Tombstone for Fireflies

Japan Release: 1988
Running Time:
89 minutes

Tombstone for Fireflies

Japanese Title

[Hotaru no Haka]

Distributor: Production:

Studio Ghibli / Tokuma Shoten / Shinchosha Company

A young boy, named Seita, is dying of starvation. As a janitor comes across the scene later, he digs through the boy's possessions. Finding a candy tin, which contains the ashes of the boy's sister Setsuko, the janitor tosses it out. As fireflies appear, the spirits of the fallen siblings unite, recounting their story. They reflect how near the end of World War II the firebombings of Kobe occurred. Amidst the attack, the siblings went to secure their house, letting their sick mother go to the bomb shelter before them. Unfortunately, the bombs landed before she made it, fatally injuring her. As she passed on, the pair were forced to live with their aunt, due to their father being drafted in the war. The siblings' aunt, however, cared little for her niece and nephew, treating them cruelly. Eventually, the two escape to live in an abandoned bomb shelter. To light it, they gather and release fireflies into the shelter...


Box Office - Stock Footage - DVDs - CDs - Pictures - Background - Concept Art - Cut Scenes - Reviews


International Title

Tombstone for Fireflies

Initial US Title

Grave of the Fireflies
US Distributor: Pioneer (1993) / Time: 89 Minutes

Alternate Titles

Tombstone for Fireflies
[Literal translation]




Directed by Isao Takahata
Writing credits Akiyuki Nosaka, Isao Takahata
Produced by Toru Hara, Shinichirou Ueda
Music by Michio Mamiya
Cinematography by Nobuo Koyama
Film Editing by Takeshi Seyama
Production Design by Nizo Yamamoto
Assistant Directors Norihiko Suto
Director of Special Effects Kaoru Tanifuji
Seita Tsutomu Tatsumi
Setsuko Ayano Shiraishi
Mother Yoshiko Shinohara
Aunt Akemi Yamaguchi
- Tadashi Nakamura


DVDs and Blu-rays

United States Region 1 Grave of the Fireflies Central Park Media (2002) Order
United States Region 1 Grave of the Fireflies Sentai Filmworks (2012) Order
Japan Region 2 Tombstone for Fireflies Warner Home Video (2000)  
Hong Kong Region 3 Tombstone for Fireflies Intercontinental Video (2015) Order
Australia Region 4 Grave of the Fireflies Madman Entertainment (2004)  
United States Blu-ray Grave of the Fireflies Sentai Filmworks (2012) Order
Hong Kong Blu-ray Tombstone for Fireflies Intercontinental Video (2015) Order

Background and Trivia

  • This film is one of the few from Studio Ghibli where the international title is hard to verify. It would appear that the Shinchosha Company held the international rights for the movie and started to promote it as Tombstone for Fireflies. This is evident in the April 8th, 1992, registration of the movie with the US copyright office by the Shinchosha Company, under the registration number PA0000562016. This filing uses the Romaji title, Hotaru no Haka, and the title Tombstone for Fireflies. On July 27th, 1993, Central Park Media Corporation filed a claim for the movie, using the titles Hotaru no Haka, Tombstone for Fireflies and a new title: Grave of the Fireflies. This new title became the mainstay for most English markets, such as the US, the UK and Australia and is recognized by Studio Ghibli on their website. That said, the original international title continues to be used as well in markets such as Hong Kong and China, such as this website setup by Encore Films for its Singapore release and as late as 2015 by Intercontinental Video in home video releases.
  • Based on the 1967 short story of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka.
  • Theatrically it was double billed with My Neighbor Totoro (1988) in Japan.
  • Two live action adaptations of the movie were made, neither related to Toho. The first was a direct-to-TV movie done by NTV in 2005. The other was by numerous companies, including Bandai and TV Tokyo, and was released in 2008.