It is September of 1945. A sickly-looking young boy dies at the Mitsumiya station in the city of Shingu. A wandering station employee picks up a can that was dropped by the corpse, and when he shakes it, the can makes an odd sound, for placed inside it are bones. Finding no use for it, he tosses the can out. From the fallen can emerge the fireflies, whose chorus tells the story of Seita and his sister, Setsuko...
Grave of the Fireflies ("Hotaru no Hakka") was originally a novel written by Shojo Nozaka based on his personal experiences at the end of the war. The novel provided such vivid details on the horrors of war that in 1992, director Isao Takahata of the famous Ghibli Studio (renowned for its production of Hayao Miyazaki's works) was inspired to animate Nozaka's work.
The firefly is a small and fragile creature whose lifespan is measured by its light. Throughout the film, Takahata uses fireflies as a metaphor for the shortness and fragility of human life. In many ways, Seita and Setsuko are much like those fireflies, for they too shine brightly for a brief moment before fading away.