Tomasu Sawabe is an artist from an aristocratic samurai background, who flees to Paris at the rise of militarism in Japan. On the death of his father he is forced to return and is caught up in the fervour of a general mobilization and has no other choice but to join up as an officer in the Third Imperial Infantry Regiment. Together with his friend Akihiro Katsuzo, a poet, he takes part in the invasion of Shanghai (1937).
Although, Sawabe is not a pacifist, he hates violence and is appalled at the brutality of his fellow country men. He is torn between his desire to pursue art and his loyalty to the Emperor and his family traditions. Unknown to Sawabe, Tien Loi, a street kid, will play a significant role in Sawabe's destiny. Tien Loi together with his sister, Lanshin are members of a street gang that spies for the Chinese Resistance. Meeting a mysterious Taoist priest, Tien Loi seeks to find if the ancient gods will help drive out the enemy. His ambition is to join the Resistance as a fighter. His desire is fulfilled but it leaves him exposed to danger from Japanese patrols, Chinese traffickers and 'mysterious' occult forces. His sister, Lanshin abandons her street life and takes shelter in the Russian mission where she comes under the spiritual protection of an enigmatic bishop, who Katsuzo jokingly refers to as the spiritual 'shogun' of Shanghai. Sawabe and Katzuso are deeply affected by the Russian 'shogun'. In the midst of the carnage and destruction of the city, Sawabe and Katsuzo find fulfilment in helping the street kids. Despite the crushing defeat of the Chinese army and the capture of Shanghai by the invading forces, Tien Loi, Lanshin and friends find a glimpse of hope from an unexpected source.
Katzuso sacrifices his life for Tien Loi and Sawabe is seriously injured by the boy in a bomb attack. Tien Loi sustains a serious wound to his left foot in this incident, while unknown to him, Sawabe loses his left foot. Tien Loi abandons the resistance and is reconciled with his sister, Lanshin, and stays on at the mission. Sawabe is hospitalized and returns to Japan where he is decorated for bravery.