remember me with warm memories

All the following information is based on the anime/movie (whatever you want to call it) version of Hotarubi no Mori e unless stated otherwise. There are many UNMARKED SPOILERS so please be careful while reading!

Hotaru finds herself lost in the Forest of the Mountain Gods, even though she knew better from the stories of her Uncle's village. She sat down on the ground, whimpering by her lonesome. To much surprise, Hotaru hears a voice from within the trees calling out to her... "Hey, shorty!" Hotaru spots a figure behind a nearby tree, and runs towards it with joy! She couldn't believe she was about to be saved. Being Six, Hotaru wanted to cling to the person, probably because she was scared and alone for a longer time than any six year old should. However, the figure moved out of the way and let her fall to the ground. He explained to her that if a human child touched him, he would disappear. Hotaru was surprised to hear him refer to her as a human, so she questions. The figure responds, "I am something that lives in the forest."
      It was no use - - - Hotaru wasn't going to understand at this point in her life what that truly meant. Instead, she makes it into a game and tries to touch him. She giggles and chases him around. The figure tells her that "to disappear means to be obliterated. That’s the spell that the mountain god placed upon me," which is why he had to hit her in the head with a log as she got too close to touching him. Hotaru apologizes for being insensitive to his desires. The figure tells Hotaru he will get her out of the forest.
      While walking out, he holds up a small stick and asks Hotaru to hold onto the other side. Hotaru giggles and smiles big to herself, telling him that she feels like she is on a date! He tells her it isn't a romantic one, that's for sure. Once the hit the exit of the forest, Hotaru asks the figure if he will be there forever, and if she came back the next day would he be there? He tells her to stay away because the villagers say she will be trapped there forever if she comes back. Hotaru introduces herself to him. While waiting for an answer that seems like forever to come, she tells him that she will be back the next day with a thank-you gift, and begins to sprint away. Hotaru hears, "It's Gin", but as she turns around to smile at him, he is no longer there.

After she gets out of the forest, Hotaru runs into her uncle. He is not very happy with her actions, and scolds her. Hotaru asks her uncle if the story of the spirits of the mountains are real or not. He tells her a story of when he was young and how people used to say that the villagers could see festivals going on in the forests during the summer. They knew it wasn't human activity because no human would dare to have a festival in those forests. He laughs and says he was naive back then, doubting the stories. Hotaru had trouble sleeping that night after seeing Gin.
      Just as she promised, Hotaru showed up at the gate where Gin had left her the day before. Gin was surprised that Hotaru had returned to see him. Hotaru gets all giggly and red when she realizes that Gin had waited for her, and she attacks him. However, the attack is short-lived because Gin had to hit her on the head again. "You never learn."
      As the walk through the forest together to find shade, a forest spirit pops out and asks Gin if he can "eat the human child," that is walking next to him. Gin denies the request and tells the spirit that the human child is actually his friend. The spirit looks at Hotaru and tells her that if she ever touches Gin, he will eat her. Hotaru is startled by this, and Gin tells the spirit to move along. Hotaru gets excited after because she "finally" saw a spirit. Gin gets a bit offended and wonders what Hotaru thinks he is... Hotaru finally asks Gin if he is a "no-faced" demon because he wears the mask all of the time. Gin tells Hotaru he doesn't want to talk about himself, and he would rather hear about her. Hotaru squeals because Gin wants to know all about HER!

Day after day after day, the summer shot by. Hotaru would visit Gin every single one of those days. They would run around and play with each other. She would chase him and he would chase her with a stick in hand, of course. Gin teaches her how to make a leaf look like a boat and float in water. They have such a great time together. On the last day of her summer vacation, Hotaru makes a bouquet of flowers. When she looks over at Gin, she realizes he is sleeping. She goes up to him and wonders if it's okay to touch his mask or not... She does it anyways, and lifts it up, exposing his face. Gin opens his eyes suddenly, causing Hotaru to slam the mask back down on his face. He sits up and calls her scary for attacking him in his sleep. She calls him out for faking being asleep, and apologizes for her actions. She asks him again about why he wears his mask. This time, he tells her that he wears it because if he didn't, he wouldn't really look like a spirit.
      As Gin walks Hotaru back to the exit, she awkwardly reminds him that this will be their last day together and that she is going back home. He asks her if she would be able to come back again next year. This perks Hotaru up, and she says yes, yes she will be able to! She promises Gin that she will see him again next summer. And so they wait...

The second summer comes around, and Gin is waiting just like he said he would. A forest spirit reaches down on grabs Gin on the shoulder, telling him to be careful of the human child. Gin is doesn't take the warnings to heart. Hotaru realizes that she truly will never be able to touch Gin.
      The third summer comes around, and Gin waited just like he said he would again. Gin calls out for Hotaru, unable to spot her. All of a sudden, Hotaru comes down upside from a tree branch and makes a weird noise at Gin. Her dress falls down onto her face, exposing her undies. Hotaru gets really embarrassed and climbs up on the branch. Gin asks her what she is doing, and she tells him she wants to see his facial expressions. Hotaru asks Gin to take his mask off, at least sometimes while she is around. As he goes to take the mask off, the tree branch starts to crack. Hotaru screams as she begins to fall off of the tree. Gin runs towards her with his arms out. Once Hotaru realizes what Gin is doing, her eyes widen and her heart begins to beat faster: "NO!" She falls into a bush. Gin tells her that was close, and that he is sorry he couldn't have caught her. Hotaru sits on her knees and tells Gin to NEVER touch her, ever. She begs him to not to, no matter what. Hotaru breaks out into tears as Gin stares at her.

