Arguably, the most depressing anime movie you may ever see.
Written and directed by Isao Takahata for Shinchosha, it's an adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novel by the same name written by Akiyuki Nosaka, intended as a personal apology to the author's own sister.
It is a moving story with rather graphic depictions of the suffering that occurred in Japan at the end of World War II.
It tells the history of two young children (Seita and his younger sister Setsuko) who are left on their own after lossing their mother to the firebombings in Kobe.
The movie starts with a dying, starved Seita at Sannomiya Station which is spotted by a janitor. The janitor comes and digs through his things. He finds a candy tin, containing ashes (Setsuko's) and decides to throw them out. From the ashes spring the spirits of both children flying with a group of fireflies which then passes to a flashback that beggins telling the two kid's struggle during that time of their lives, and how they tried to survive by their own in a war-thorn Japan.
At the end of the film, we see the spirits of Seita and Setsuko who are seen sitting side by side, looking down on the modern-day city of Kobe, no longer starved and raggedy and rather peaceful.
Due to the graphic and truly emotional depiction of the negative consequences of war on society and the individuals therein, some critics consider it to be one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever made. Animation historian Ernest Rister compares the film to Schindler's List and says, "it is the most profoundly human animated film I've ever seen." The story is based on the semi-autobiographic novel by the same name, whose author, Nosaka, lost his sister due to malnutrition in 1945 wartime Japan. He blamed himself for her death and wrote the story so as to make amends to her and help him accept the tragedy.
The movie has a running time of total 88 minutes and a live-action film remake was made recently (2005)to conmemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Grave of the Fireflies is a 1988 anime movie written and directed by Isao Takahata based on the 1967 semi-autobiographical novel by Japanese novelist Akiyuki Nosaka by the same name.