Day 9: Growing Up Is A Lot Like Getting Lost In The Forest

This is Day 9 in #12DaysofAnime, however it is not coming out on Day 9. Life is insignificant. We’re all spiraling towards our inevitable deaths with lives full of pain, sadness and misery. Nothing matters anymore except the void where my heart should be. My one refuge, 12 Days of Anime, I let it down. Now nihilism is the only answer.

Or you could just read the article…whatever…

I was struggling so hard to come up with a post for today. I had originally planned to discuss the problems with entitlement by using Re;Zero as a case study. It didn’t work out so well, largely because I felt I was forcing the argument to fit, which didn’t sit well. This then left me in a scramble to find new ideas to write about. Eventually I decided looking back was too challenging, so rather than reflecting on what I’ve already seen, I decided to watch something entirely new to me. That anime would happen to be Hotarubi no Mori e or The Light of a Firefly Forest.

A short film that is one part romance and another part tragedy, Hotarubi tells a coming of age story through the confines of someone who never grew up. The story opens with a young girl by the name of Hotaru getting lost in the forest near her home. Desperate and afraid, help arrives in the form of a young boy by the name of Gin who just so happens to be a spirit in limbo, granted eternal life on the condition that he can never touch a human. Walking together they begin to form a bond, fulfilling a promise to continue seeing each other every year from then onward.

The film is fairly short, in fact at only 40 minutes it’s not too much longer than the average episode of Natsume’s book of friends. This means that almost as soon as their sometimes platonic sometimes romantic relationship starts it ends. It leaves on a bittersweet note and could easily be left at that. For me however, the literal plot progression is only one factor, and not even the element that makes Hotarubi stand out so much. Because you see, as the film suggests, growing up is a lot like getting lost in the forest.

Hotaru meets Gin at a very early stage in her life. It’s a time when everything is new to her and the most interesting things are often what appears first in front of her. So when Gin enters the stage and boldly proclaims he’s a spirit the doesn’t age, offering his help with the other hand, Gin is simultaneously representative of all Hotaru’s childhood intrigue. In never growing up, Gin has become a symbol of perpetual juvenility, which happens to arrive at Hotaru’s lap at a time when that is most representative to her. He is in both a literal and metaphorical sense, the compass that guides Hotaru on her path through the forest.

It’s for this reason that they bond so quickly, and it’s for this reason that their relationship was doomed from the beginning. Unlike Gin, Hotaru has to face the reality of growing up and all the changes that come with it. Seasons may change but can we ever truly stay the same? The Light of Firefly Forest doesn’t think so. The fateful undertone underpinning the tale here is that this cannot last forever. As Hotaru grows up, the connection to her childhood is replaced by the transition into adolescence. As is hinted at through her short interactions at school and her own musings, playing with sticks and getting lost in the forest is no longer what she needs in life. She’s grown up and living in the moment is no longer enough.

I like to see the two parting at the end as a metaphor for Hotaru letting go of her childhood. The kiss, the hug, the touching, it’s all things that the now grown up Hotaru wants and the hidden cost of that is the childhood innocence that Gin embodies has to go. It’s a painful and messy parting, yet you have to let go of a lot of liberties in becoming an adult, so it’s never truly easy. Yet despite all that, the inevitability of their parting doesn’t have to be a bad thing, it is as Gin himself said…


Because we can’t be kids forever.

Well. This was a difficult one to write. On top of being super sick I had to put together a reasonably coherent argument. I think my writing has suffered a bit but I would suffer a lot more if I wasn’t writing. For some reason I can still feel lazy while I cough up my guts so consider this my treatment for that particular illness.

Thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “Day 9: Growing Up Is A Lot Like Getting Lost In The Forest

  1. I had totally missed that piece of subtext when I watched it, thinking it to be a cute but doomed romance. The story does become more meaningful when you see it as Hotaru letting go of her childhood obsession though

    Liked by 1 person

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