With the country on the brink of disaster and defeat imminent, Japan fortifies its last defensive stronghold, the island of Okinawa. This final stand against the Allied attack soon becomes the bloodiest battle of the Pacific Theater and takes the horrors of war to a level never before seen, as the desperate Japanese forces try to demonstrate to the Americans what they should expect when they assault the Japanese mainland.
Reportedly Hideaki Anno's favorite film ever. A photo of its director, Kihachi Okamoto, is used to depict the character Goro Maki in Shin Godzilla, and shots from it (and its predecessor, Japan's Longest Day) are homaged in that film and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
It should be noted that this is one of the few Toho war films released in America, which is strange considering the film's very unsympathetic portrayal of American forces.
- Artistic License – History: America did not use tear gas in any battle during World War II. (Chester Nimitz wanted to use poison gas to wipe out all the Japanese soldiers hiding out in caves and tunnels and the like on every island, but Franklin Roosevelt himself vetoed that idea.)
- Author Avatar: The little girl seen walking throughout the battle is representative of Kihachi Okamoto himself.
- Bloodier and Gorier: Than most other war films by Toho.
- Camera Abuse: Blood splashes against the camera frequently in the battle scenes.
- Child Soldiers: As in the real Battle of Okinawa, high school students are armed with grenades, spears and swords to fight invasion.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Both America and Japan are portrayed as participating in this.
- Combat Pragmatist: Lieutenant Cho. "The Ghost Rockets. We used those suckers in Singapore."
- Crapsack World: Okinawa in 1945.
- Docudrama: Footage of the actual battle and events relating to it are juxtaposed with narration from Kiyoshi Kobayashi telling almost everything that happens, giving it a very documentary-like feel.
- Evil Is Hammy: Tetsuro Tamba as Isamu Cho, who shows sadistic pleasure in reports of American wounded being brain damaged.
- Faceless Goons: Most of the Americans, with the exception of Simon Buckner Jr. are faceless, with eyes obscured by their helmet.
- From Bad to Worse: As the film goes on, the Japanese situation gets increasingly desperate, and the violence gets more graphic.
- Gallows Humor: An Okamoto trademark.
- Gorn: Most people who have seen the film say it's much more graphic than Saving Private Ryan.
- Harakiri: An important plot element.
- High-Pressure Blood: Constant in the battle scenes.
- Kill It with Fire: One quite infamous scene has a soldier get hit full force with a flamethrower, burning to a crisp.
- Plucky Comic Relief: The nurse/prostitute who has to pee when Okinawa is being shelled.
- Politically Correct History: The films portrayal of Okinawans is somewhat overtly PC.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Tetsuro Tamba's Cho to Keiju Kobayashi's Ushijima.
- Rule of Symbolism: The film ends with a little girl picking up a dead soldier's water canteen and drinking from it, implying there is hope for the future.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Somewhat overly serene music plays when civilians blow themselves up with grenades and the survivors slit their throats, bash each others heads open with spades and swords, and blood flows down the river. To quote the narrator, "It was a most unpleasant scene."
- Spiritual Successor: To Japan's Longest Day, previously directed by Kihachi Okamoto.
- War Is Hell: The central message.
- Weapons Understudies: M41 Walker Bulldog tanks are made to stand-in for the M4 Sherman.
- Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Subverted, as most of the civilians on Okinawa are armed in some shape or form.