What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.

If you judged the film by its title, A Gentle Breeze in the Village sounds like a languishing feature full of long, drawling scenes and the passive impact of a gentle breeze. Because the film is set in the Japenese countryside, one might also imagine a certain amount of economic hardship or social commentary. In other words, a very slow and probably not-too-accessible film; this pleasant surprise of a film, though, is none of the above. Helmer Nobuhiro Yamashita's latest effort, which Aya Watanabe skillfully adapted from Fusako Kuramochi's comic, is a rich, well-paced, preciously sweet, and utterly lovable school tale -- one that never falls into overt drama or conflict, yet retains an overwhelming amount of charm in its storytelling.

A Gentle Breeze in the Village presents a simple and small world where six close-knit children of various ages -- from the immensely adorable youngest tot to the film's star, an 8th grader named Soyo (Kaho) -- attend school in the rural Japanese countryside -- outside of the hustle of Tokyo and big-city life. When the film starts, we see the kids preparing a classroom, running desks back and forth between the modest school's two rooms to get ready for a new student -- the Tokyo-born Hiromi Osawa (Masaki Okada), who happens to be the same age as Soyo.