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The GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES Poster Hides a Depressing Surprise

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Studio Ghibli hitting the big time. Both Hayao Miyazaki‘s My Neighbor Totoro and Isao Takahata‘s Grave of the Fireflies were released on April 16, 1988, in what can only be described as the most heavy-hearted double feature in the history of cinema. Fireflies might well be the saddest film I’ve ever seen, with its depiction of a brother and sister trying to make it through World War II as their country is bombed regularly by the U.S. It doesn’t end well, let’s just say. In fact, Kotaku has shared that even the movie’s theatrical posters veer toward the depressing, which we never ever noticed before!

So the Japanese poster for the movie is gorgeous, first of all, and appears to depict lead characters Seita and Setsuko enjoying an evening of playing with fireflies, yes?

Well that’s just what they wanted you to think! If you look at the top portion of the poster, there’s some interesting dead space…

And if you change the color and brightness, you can see a shape…

Yup, that’s the shadow of a B29 bomber overhead, in case you thought there was anything remotely happy going on in the movie.

And somehow it gets worse… Now that we know there’s a bomber overhead, let’s look at those “fireflies” again.

Some of those lights are definitely fireflies, round and bright and shiny. But some of them look like they’re falling in a left-to-right configuration, and are bomb-like. Dark, but so’s the movie, really.

Part of me wonders if Studio Ghibli decided the poster was too depressing or ominous right away and so changed the color scheme to mask the bomber, or if this is how they always meant it and it just took us 30 years to realize Grave of the Fireflies was a lot more than a simple animated feature.

Let us know your thoughts on the sadness of life in the comments below!

Image: Studio Ghibli

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He’s the writer of Studio Ghibli retrospectives Miyazaki Masterclass, Takahata Textbook, and Ghibli Bits. Follow him on Twitter!

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