The Surprising Similarities Between My Neighbor Totoro And Grave of the Fireflies

Illustration for article titled The Surprising Similarities Between My Neighbor Totoro And Grave of the Fireflies
Screenshot: Studio Ghibli
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In 1988, Studio Ghibli released My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies as a double feature. The Hayao Miyazaki film followed the adventures of two sisters with a mysterious fuzzy friend, while Isao Takahata’s film dealt with two siblings experiencing the horrors of war.


At first glance the movies don’t appear to have much in common. While in both children are seen overcoming hardship—in Totoro the two girls’ mother is in hospital, while in Grave of the Fireflies the hardships are much more grim and relentless—you might not immediately see further connections. Yet these movies certainly are companion pieces.

As Twitter user Kaba-san points out, when you stop each movie at the same times, several scenes seem to resemble each other. These similarities are really quite remarkable.

Have a look:

Even the iconic image of each older sibling carrying their young one while holding an umbrella is a visual echo.

In other ways, the movies are complete opposites. Totoro is, of course, set after World War II, while Grave of the Fireflies is set at the end of it. You and your kids might want to watch Totoro over and over again, but a single viewing of Grave of the Fireflies might be enough for many viewers—unless you enjoy feeling really, really sad.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.


Didn’t Grave of the Fireflies originally show as a double feature with Totoro?