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Cho, a music student and sometime chorus girl, returns briefly to her native Hokkaido to tell her parents she is engaged to violinist Moritsuna. When her father forbids her marriage, the couple elope and set up home in 1930s Tokyo. Tetsuko, the eldest of their three children, is inattentive at school and disrupts classes by calling her friends' attention to things going on outside the window. Eventually, Tetsuko is put in a more indulgent institution, where she gets more consideration from the teacher and bonus outdoor activities.
The outbreak of war, first in China and then in the Pacific, brings rationing and shortages. When son Meiji becomes ill, Cho sends Tetsuko to pawn Moritsuna's violin to buy ice cream, but the kind-hearted girl instead trades her own hat for ten yen. Cho is uneasily reconciled with her estranged father during a Hokkaido summer holiday; the old man adopts the role of grandfather with ease and seems as hurt as Cho that they still cannot agree on everything. Eventually, Moritsuna is conscripted into the army, where he entertains his fellow soldiers with violin solos-echoes here of Violin of the Starry Sky. After the war, the family return to the ruins of their house in Tokyo, where a wounded Moritsuna rejoins them.
The family's rather dull pre-war activities are brightened only by some original sound-Chocchan opens with a rendition of "L'Amour est un Oiseau Rebelle" from Bizet's Carmen (1875), and the radio surrender address of the Showa Emperor appears to be excerpted from the genuine article. Although it might have the outward appearance of another war story in the tradition of Rail of the Star, or a sanitized novel that belongs among the Animated Classics of Japanese Literature, Chocchan has a more oblique origin. It is based on the memoirs of the mother of Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, an actress who dominated Japanese television in its early years, provided one of the voices for Chirorin Village (*DE), became the host of the long-running TV Asahi chat show Tetsuko's Room, and ultimately served as an ambassador for UNICEF. This explains the bizarre way that Chocchan's Story, despite the title, concentrates so much on Tetsuko-even on the blurb of the video box, which immediately draws the reader's attention away from the supposed lead to emphasize the later fame of her daughter.
There is one moment where it aspires to greater things-a sequence where the family watch a column of marching soldiers, occasionally obscured by silent girls, who rush past them staring off-screen as if carried along by an invisible current. It is only when they spot Moritsuna that they, too, dash out into the street, running alongside a beloved family member for what could be a final goodbye.
Despite being unreleased in English, it was distributed under the English title of Chocchan's Story in Europe. The English title seems to have been carefully chosen in order to ensure echoes of Totto-chan: The Girl at the Window, daughter Tetsuko's autobiography, to which Chocchan may be regarded as an indirect prequel. Compare to Kayoko's Diary.