The movie open in 1868 in Keio. The people have been oppressed for three hundred years by the Tokugawa Shogunate. When Shrine charms started falling from the sky the people celebrate, thinking this is a sign from the gods of a new era. The Imperial Restoration force is making its way across the country towards Edo trying to convince the people to support them in their cause. They are promising that taxes will be cut in half ans debts will be erased.
Gonzo (Toshiro Mifune), a member of the Imperial Restoration Force, volunteers to bring the official news to his home village of a New World Order. Gonzo is very excited to be going back and dons a Red Lion Man, posing as an officer. The villagers think Gonzo is there to help them with the corrupt official, KomaTora, that have been making their lives miserable. He has even taken women when taxes couldn't be paid.
Gonzo goes in and frees all the women. He goes and finds his old girlfriend, Tomi, and tells he she is free. While they are eating she has a surprise for Gonzo; his mother lives with her.
KomaTora's bodyguard comes out and quickly cross swords, but Gonzo quickly goes on his way. Gonzo and some of the younger village men are going to attack the deputy's office. Gonzo tells the captives, who he knew from his youth, that is no longer just the son of a farmer, but is a member of the Imperial Restoration army, but the locals just ignore him as a crazy person. When charms start falling from the sky (thrown by a helper in a tree) the crowd gets behind Gonzo.
At first things go good in the village as debts are torn up and rice is distributed but then Deputy Kintayu comes back with his men. He realizes that Gonzo is only one man by himself. Gonzo is out of town but some of the young men stand up to him. Kintayu tells the people that the charms didn't fall from the sky but were thrown by one of Gonzo's men. The money that the deputy had given them is also missing. The people begin to doubt Gonzo but then, at the urging of his mother, they take up the fight.
When Gonzo returns in the middle of the battle, the deputy and his men stop fighting. The deputy asks for mercy and the people rejoice gain. But Gonzo's mother tells him that there may be a new world order but nothing will change for the peasants.
The deputy's men decide they have to kill Gonzo. However, one of his men puts on his red lion wig and goes out for a ride with some of his friends to find the Imperial troops. He meets the Imperial Guard and as it turns out, that other group who gonzo was travelling with wasn't sanctioned and they weren't supposed to be making promises about cutting taxes an debts. Their leaders were killed and so were the men from the village.
When the villagers find out they turn on Gonzo again. The white maned Imperial troops ride in to town and Gonzo fights them, aided by the deputy's man. Together they slaughter the Imperial troops.
The Imperial troops attack again and Gonzo goes out to meet them. The troops shoot him down in the street. The peasants begin chanting and the crowd builds.
A good movie that had a farcical tone to much like Yojimbo. I think it would have been much better if they just played it straight, but it was still pretty good.