This post includes a brief plot summary, an explanation about the ending of the film Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light / Hotarubi no Mori e (2011) and a relationship analysis between Gin and Hotaru. Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Takahiro Ômori, the 2011 Japanese anime is based on a 2002 shōjo manga of the same name written by Yuki Midorikawa. Today’s post is solely based on the film, not the novel.
Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light (2011) – Plot Summary
A young woman by the name of Hotaru is heading towards her uncle’s house in the countryside. While waiting for the bus, Hotaru recalls the moment she met Gin.
When Hotaru was six, she disobeyed her uncle’s orders and wandered inside a forest believed to be inhabited by spirits. After a while, Hotaru couldn’t find an exit any more. Scared, the little girl started crying for help. Then, suddenly, a young man by the name of Gin comes to her rescue.
Gin is not human and warns the little girl not to touch him, otherwise, he’ll disappear. At first, Hotaru couldn’t really grasp why she couldn’t touch Gin. That sparked her curiosity and she kept trying to touch the young man. Out of options, Gin hits Hotaru with a thick branch whenever the child tried to come too close to him. After a couple of hits in the head, Hotaru finally gets that she should always keep a certain distance from Gin.
After Gin escorts Hotaru out of the forest, the little girl expresses her desire of seeing him again. The day after, Hotaru shows up again and goes for another walk in the forest with Gin. The two keep seeing each other the following days.
The summer holidays are almost over and Hotaru informs Gin that she needs to leave the countryside and return to the city. The young man suggests Hotaru to come back next summer. The girl manages to keep her promise and her relationship with Gin strengthens over the years.
As Hotaru grows older, she becomes aware that her relationship with Gin has its own limitations. During one of their meetings, Hotaru confesses to Gin her desire to find a job in the countryside after graduating high school, so they can see each other more often. Meanwhile, Gin lets Hotaru know a little bit more about himself. When he was baby, Gin’s parents left him in the forest. The mountain god found Gin and cast a spell on him so he could live longer. However, Gin’s apparent immortality came with a catch: he cannot ever touch a human and vice-versa.
Gin invites Hotaru to a festival held by the spirits. Hotaru makes a light joke about their evening being a date and Gin confirms that it’s indeed a date. Towards the end of their night, Gin confesses his feelings to Hotaru. Then, the young man places his mask on Hotaru’s face and kisses her. As they continue walking, a boy behind them stumbles and Gin grabs him by his arm. However, it was a human child and shortly after, Gin begins to disappear. Before vanishing, Gin asks Hotaru to hug him.
The spirits of the forest appear and thank Hotaru for giving Gin what he wanted: to touch a human. Despite of what happened, Hotaru eventually gets over the pain and continues to visit her uncle in the countryside during summer.
Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light (2011) – Ending Explained
So in the end Gin’s dies because he touched a human child. Now, was it an accident or did Gin do it on purpose?
Those who have watched the film must be wondering: how could Gin make such a stupid mistake? However, did he though? As the story unravels, Gin reveals that he was once a human. Assuming that Gin never left the forest, Hotaru is probably the first human that he has ever met.
Gin wasn’t in love with Hotaru when they first met, that would be weird considering their age gap. However, as the years passed by, things began to change. Hotaru’s real age grew closer to Gin’s apparent age and the two started developing romantic feelings for each other.
Back to that tragic ending, was Gin’s death an accident? Probably not. There’s evidence throughout the film that Gin’s feelings for Hotaru have intensified over the years. In other words, Gin was as much in love with Hotaru as she was for him. The love was mutual. But why did Gin decide to risk it all?
Gin could probably live for a very long time in the forest as long as he doesn’t touch another human. However, the love that Gin feels for Hotaru made him change his views about his own existence. What’s the point of living if he can’t be with the one he loves? In addition, Gin also felt that he was holding Hotaru back from living her life to the fullest.
When Hotaru announced her plans of moving to the countryside after high school, Gin wasn’t ecstatic about it. Why? Gin knew that she was doing it just because of him, that’s why he told Hotaru that it would be okay if she decides to forget him. Gin didn’t say those words because he doesn’t care for her, it was actually quite the opposite: he didn’t want Hotaru to compromise her future because of him.
There is evidence towards the end of the film hinting that Gin had plans to die. First, he takes Hotaru to the spirits’ festival, which was his way of having one last sweet moment with her. Second, Gin admits that he can no longer wait another summer to see Hotaru. The thought of not being with the one he loves is starting to become unbearable for him. Third, Gin grabbing that random child’s arm was not an accident. He didn’t make that mistake with Hotaru for years, why would he risk it all now for a random child?
