Humanity and Paper Balloons, unlike most other Japanese films of this period, is a historical film with a critical edge. Refusing to glorify samurai, the film instead deflates the myth around them with a gentle humanity. The film opens directly after a penurious ronin samurai has taken his own life. At his funeral his neighbors from his slum mourn his death. Here the film introduces another ronin samurai who lives in equal poverty. Having pawned his sword for food, the samurai searches for work but to no avail. The family's only income comes from the little balloon children's toys made by the wife. Out of desperation, the samurai abets in an attempted kidnapping. After finding out, the wife kills him in his sleep and then takes her own life, closing the film's narrative circle.
by Brian Whitener synopsis