Studio Ghibli has taken over social media today thanks to HBO Max, but it seems a major part of the studio's catalog is missing. While most of the staples you'd expect to watch from Studio Ghibli are there, one of its critical darlings is not available on HBO Max. Grave of the Fireflies is the most notable absence blinding the platform's anime library and the reason why all comes down to licensing.
For those unaware of Grave of the Fireflies, the film dates back to 1988 as one of the first films released by Studio Ghibli. It was directed by Isao Takahata, who helped found the studio alongside Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki. Grave of the Fireflies is often regarded as one of the greatest anime films of all time and one of the best war movies period. But if you did not know, the classic's rights do not belong with Studio Ghibli.
The distribution rights for Grave of the Fireflies are owned by Shinchosha rather than Studio Ghibli. The company has the rights Shinchosha owns the story in which Takahata's movie is based. Tokuma Shoten, the parent company of Studio Ghibli, has no control over the short story. HBO Max brokered its licensing deal with Studio Ghibli and its parent company directly, so Grave of the Fireflies is unable to join the new streaming platform.
If you want to watch Grave of the Fireflies, you can do so online. It is available on Hulu, depending on your subscription tier, and the movie can be bought outright on iTunes. Vudu will also let you redeem the film online if you have it on home video. But for now, fans should not expect to watch the beloved film on HBO Max until more licensing deals are made.