The film is about a boy who is named Boy. He is never given a proper name. He goes from place to place with parents that really aren’t his parents. We don’t get many details until the end except that mother is certainly not his real mother and father is probably his real father. There is another child with them, but it is a baby. They make their living by diving into cars to make it look like they have been hit and then accept money to keep things hushed up. Sometimes they even inject themselves with something to bruise up the skin in order to put on a good show for a doctor.
The boy really doesn’t have an identity either as person, a member of a family, or a citizen of a country. The lack of a name and the constant wandering prevents any identity from forming. The stepmother and abusive father make him just an employee in papa’s money making scheme. As for being a citizen of Japan, he moves so much that Japan is a land to be traveled, but not a land of which he is from. The only thing that seems to move him is the idea that there are some aliens. In particular, that they have come to destroy all bad people.
It’s not Ôshima’s best, but like Death By Hanging it asked the tough questions about a Japan that was finding a new identity during a decade of enormous upheaval the world over. It’s worth a look.