Japanese live-action films about teenagers are many, but about children, few. This is largely a box-office calculation — teenagers pay higher ticket prices than children. Also, children usually go to the theater for a feature-length version of a cartoon they know from television, though there are hugely successful exceptions.

So, who is the audience for "Chesuto" — a film revolving around a real-life long-distance swim for primary school children in Kagoshima? Readers of the Erika Tosaka novel on which the film is based, perhaps. Kagoshima natives, including the film's government and corporate backers, most certainly. But average kids at the multiplex?

I have my doubts — and not only because of the film's strong didactic streak. After all, the "Harry Potter" films teach lessons about loyalty, integrity and resourcefulness, among others, and they aren't playing to empty seats.