A coming-of-age story portrayed as the loss of all youthful illusions. Sixteen-year-old Yoichi dreams of becoming a sailor. His parents are fishmongers, and Yoichi lives together with them and his four siblings in cramped living conditions. His beloved younger sister is given to a wealthy, childless uncle; his best friend moves away; the girl he fell in love with from afar is with someone else: little by little, Yoichi loses all the people that are important to him. His counterpart is his older sister, who defends her own interests regardless of the consequences. Her determination to better herself, her willingness to do anything to escape poverty, is emblematic of Japanese post-war society. Yoichi, on the other hand, has only the binoculars left to him by an uncle to help him dream about another world, far away from his family. The film’s melancholy tone depicts Yoichi’s fate as inescapable: "Man's happiness or sadness is fixed before birth", he declares as some point. By the end, the conflict between obligation and fulfilling your dreams has given way to quiet resignation.