When it comes to romance stories, there's a tried and true formula: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, happy ending. When it comes to Hotarubi no Mori e, however, this is not the case.
Hotarubi no Mori e is a simple tale of love and growth. Hotarubi no Mori e is a mere 45 minutes long, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for with beautiful art and relatable characters. There are no fancy storytelling techniques here, and that’s what helps make Hotarubi no Mori e so great: sometimes simple is better.
Hotarubi no Mori e is a unique love story about forbidden love and kamikakushi (the Japanese phenomenon of visiting the spirit world), with a touch of nostalgia. Here are 6 anime that are similar to Hotarubi no Mori e:
Similar Anime to Hotarubi no Mori e / Similar Anime to Into the Forest of Fireflies' Light
1. Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: April 1988
Perhaps Studio Ghibli's most iconic film, My Neighbor Totoro, tells the tale of Satsuki and Mei, who move to the Japanese countryside with their father to be closer to their sick mother. Initially, they find the house infested with black dust creatures, which the two sisters can see. As they settle into their home and explore Mei meets and befriends the tree spirit Totoro, whom she befriends. It's not until the Totoro reveals himself to the elder sister, Satsuki, that their adventure begins. When Mei disappears, Satsuki must rely on her new friend to find her.
Like Hotarubi no Mori e, My Neighbor Totoro tells the story of a unique friendship between a young girl and the forest spirit she befriends. In both films, the relationship exposes the characters to the new and exciting world. Despite the fantastical nature, the two films also take place in a realm of reality, as the adults acknowledge the possible existence of the spirits, giving credence to the depth of their formed bond.
My Neighbor Totoro – Official Trailer
2. Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: July 2001
Another Studio Ghibli masterpiece, Spirited Away was an easy addition to the list. When one thinks of "kamikakushi" Spirited Away is undoubtedly the first anime that comes to mind; I mean, it's right there in the name!
On route to their new home Chihiro and her family find themselves in what appears to be an abandoned amusement park. Chihiro watches as her parents, consumed by greed and gluttony, turn into pigs. Eventually, she finds herself trapped in the spirit world. Stripped of her name, Chihiro must find a way to return her parents and world.
The feeling of lost and isolation that Chihiro feels throughout the movie mimics that of Hotaru at the beginning of Hotarubi no Mori e. In addition to this and the concept of kamikakushi, Spirited Away made the list because of the bonds Chihiro makes with Haku and No-Face: two dangerous relationships that helps Chihiro grow. Throughout both films the characters are warned about their relationship and threatened by other spirits; this, however, does not stop them from forming meaningful relationships.
Spirited Away – Official Trailer
3. Sakasama no Patema (Patema Inverted)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: November 2013
If you're looking for a well done, science fiction take on a forbidden love tale, look no further than Patema Inverted. The film takes place in the future after Earth has been devastated by an experiment to harness the gravity. As a result, Earth now has two groups of humans, those that are inverted and living underground, and those who continue to live above ground. Patema finds herself above ground and in danger of falling into the sky, until a young freethinker, Age, saves her life. The two then go on an adventure to understand the true nature of their two worlds. Think the 2012 film Upside Down, but as an anime, and better.
In both Patema Inverted and Hotarubi no Mori e, the relationship is strengthened on a trust formed by touch. In Hotarubi no Mori e, Hotaru and Gin are forbidden to touch one another; in Patema Inverted, without Age's touch Patema is at risk of floating away into the sky.
Patema Inverted is a sci-fi version of Hotarubi no Mori e, that goes more in-depth regarding the relationship and consequences of the two worlds.
Any Anime Like Into the Forest of Fireflies' Light/ Any Anime Like Hotarubi no Mori e?
4. Kyousou Giga
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: Oct 2013 – Dec 2013
At first glance, Kyousougiga is the odd-ball of this list. It's a high pace action more akin to FLCL or Studio Trigger anime in its craziness than the slice of life Hotarubi no Mori e. But upon a deeper look, the similarities become more apparent.
Young Koto finds herself in the hidden "mirror capital" city of Kyoto. There she finds herself in the world of youkai, and under the care of the high priest, Myoe. In an attempt to return to her home, Koto creates all kinds of havoc that threaten the very existence of Kyoto.
There isn't much romance in Kyousougiga, instead opting for a crazy action adventure. The kitsune mask worn by Gin immediately brought back images of Kyousougiga. In both films, the mask marks a special bond between characters. The two female characters also find a way to make their strange new land home under the protection of someone who becomes strangely attached to them.2
5. Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (Wolf Children)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: July 2012
Honestly, almost any Mamoru Hosoda film could've made the list, but Wolf Children was ultimately the best choice due to having the strongest tale of romance.
In truth, Wolf Children is a deeply layered film that attacks many issues: the first story tells of the relationship between Hana and a werewolf. The second half of the film looks at the lives of their half-wolf, half-human children, and their trials and tribulations of being a single mother. As the children grow up, the oldest, Yuki, finds herself forming relationships with other human children, while Ame finds himself more comfortable embracing the wolf side of his nature.
In ways Wolf Children can also be viewed as a spiritual continuation of Hotarubi no Mori e, in that explores the consequences of a relationship with an "otherworldly" being. Both siblings form bonds in a world that they don't entirely belong to; much like Hotaru with Gin, and Gin's existence in the youkai world. Wolf Children is an emotional masterpiece that features many of the things that made Hotarubi no Mori e great: wonderful storytelling, great supernatural elements, beautiful art, and engaging characters. If those things resonated with you from Hotarubi no Mori e, then Wolf Children is a must watch.
Wolf Children - Official Trailer (English Dub)
6. Kotonoha no Niwa (The Garden of Words)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: May 2013
Known for his art and engaging storytelling, Makoto Shinkai truly became a household name after his film The Place Promised in Our Early Days. He went on to direct 5 Centimeters Per Second, and Children Who Lost Voices which only furthered his place as one of anime's great new directors. His second most recent film, The Garden of Words, continues to showcase his penchant for magnificent art and great storytelling.
On a rainy summer day in Tokyo, high schooler Takao Akizuki skips school to draw shoes under a gazebo, in a beautiful garden. There he meets the intriguing Yukari Yukino, who like Takao is skipping work to enjoy the rainy day. As they continue to meet on these rainy summer days they become closer and closer, and yet...
Perhaps the most similar to Hotarubi no Mori e in overall theme and feel is The Garden of Words. The focus on the two characters truly helps to give credence to the growth in their relationship. The montage showing Takao and Yukari growing closer is simply done but possibly one of the best parts of the movie. Although it's not stated as explicitly as it is in Hotarubi no Mori e, Takao and Yukari have formed a bond which they know they won't be able to realize. Those who enjoyed the forbidden love found in Hotarubi no Mori e will not want to miss The Garden of Words.
Makoto Shinkai's "The Garden of Words"
There aren't many anime that can mix beautiful art, loveable characters, and several genres so well. While it only takes 40 minutes to do so, Hotarubi no Mori e manages to establish itself as an anime that will stick with you for a long time. These six anime all contain elements of what made Hotarubi no Mori e such a powerful piece of art and are wonderful anime in their own right.
We know we may have missed a few anime, so let us know what think of the list and what anime you think should or shouldn't have made the list in comments the comments below!