The poorest slums of Osaka are the setting for Oshima's bleak yet stylish tale of life in the lower depths. A pitiless examination of juvenile delinquency amidst grinding poverty, its inexorable spectacle of treachery, cruelty, greed, opportunism, desperation, and madness make the The Three-Penny Opera (1931) look sentimental. Oshima's fragmentary narrative cuts jarringly between an array of pimps, extortionists, hookers, thieves, and outright lunatics, nearly all of whom want to seize control of the illegal and highly lucrative sale of blood to cosmetics companies. Young Takeshi (Isao Sasaki) most nearly approaches a protagonist in this cutthroat universe, his sole virtue being a desire to escape. The rest of the characters are so alike in their devotion to vice, and Oshima's distancing devices are so severe, that after a time they seem more like twitchy animated figures than human beings. This seems to be the director's point about the effects of defeat in WWII upon Japan, which is symbolized by many cuts to a setting sun, with a final grenade explosion pointing toward Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Despite the unrelenting horror on display, the film is visually spectacular, as the director splashes the garish red and orange neon signs of Osaka's commercial district across magnificent widescreen compositions.