Hotarubi no Mori e (The Light of a Firefly Forest) Movie Review

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What does it feel like to yearn for love, yet be denied of the rights to fall in love?

What does it feel like to yearn for love, yet be denied of the rights to fall in love? When Hotaru falls in love with a Spirit, we are left spellbound by the humble little transcendental tale that slowly blooms before us. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, into the Light of a Firefly Forest where the life of a human and a spirits converges in an entwined destiny, only to be Given and Denied.

  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Genre: Drama, romance, shoujo, supernatural
  • Studio: Brain’s Base
  • MAL score: 8.62
  • IMDb: 8/10.
  • Directed by: Takahiro Omori
  • Rating: G – All ages
  • Mangaka: Yuki Midorikawa
  • Also known as: The Light of a Firefly Forest, Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light

Hotaru loses her way in the forest.

The short premise of the film leaves a hungry yearning for more, yet I feel that its innocent subtlety would have been lost with elaboration. The story begins as a six-year old Hotaru loses her way while playing in the forest at the back of her uncle’s home. As she starts to cry frantically, a solitary existence notices her. Gin, a spirit (for the lack of a better term) produces his helping hand towards her. But alas! He stays shy of humans, for he is charmed by the God of the Mountains to will disappear if a human ever touches him. But the innocence and the charms of a six-year-old girl sways something in him. It’s love at first sight! Thus begins the intertwined destiny of Hotaru and Gin. Bound by love, but separated by existence, we stay spellbound till the very end as this otherworldly tale of bottomless love and inevitable separation unfolds before us. Both of the characters feel their differences, for Hotaru is an urban dweller while Gin stays in the Mountains. Hotaru is a modern girl while Gin is almost primitive in his habits and apparel. Hotaru has a school and daily affairs while Gin — for the most part — is portrayed to be an idler. Hotaru ages continuously, while Gin’s has an eternal youth. Hotaru is human, while Gin is not. In the end, Hotaru fulfills Gin’s longstanding wish of being touched by a human, as the movie rolls into credits.

Gin's wish is finally fulfilled by Hotaru.

Gin’s wish finally fulfilled by Hotaru.

I can only say that the story itself is short, compelling and bittersweet, mirroring the traits of the movie. Throughout the film, time was of a prime essence. Right from the premise, it became clear that thhotarubi-no-mori-e-melancholyey only had limited time for them. And the melancholia of the separation only made life difficult for Hotaru. So Hotaru returns year after year to spend another summer with Gin. Gin, on the other hand worries about the imminent severance. However, we find Hotaru being brave and promising Gin to never forget about him. It is ironic how in the end, only his memories remain. Thus ended the tale of a love that was nipped in the bud — in memories of the dejected lovers.

The art of the movie is brilliant, to say the least. An art befitting unique and peppermint flavor — both sweet and cold — of the story, we find it very detailed and vibrant. All of the characters have been drawn in a style unique to this anime. As expected from a movie that comes from a manga by the creator of famous Natsume Yuujinchou, I findscreenshot_2016-10-01-04-49-44 the art colorful and lively without being ostentatious. It was merry yet sober. The movie was indeed sculpted with an extraordinary precision and passion, that sets a very high bar in terms of neat artwork.

A small movie such as this does not call for lively and flowery sounds. I found the minimalist OST blending in nicely with the minimalist setting. Merry sounds like the chirping of the crickets and sound of the wind filled the setting. The ending song was memorable enough. It was a good song. And I liked it very much. The theme was extremely coherent with the theme of the anime. I can definitely say that my interpretation of summer will never remain the same. (Cross Game had a similar effect.)

Drenched in passion and drowned in ennui after this humble little story, I find the aftertaste and reflections to be more satisfying than what I initially expected. Long have I searched for a movie similar in feels to a Miyazaki. I believe this is one of them. A tiny, trans-human, trans-spiritual tale in a tiny corner of the mountains, in the Light of a Firefly Forest where the live of a spirit and a human once converged in an entwined destiny, only to be severed by fate. And as the curtains falls, Hotaru (Japanese: Firefly) returns through a sea of fireflies, lonely and cold.

I probably won’t be able to look forward to summer for a long time. My chest will hurt. My tears will be overflowing. But this warmth in my hands and these summer memories will live on in my heart — Hotaru


Daniel Defoy

Daniel is a part of our core writing force. (May it be with you.) His writing is in-depth, engaging, and opinion-based. Anyone who reads his smart words is left thinking or arguing. Btw, if we publish his articles without breaking his paragraphs down into smaller chunks, Nihonden will soon be an academic journal of sorts.