The name's Zodie! I like to write prose and essays sometimes. Do not give me any kind of criticism unless I ask. They/them.
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I'm not a writer. I'm just someone who happens to wield words with the needles of my thoughts. I like sentences and fancy lyrics; and even if they juggle and become either dust or bread under my hands, I am still no writer.

Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window

February 10, 2019

We all wish we had a childhood as carefree as Totto-chan’s. In the midst of what adults would call misery, doe-eyed Totto-chan runs, runs, moving her small feet quickly and hums a happy tune in her head, all the while her long hair flies in the wind.
Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window is a memoir written by one of Japan’s most famous actress and TV personality in her time, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi. The book tells the tale of her days in Tomoe Primary School back then during the times of World War II, the stories tailored together into a bittersweet compilation of childhood simplicity, ethereal little happiness, and poetic, unforgettable narrative.
As the book begins, Totto-chan is expelled from her first primary school. Her quirky and blithe behaviors, such as standing by the window to watch street musicians during lesson, become an immediate burden unbearable by her teacher. Her mother then moved her to Tomoe Gakuen, a somehow ‘different’ school. The school is a train, the railroad cars are its classrooms where Totto-chan and her classmates weave education under the eccentric yet kind Mr. Sosaku Kobayashi. Here we follow her life-antics featuring her friends, her dog Rocky, and Kobayashi himself.
Totto-chan is both a reliable and unreliable narrator at the same time. She is an inspiring character. ‘Innocence’ is the main, most forefront theme of the book. Her joy is undivided and pure, and coming from all kinds of small and big things in her daily life. To Totto-chan, there is nothing merrier than being herself and going on minute ‘adventures’ with her friends, whether it is Sports Day or cooking in the hills. This epitome of this childlike gratefulness is honest, pictured in a vivid, living way, such that the readers are also able to taste the tang of Kuroyanagi’s glad memories.
It is almost enigmatic how she is able to sugarcoat the worldly terror of reality and war in a delightful way; Totto-chan’s world is all about having fun, even if that means blissfully ignoring the wicked world and the sad fact that the school’s only janitor is going to war. Veiled by Totto-chan’s lovely descriptions of primary school life, we dismiss the fact that this story takes place in World War II, save for a few scenes that bare a fragment of the war.
The language of the book is one of the most heart-touching aspects above all. Some parts may be lost in translation, but the memorable storytelling style is guaranteed to persist in everybody’s mind. It is poignant, tinted with sweetness that makes the reader unconsciously smiles as they read. Happy times are happy; they are thoroughly pleasant recollections. One of the many examples is this excerpt:
“Americans are devils,” the government announced. But at Tomoe the children kept chanting in chorus, “Utsukushii is beautiful.” And the breezes that blew across Tomoe were soft and warm, and the children themselves were beautiful.
Pure happiness is reflected in that quote itself. It proves the strong emotions the book gives. I think it’s absolutely the most beautiful thing from the story, how despite the catastrophic setting, children will stay children, enveloped in kindness and oblivious laughter. Lacking of metaphors and analogies, the writing is entirely honest in expressing the thoughts of little Totto-chan as well as the situation.
The purpose of Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window is to shine down happy thoughts on the readers’ mind. It is truly a living book, breathing out magic that effectively sparks all kinds of emotions. The book is not ornate; it’s not decorative, but it’s simple and nice. It is highly recommended for those who like happy beginnings, amusing middles, and a bit of twisted ending. Be ready to explore just how much you can feel by reading this little piece of charm.


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