Gin knew that Hotaru wouldn’t hug him, if he just asked her to do so. In addition, even if Gin wanted to hug Hotaru, she would probably deny him too. The girl knows that Gin will vanish, the second they touch each other. Having said that, Gin’s only way to be able to hold Hotaru in his arms was to find an “excuse” to vanish, so Hotaru won’t feel guilty for hugging him. Having said that, Gin didn’t make a silly mistake.
Another sad angle to Gin’s planned death was his intention of freeing Hotaru from him. Although they were both in love with each other, their romance had its own limitations and one party had more things to lose than the other. That person would be Hotaru because she is human, in other words, mortal. At one point, Hotaru herself realizes that soon she’ll be older than Gin’s apparent age. Of course, Gin knows this too. Despite of being truly in love with Hotaru and wanting to be as close to her as he could, Gin also wanted Hotaru to have her own life.
Gin And Hotaru – Relationship Analysis
Was Gin and Hotaru’s relationship doomed from the start? Pretty much. Even if they’ve remained just friends, they would have to eventually part ways.
What made Gin fall in love with Hotaru and vice-versa? When they first met, both were curious about each other. Hotaru has never seen a spirit up until that moment and Gin has never met another human before.
The cute friendship changed over the years and Gin started to see Hotaru in a different way: she was no longer a child in his eyes. And how did Hotaru’s feelings changed over the years? It’s evident that Hotaru has been crushing on Gin for a while, but he never took it seriously because she was too young back then.
When Hotaru told Gin that she wanted to stay in the countryside that was basically a love confession. Although, Gin didn’t say much at the time, he was already in love with her at that point. Therefore, when Gin took Hotaru to the spirits’ festival and told her that he would protect her no matter what happens, that was Gin’s way of showing that Hotaru matters to him.
Over the years, Gin overcame his fear of “vanishing” if that meant being able to receive a hug from his love — Hotaru. As a matter of fact, when Gin invited Hotaru to the festival, she joked about wanting to “glomp” him. When Hotaru made that comment, Gin smiled and encouraged her to do it. Why would Gin suggest something so “reckless”?
Gin was once a human too, just like Hotaru. Despite of being a spirit (currently), Gin’s human side is still “active”. Having said that, the young man wants what others of his kind long for, which can be as simple as touching or hugging someone. When the mountain god cast that spell on Gin so he could live longer, he also cursed him. It was actually a very cruel gift. On the bright side, Gin ages slower than humans, which means, he can stay young for a very long time.
When Gin met Hotaru, his priority was to make sure that she didn’t touch him. However, during their last date, Gin made sure to get a hug from Hotaru before he left. The young man’s dilemma was very simple: keep living or hug Hotaru. Gin chose the latter. Did he choose well? At this point, Gin’s love for Hotaru made him rethink about the way he’s been living his own life. In the end, Gin figured out that he would rather hug the one he truly loves even if it’s just for a very brief second, than to continue wandering alone in the forest for an eternity.
“Hotarubi no Mori e / Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light” has one most of the beautiful stories that I’ve ever seen. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this short anime film to hit me as hard as it did. If you didn’t grab some tissues after the leads hugged each other, then you don’t have a heart.
At first, that final scene didn’t make any sense. However, there’s more to it if one decides to take a closer look. That ending could be totally open for interpretation. Some might say that Gin made a silly mistake. Others might believe that Gin loved Hotaru so much, that he didn’t mind to vanish in exchange for a warm hug from her.
So what is “Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light” about? Love and mortality. When Gin met Hotaru, he only had one priority: to stay alive. In a way, Gin is just as mortal as Hotaru. A simple thing such as human touch could make the young man disappear. That’s why Gin refused to let Hotaru touch him in the beginning. However, as their relationship developed, Gin began to realize that not dying is not the same as being alive. Gin’s love for Hotaru made him reflect upon his own existence. As time went by, it became unbearable for Gin the idea of not having Hotaru next to him. Taking Hotaru to the spirits’ festival was actually Gin’s first and last romantic date.
Overall, “Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light” is a beautiful film. Don’t be fooled by its short duration. The film will take you on a roller-coaster of emotions, especially with that sad ending. What makes Gin and Hotaru’s story so special? It’s the idea of loving someone unattainable. In this case, we’re not talking about unrequited love because both leads love each other. Gin and Hotaru could not be together despite of being love with each other and that’s truly tragic. Hands down, “Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light” has one the most pure and touching love stories that I’ve seen in a very long time.