Hotaru shows up once again for another summer of fun. This time, she shows off that she has finally become a fifth grader. Gin stares at her and makes a comment on how it looks like she is becoming a woman. Hotaru gets pouty and tells him that she is indeed a woman! Hotaru brings a kite one summer day for the two of them to fly together. She teaches Gin the techniques and when to let go to allow the kite to get up into the atmosphere. She hands Gin the rod so that he can steer the kite as well. They smile at each other and watch it go. Hotaru goes home and thinks about how summer is ending once again. Her Uncle calls her out to talk and eat watermelon. He tells her that if a watermelon is very juicy, its because the summer was really warm and luscious for crops. However, after a warm summer comes a brutally cold winter. "It could freeze the mountain god himself!".
      Hotaru ran to see Gin before she left. She handed him a scarf that she had, and asked him to wear it over the winter time when it got cold. She waved her goodbyes, and left for home. While she was home, she didn't eat very much. At school, she was zoning out and staring outside of the window at how cold it was. She couldn't help her mind from wandering, and wondering if Gin was okay. One of her classmates had to call out to her multiple times on their walk to school before she realized someone was calling her. He pointed to the ground where a bunch of ice was, and he held out his hand. Hotaru smiled and grabbed onto his offer. However, as he talked to her, she zoned out and thought of how she wished it was Gin's hand that she was holding, and how badly she wanted to touch Gin. Gin is seen wearing the scarf in the winter, looking up at the sky as if he was thinking about Hotaru, too.

Hotaru shows up again, this time showing off her high-school uniform that she just got. She looks very different now then she did when she first met Gin. Gin comments on how time flies by, and how much has changed. Hotaru can't help but wonder to herself if she will be older than Gin one day. She wonders what will happen then...
      Hotaru tells Gin that she plans on moving to the mountain area by her Uncle in three years once she graduates from high school. She wants to find work by Gin so that she can be with him in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. She tells him that she wants to be by him during all seasons. Gin interrupts her by telling her that he wants to tell her about who he really is. Gin tells Hotaru that he isn't really a spirit, but more of a ghost of something once alive. Gin was abandoned by his family when he was a baby, left to die out in the Forest of the Mountain God. However, all of his crying and screaming attracted the spirits around him. They all came to his aid, giving him a little mask (of what he wears now) to play hide and seek with. Baby Gin loved the spirits, and they played with him. However, the spirits couldn't raise him and give him what he needed. In fear that they would lose him, the Mountain God himself put a spell on Gin to preserve his body and keep him from dying. He tells her that he is just a spirit inside a weak body held up by magic, which is why if he is touched by her, he will disappear. Simply because his body isn't strong enough to hold up.
      Gin turns to look at Hotaru and tells her that it's okay if she forgets him and moves on. She interrupts him now, telling him that Gin is like snow. Something that comes and then disappears. Hotaru tells Gin that she thought about him during the winter, and the fall, and the spring. She tells him she can't forget him. She tells him that she will never ever forget him, and asks him to never forget her either.

Gin and Hotaru go and fish together. Gin tells Hotaru about a festival of the spirits that takes place every summer. He tells her that he's wanted to take her for a long time, but didn't want her to get scared (which is why he never invited her). Now that she is in high school, Gin feels like she would be able to enjoy it, and he asks her. Hotaru gets very excited and exclaims that she would in fact love to go! She must go! He smiles and asks her to meet him at their usual spot at 8pm, which means she must sneak out of her house. Hotaru tells Gin that she wants to "glomp" him when he says things like that to her. He laughs and dares her to do it. She gets very excited and goes home to get ready.
      At the festival, Hotaru looks beautiful in her traditional Japanese outfit, and Gin definitely looks charming. She tells him it feels like they are on a date (sound familiar?!), and he tells her that is because they are on a date. Hotaru gets red and smiles at hearing that. Gin tells Hotaru they should wrap a band around their wrists so they don't get lost from each other at the festival. She smiles and agrees.
      Gin and Hotaru have a blast the the festival - they play games, watch street performers dance and act like humans, and they look at masks. Hotaru is fascinated by the spirit masks, and she touches them. She ends up touching a spirits face, and she apologizes and makes Gin run away with her. They watch the fireworks together, and smile. They get "cotton candy," which turns into a giant fluff ball floating in the air. They giggle at a little boy with a fox tail. It's almost like nothing could get any better.

They decided to take a stroll alone, away from the commotion of the festival, near the water. As they walk, Hotaru flexes her hand as if she wished she could hold his hand - but she can't. Gin tells Hotaru that he no longer can wait for summer anymore to see her. He wished all through the other seasons that he could leave and go find her, even though he knows that he can't leave or go in big crowds of people. Gin takes off his mask and places it onto Hotaru's face. He leans over and kisses the mask. He tells Hotaru that she can keep the mask. Hotaru thinks to herself that Gin is probably not going to come around to their normal spot next summer, and that this is probably their last summer to be together. Moments go by, and two small kids run by. The little boy stumbles, and Gin grabs onto his arm. The two kids thank them and run along. Hotaru looks over to see Gin staring at his hand, slowly fading away. Hotaru cries out, "No, Gin! Was that a human child??" Gin doesn't hesitate at all, he stares at Hotaru and calls out to her. He tells her now is their chance to hold each other like they've craved to for so long. Hotaru runs into his arms, smiling. She embraces him, and he embraces her, for as long as they possibly can. Hotaru falls to the ground, only holding onto the clothes that are left of Gin. She hears Gin whisper, "I love you," as she responds, "Yeah, I love you too!" She cries and holds onto the clothing.

Summer will be a painful time for Hotaru for awhile. It will be filled with tears and hurt. However, the warmth in her hands and the great memories she shared will keep her going. She loved Gin, and Gin loved her. That's all that really seemed to matter.

b a c k   .   c l e a r   .   f o r w a r d