This film is based on a made-for-TV documentary film of a teacher in Osaka teaching the "lesson of life" to students by raising a pig in their school, with eating it upon graduation as a condition.
It may sound a little cruel, but I liked the concept. We take our food for granted, often ignoring the fact that they are living beings just like us. As you would expect, the students become emotionally attached by the end of the film, and the class is divided between eating it and passing it down to a class in the 3rd grade. The debates this teacher allowed the students to have was interesting, and I think it was very educational, making us (and the kids) think about the value of life and appreciation for our food.
Although a teacher telling mere elementary school kids to raise a pig is a bit absurd, the story development was very realistic. The kids faced various challenges, and parents made many complaints you would expect from real life. I guess if they developed the teacher's character and motive a little better, it wouldn't have seemed to be so far-fetched since it is based on a real story.
What really disappointed me though, was how this film ended. The result of the student vote (which should be vetoed anyway in favor of the teacher's opinion, according to the principal in the film) was a tie, and the teacher cast the last vote to send the pig to the slaughterhouse. We probably have all seen this coming, it's just the responsible thing to do, to see through it to the end and fulfill the promise of eating the pig. That it's important to truly appreciate the sacrificed so that we can live on.
However, what really disturbed me was the teacher's reason for the decision, that "they've done enough already"? Wasn't the whole point of this whole lesson to teach them and make them think about the value of life? I wanted to hear the teacher explain WHY he chose that option as a mentor. Perhaps because "it is the nurturer's responsibility to see your livestock's life to the end", "this pig is no different from any other pig we eat everyday", or "by eating it, it becomes a part of you". These are the words I wanted to hear from the teacher as the lesson taught from this whole thing, not from the students during the debate (and it's doubtful elementary school kids could've come up with these concepts by themselves).
I feel the teacher wanted the kids to learn that "one living thing eating another living being to survive is a cruel fact of life, and we should appreciate what we take for granted" when he brought the pig to school. What I really wanted to see, was students AND the teacher actually eating the cooked pork in TEARS in the end. Truly appreciating its sacrifice and learning the value of life. Only then, this 'lesson' comes to a conclusion. As a movie, it would've been a very touching ending as well. Tsumabuki Satoshi, in my opinion, is a very talented actor who would've played such scene very well, as demonstrated in beautiful everyday life of the teacher and the kids. It's a shame this film ended the way it did.
This is based on a real-life event, so I understand the director's desire to stay true to the original events. However, since there is already a documentary made for it, this movie must add something more to the story than the documentary. I hear this kind of "let the kids think and decide the best solution" education is a new trend in Japan. I agree it can be very useful to think about such difficult issues at a very young age, but it is an adult's, especially a teacher's DUTY to guide them toward the "correct", or socially responsible path after they've thought about it.
I was going to give this movie a disastrous 2/10 rating, but as I was writing this review, it made me realize that this film had served its purpose by making me think about the real "lesson of life".