The Emperor's position in Japan has been seen as a god by the Japanese people for hundreds of years, and the current emperor Hirohito is no exception; this opinion does not falter even after the bombs which decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki fell. General Douglas MacArthur (Jones) is sent to Japan to secure the Emperor's surrender, which begins with the arrest and detainment of 30 of the Emperor's top men. But this is just the beginning, as MacArthur assigns one of his intelligence officers, Brigadier General Bonner Fellers (Fox) to perform research and investigations into what should be the Emperor's fate; the famous General believes that the Japanese situation could become a powder keg if anything untoward were to happen to their beloved monarch, and Fellers is to verify that such would indeed happen, to justify pardoning the leader.
Fellers also has a personal stake in Japan and its relationship to the west; his girlfriend Aya (Eriko Hatsune), whom he met in college 11 years ago, now lives in Tokyo, and Fellers is concerned for her safety, as well as what the surrender of, basically her god, could mean to them.
Contains examples of:
- Break the Cutie: Aya, when her father died; she returned to Japan and became a withdrawn, saddened English teacher who is initially very cold to Fellers.
- The Big Board: Feller's investigations center on this, the 32 men most close to Hirohito, divided into three categories; Military, Imperial and Political.
- Dead All Along: Aya.
- Driven to Suicide: Ritual to the Japanese after defeat in battle, to avoid prosecution or prevent the enemy from negatively influencing their loved ones or associates.
- Flashback: When Kōichi Kido meets Fellers.
- Troubled Backstory Flashback: Feller's ones with Aya.
- Glory Hound: For all his badassery, MacArthur sure does like to take a bunch of pictures. It's suggested that he wants to become the next President, and will perhaps throw Fellers under the bus to get there. It's left unclear whether any of this is actually true or just unfounded suspicions.
- God-Emperor: Hirohito's status throughout the war years. He gives up his status as a god after meeting MacArthur, though he retains his throne.
- Happy Ending: Fellers makes the good decision to advice MacArthur to make the good decision of allowing the reconstruction of Japan with the help of the Emperor.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Once the peace in Japan is saved, Fellers and Takahashi go for a drink.
- Ironic Echo: When Fullers first meets General Kajima before the war, he confidently declares that if fighting should start Japan will win due to their single-minded devotion to the emperor. When they meet after the war, Kajima laments that their single-minded devotion led them to do barbaric things.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite MacArthur being instructed in proper Imperial meeting protocol, he ignores all of it, but the Emperor doesn't mind at all. MacArthur stayed and helped the restoration of Japan until he was relieved by Eisenhower.
- Not So Different: Funimaro Konoe, former Prime Minister of Japan, pulls this on Fellers when discussing how international leaders had taken over lands in the past, and Japan was just following America's "fine example."
- Reasonable Authority Figure: MacArthur seems like a hard-nosed glory hound, but he takes his responsibility to rebuild Japan and prevent further bloodshed seriously and when he finally meets with the emperor he simply asks for Hirohito's help in doing just that.
- Scenery Gorn: Fellers strolls around Tokyo and several other places surveying the destruction caused by bombing raids.
- When Kōichi Kido recounts the 9th of August in Tokyo, all we can see are crumbling buildings in flames.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Historical movies usually have this, and this one's no exception, detailing the fates, of Tojo, Konoe, Sekiya, Kido, Fellers, MacArthur and Hirohito.