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Elaine Vermeulen
Elaine Vermeulen


Hotarubi no Mori e: A Beautiful and Bittersweet Anime Movie

Hotarubi no Mori e, also known as To the Forest of Firefly Lights, is a 2011 anime movie based on a manga by Yuki Midorikawa. It tells the story of a young girl named Hotaru and her friendship with Gin, a mysterious boy who lives in a forest of spirits and can disappear if he is ever touched by a human. The movie explores the themes of love, loss, and the passage of time in a captivating and emotional way.

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Plot Summary

The movie begins with Hotaru, a six-year-old girl who visits her grandfather's house in the countryside every summer. One day, she gets lost in the nearby forest and meets Gin, a masked boy who claims to be a spirit. Gin tells her that he has been living in the forest for a long time and that he cannot leave or touch any human, or else he will vanish. Despite this, he decides to help Hotaru find her way back home. Hotaru is grateful and promises to visit him again.

As the years go by, Hotaru and Gin develop a close bond and spend every summer together in the forest. They play games, explore the woods, and watch the fireflies that light up the night. However, they also face challenges and dangers, such as other spirits who do not approve of their relationship, and humans who might discover Gin's existence. Moreover, Hotaru grows older while Gin remains the same age, creating a gap between them. They realize that their time together is limited and precious, and they struggle to express their true feelings for each other.


  • Hotaru Takegawa: The main protagonist of the movie. She is a kind-hearted and curious girl who befriends Gin in the forest. She is loyal to him and visits him every summer, even when she becomes a teenager. She develops romantic feelings for Gin, but is afraid of losing him if she touches him.

  • Gin: The deuteragonist of the movie. He is a mysterious boy who wears a mask and lives in the forest of spirits. He was once a human child who died in an accident and was revived by the forest god, but at the cost of his ability to touch any human. He is lonely and bored until he meets Hotaru, who becomes his first and only friend. He also falls in love with her, but is unsure of how to handle his emotions.

  • Hotaru's Grandfather: A minor character who owns a house near the forest where Hotaru stays every summer. He is kind and supportive of Hotaru, but does not know about her friendship with Gin.

  • Keshi: A minor character who is one of the spirits that live in the forest. He is a young boy who wears a straw hat and rides a fox. He is friendly with Gin and Hotaru, and often joins them in their activities.

  • Spirit Festival Committee: A group of minor characters who are responsible for organizing the annual spirit festival in the forest. They are composed of various types of spirits, such as masks, lanterns, umbrellas, and dolls. They are wary of humans and do not trust Gin's relationship with Hotaru.


The movie explores several themes that resonate with the viewers, such as:

  • Love: The movie depicts the love story between Hotaru and Gin, who overcome their differences and limitations to be together. Their love is pure, innocent, and sincere, but also fragile and doomed. The movie shows how love can bring joy and pain, hope and despair, life and death.

  • Loss: The movie portrays the inevitability of loss and separation in life. Hotaru and Gin know that they cannot be together forever, as they belong to different worlds and have different fates. They also face the possibility of losing each other at any moment, due to their forbidden contact. The movie illustrates how loss can affect people's lives and memories.

  • Time: The movie reflects on the concept of time and how it affects people's relationships. Hotaru and Gin experience time differently, as Hotaru ages normally while Gin remains unchanged. They also have different perceptions of time, as Hotaru feels that time passes too quickly while Gin feels that time stands still. The movie demonstrates how time can create distance and change between people.


The movie received critical acclaim and positive reviews from both critics and audiences. It won several awards, such as the Animation of the Year Award at the 2012 Tokyo Anime Award Festival, and the Best Animated Film Award at the 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival. It also ranked as the #1 anime movie of all time on MyAnimeList, a popular anime database website, with a score of 8.88 out of 10.

Where to Watch

The movie is available to watch online on various streaming platforms, such as Bilibili , Netflix, Crunchyroll, and YouTube. However, some of these platforms may require a subscription or a payment to access the movie. Alternatively, the movie can be downloaded from various websites, such as AnimeFreak, AnimeHeaven, and AnimeUltima. However, some of these websites may contain viruses or malware that can harm your device. Therefore, it is recommended to watch the movie from a trusted and legal source.


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