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Young Miss Oishi is the new school teacher on the island of Shodoshima in 1928. When she injures her leg, her 12 students visit her at home and discover that she cycles nine miles every day to teach them. Miss Oishi transfers to a new school in time to see her students five years later (1933). In 1941, the boys go off to war, preferring a glorious military career to a humdrum home life. Four years later, a widowed Miss Oishi comes out of retirement to teach once again-her new students including a sister and a daughter of the original class. The surviving class of 1928 arrange a reunion and buy her a new bicycle.
Based on the book by Sakae Tsuboi, 24 Eyes draws lightly on Tsuboi's years at the periphery of Japanese anarchist counterculture and her disgust that "pacifist" Japan was rearming during the Korean war. The book was also adapted into a live-action film by former propagandist Keisuke Kinoshita in 1954. Made after the previous year's Diary of Anne Frank made WWII an acceptable subject for TV, this anime remake mixes animation with live action (old Tsuburaya studio hand Jissoji handling the former, Hello Spank-director Yoshida the latter) to depict different times of Miss Oishi's life. The story was remade again as the fully live-action Children on the Island (1987). Many other anime would copy 24 Eyes' concentration on children, recognizing that a cast too young to have started WWII need not be held accountable for those who really did. Hideaki Anno would pay homage to 24 Eyes in Gunbuster with a scene in which a teacher bids farewell to a class including the daughter of her former classmate.