Grave of the Fireflies (synopsis - Page 2)

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Synopsis - Chapter Two: Town in Flames

Seita starts to run, with his sister still on his back holding her doll, when suddenly flames burst out of a second floor window on his left, and out the front door of a house on his right, sending pieces of wood flying into the street. Setsuko screams. The flames are so hot that the windows shatter and sliding doors are blown out. All of the buildings around them are in flames, and black smoke billows into the sky. They run as more flaming debris begins falling into the street.


The planes continue their bombing until the sky looks like night because of the smoke. Hundreds of townspeople flee in the opposite direction that Seita is trying to go, either because he's lost or because the shelter his mother was going to is in that direction. Nobody takes notice of the two children, even when they bump into them. It's too difficult, so Seita turns and runs with the crowd, who crowd around beneath bridges and become too jammed with people. Seita takes his sister down a side road, running past more fleeing families and a group trying to douse some flames with a hand-powered water pump. More and more people are in the streets, panicking and tripping and running past the fallen. Horses run scared with flaming carts still strapped to them. The bombing continues right on top of the fleeing citizens, some landing near Seita and Setsuko as they flee towards an as-yet-undamaged part of the city, where only a few people remain, packing up a hand cart. Seita finds his way to the beach and sees that the whole town along the coast is in flames, and more bombers are coming.

Escape from the Fire

Seita carries his sister to a dried up aqueduct or canal and stops between some bunkers. He sits down and unstraps Setsuko, who clings to his arm, trembling. He breathes hard, exhausted. They rest for a moment. A baby cries, and we see a dead soldier face down in a puddle, the flames nearing him. Another is lying dead on his side, his face still wrenched with pain. Surrounded by sandbags, a group of citizens, including the crying baby, huddle together watching the flames around them. A single man carrying a mop and a satchel stands in front of a burned out building, shouting like Don Quixote, "Long live the Emperor! Banzai!" The American planes fly back over the harbor and through the smoke. They are so high they can't make out the people below, only the buildings they are destroying.

Seita watches the last of the planes fly by, holding Setsuko to his chest as if to shield her. When he feels it's safe, he lets go of her. She asks him where their mother is, and Seita tells her that she must be in the shelter, which can take a 250 kilo bomb safely. He stands up and watches people fleeing along a bridge in the distance, beneath a red sky. He can hear the buildings collapsing on the other side of the levy. Seita tells his sister that they'll go to Niponmatsu Station, because that's where their mother will be looking for them. But first, they need to rest a little more, and so he wipes the soot off Setsuko's face. She's lost a shoe along the way, so Seita tells her that he'll buy her a better pair later. Setsuko pulls out her purse and shows Seita all of her own "money": a few yen, some buttons, and a few pretty marble stones like the kind that line the bottom of aquariums. "You're rich," he tells her, and Setsuko giggles.

Black Rain

Suddenly, it starts to rain. "Black rain. . . from the bombing." The rain douses much of what's left of the flames, except some electrical fires on transformers and such. When the rain stops, Seita, with Setsuko on his back again, climbs out of the canal and sees what's left of the town. At first, it appears that only one building remains in the distance, and that everything else has been burned completely to the ground. Smoke is everywhere. Seita turns to his left and follows a path toward another building that has been left standing. He points out the remains of the civic hall to Setsuko, who asks if their house is gone, too. Seita tells her probably, then says, "Dad'll make them pay for this."

The survivors wander around the town, among burned-out street cars and bodies. Some are looking for relatives among the bodies, others are digging up whatever might be saved from the destroyed houses. Some nervously make jokes; others are just thankful they're alive. Seita and Setsuko watch all of this as they walk down the path. They stop near a group of survivors, looking down into the same waterway he and his sister had hid in. There are several bodies; one is obviously a woman. A man examines her, then turns up to some of the group, announcing that the body isn't the person they were looking for: their mother. Setsuko gets down so she can pee in the bushes, and a man on a bike with a megaphone rides down the path, informing everyone that they are to report to the elementary school for first aid services. Setsuko returns, rubbing her eyes. Seita tells her to stop rubbing, looks in her eye, and tells her that they'll get it washed out at the school. "Where's Mama?" she asks, and he tells her she'll be at the school like everybody else. Seita ties the hood around Setsuko, then they leave.

The school looks a little scorched itself, but it has survived, unlike the burnt trees around it. In one room, a group of men, women, and children are talking and sleeping and crying and playing. There are still pictures on the wall that the students had drawn. Outside, lines are forming at a booth where survivors are to check in and receive first aid. Some are carried on the backs of men, others in stretchers.

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