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Film / Twenty-Four Eyes

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Twenty-Four Eyes (二十四の瞳 Nijū-shi no Hitomi) is a 1954 Japanese film directed by Keisuke Kinoshita and starring Hideko Takamine. It spans eighteen years, 1928-1946, in the lives of a schoolteacher and her students in a small fishing village. Hisako Ōishi (Takamine) makes a splash when she arrives for her first day of work in 1928, riding a bicycle and dressing in a Western-style suit instead of wearing a kimono. The villagers get a bad impression of her, but as she later explains to her mother, she lives too far away from the school to walk, and you can't wear a kimono while riding a bike. She immediately wins the hearts of her class, which consists of twelve students (hence 24 eyes) starting their first year of school.

A fairly innocent prank played by the students on Ms. Ōishi winds up causing her to tear her Achilles tendon, which forces her transfer to the secondary school nearer her home, because she can't ride her bike. However, this allows her kids, who are so sorry about the prank that they hike all the way to her village, to age into her class again. Unfortunately, the pressures of the world, namely The Great Depression, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and World War II, bring tragedy and heartbreak to Ms. Ōishi and the students that she loves.

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Compare Morning for the Osone Family, an earlier Kinoshita film that explores similar themes.


Tropes:

  • Book Burning: After a book that Ms. Ōishi was reading to her students is deemed subversive, her principal burns it.
  • Book-Ends: The film starts with Ms. Ōishi meeting her new students. At the end, needing to make ends meet after her husband is killed in the war, she goes back to the same classroom and greets another class of first-years, the children of her previous class.
  • Cool Teacher:
    • Ms. Ōishi teaches the kids popular songs, takes them out hiking, and dares to question Japanese militarism. She calls them all by their nicknames instead of their formal names.
    • At the end, the surviving children, now with families of their own, throw her a party and get her a new bicycle so she can bike to school again.
  • Day of the Jackboot: Very gradually, life in the little fishing village grows more repressive and militaristic, with the cheerful nature songs the kids sang in the beginning replaced by war songs, and the hand of government repression interfering with Ms. Ōishi's lessons. She eventually quits because she refuses to prepare children to be soldiers.
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  • Death by Childbirth / Infant Immortality: Matsue's mother dies in childbirth, and the infant, born premature and without access to her mother's breast, also dies. Matsue's alcoholic father sends her away, and she winds up dropping out of school and working as a waitress in Osaka.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Shares many themes in common with Goodbye, Mr. Chips—a beloved teacher to multiple generations of students, a marriage that ends tragically, the teacher's students dying in war.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When Ms. Ōishi zips through town on her first day in a Western suit and riding a bicycle, she is established as not your ordinary teacher.
  • Time Skip: Several, including from the late 20s to the mid-30s, then to the early 40s, then to the Japanese surrender.
  • Title Drop: Ms. Ōishi references the "twenty-four eyes" of the students looking up at her.
  • War Is Hell: It certainly brings nothing but tragedy to the village. Three of the five male students are killed and another is blinded. One of the girl students that got sent off to work in a factory contracts tuberculosis.
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