some of her sister's ashes. Before he died, he called his sister's name as his last wish, Setsuko. And his wish is granted, Seita finally rejoined with her lil sister, Setsuko, along with the spirits of dead fireflies. Then they travel together by subway train, eating fruit drops and memorize their lifetime.
Back in the World War 2 when Seita and Setsuko still alive. In the neighborhood where they lived, the air raid siren is sounding. Everyone was trying to run as fast as they can to the shelter. In Seita's house, he's busy burying some food into a huge jar under the ground for save. Her mother left first to the shelter, realizing not that it would be their last time together. Seita carried her sister on his back, but he was too late because the air raid had started. Seita runs anywhere save to go and finally ended up in the beach, there they rest a while to breathe. When the air raid finally over, Seita took his sister up and sees that everything was ruined to the ground, including their house. Seita and Setsuko went to the last shelter, an elementary school building. Setsuko asked about her mother and Seita said that they will see her in the school. And he was right but her mother was terribly wounded that she never open her eyes anymore. Seita thinks it'll be wiser not to tell Setsuko about the tragic because she's still a kid, so he kept his mother's death in silence and tells Setsuko that her mother's in the hospital.
Because now they are homeless and orphan, since their mother died while their father's on duty in Japanese Navy, they decided to see their far aunt in Ninoshimiya. They were welcomed somehow regarding to their tragic condition. They feel glad, at least they have a place to lay their heads. Seita went to his old home which remained ruins after the air raid, to find the jar where he buried the food. He found it in proper condition, including his sister fave, fruit drops. They spend their lazy days in their new residence, playing and watching the fireflies. Once upon a day, Seita took her sister to the beach, their fave leisure place. On the journey, they found that now all the ruins had been ridden and the land is used to plant vegetables. As soon as they arrived in the beach, they jump into the water. Setsuko was so happy that she called the sea as a giant bathtub. They run along the shore, and suddenly Seita remembers to the time before war began. They went to the beach and made a sand castle, then their mom called them to eat. It was unforgettable moment that only remain as memory.
Since everything is rationed due to war, Seita's aunt ask him to trade some of his mother's kimono. At least they could get some rice to eat. But Setsuko cried out, she won't let her mom's kimono traded for rice or anything else. Hearing Setsuko's wail, Seita remembered to the moment when the sakura blooms and falls last spring. They were four, together with their late mom and dad, taking picture. Everything was too beautiful. However, reality bites, Seita still have to sell her mom's kimono in order to survive. Soon when they enjoy the white rice, Setsuko no longer weep about her mom's kimono.
Living under someone's roof, though it's our own relatives, is never been like home. So do Seita and Setsuko, their aunt starts scolding about their so-called lazy behavior. She told Seita to start earning his own life because everyone's struggling for the nation (Japan). Unable to accept his aunt's scolding any longer, Seita decided to move with Setsuko to the shelter where they usually hid. It was a sturdy place with 2 caves nearby the lake. However, they seem to enjoy that place much more than their aunt's house. Then they start moving, taking all their belonging, with joy. It was a fair and lovely day when they begin to live together in their new 'house'. Since they don't have lamp, they collect fireflies and bring it into the house. It radiates like stars and makes Seita remembered to the night when he came to the naval parade with his dad. Then they fell asleep by the fireflies' glow. The next morning Seita finds his sister was digging and asks what she's doing. Setsuko said that she made a grave for the dead fireflies and also her mom. Seita was surprised because he though he hadn't told Setsuko about their mom's death. Setsuko said that she knew it from her aunt, then asked innocently, "Why do fireflies die so soon?". Seita was speechless, unable to reply.
Then the fair days gone by and by... Seita and Setsuko find it's more difficult to get food. They start asking for rice to the neighboring farmer but he refused and told them to apology and return to their aunt. However, Seita would rather to ask someone else than return to his scold aunt. Hopeless to get food, Seita decided to steal some crops on his journey. He knows it's against the law, but for the sake of his life and Setsuko, he have to do it. Setsuko, who was only a lil girl, not knowing yet about law, helps her brother carrying potatoes. However, no matter how smart a squirrel jumps, she will fall. One night when Seita is stealing crops, he got caught by the farm owner and was beaten horribly. Setsuko sees her brother being beaten and taken away by force, but she could do nothing but crying out her brother's name, "Oniichan!" Seita then was taken to the police with wounds all over his body. The farmer wants him to be punished but the police man threats him that what he had done to Seita is an assault. Unexpected by the answer, the farmer withdraws. Setsuko loyally waits for him outside, and watching her sister's sincerity he cried. Realized he had made Setsuko worried and also put her into danger. He felt so sorry.
After stealing crops ended in a tragic way, Seita decided to do something else. This time he uses the chance to, again, steal foods and kimono when people were busy running out of their houses during the air raid. Surely is a dangerous attempt but he's ready for any risks. Couple times he came back alive and success. One day, after unsuccessfully tried to sell kimono, Seita returns back home only to find Setsuko lays faint on the ground. He was too scared to find out whether Setsuko is still alive or not, but when Setsuko opens her eyes heavily, Seita was filled with joy.
Setsuko is sick because of diarrhea, and Seita took him to the doctor. It's clear now that Setsuko suffered malnutrition and there's no medicine but feed her with nutritious meals. On the way home, Seita carried Setsuko in his arms and told her gently that he will withdraw some of his money to buy a lot of delicious food for her. But Setsuko weeps, begging him not to leave her alone again. She said, "You can have the money, I don't need anything, I just want oniichan to be with me. Please don't leave me alone." Touched by her sister's cry, Seita huged her tight and promised not to leave her, not ever again. Then Seita went to withdraw some of his money to buy food. In the bank he heard that Japan had been defeated. Unbelieving of what he heard, he can't stop thinking about his father in the navy. Is it why the letters he sent never been replied? His father is already passed away before he even realized it. Ruined, Seita walking way back home with the bad news only to find his sister dying. Seita gave her a little piece of watermelon and promised to make her rice and eggroll. Setsuko, with her last strength, thanked to her brother then fell asleep. But she never woke up again.
The rain falls like millions of bullet to the ground. Seita hugs his sister's body in silence. He had lost everyone, his mom, his dad and now, his beloved sister. The next morning he bought charcoals for the cremation. He collected all her sister's belongings such as the doll, wallet and the one and only clothe she had. Seita put her sister into a straw basket with all her belongings, except the fruits drop can. Then the flame burns it all to ashes. Seita put some of Setsuko's ashes into the can and keep it with him. He never return to the shelter again. The shelter that witnessed their lives, the place where Setsuko spent her last days. Back to the present, the spirit of Seita and Setsuko sat down on a hill together. Setsuko looks so happy to be with Seita again. She smiled to her brother joyfully, and Seita told her gently that it's the time to sleep. Setsuko nodded and laid her head on Seita's cradle. Seita is watching the town where he used to live and once ruined to the ground, now has become a town of lights.
Post Note from Inumako ]