Upon its release in China, it attracted some criticism for its sympathetic portrayal of the Japanese soldier Kadokawa. Director Chuan Lu received online death threats to both himself and his family on the strength of this.
There were calls for the film to be deleted from the history of Chinese cinema. It was not allowed to be nominated for the Huabiao awards. Initially, it received multiple nominations and then a week before the event, all its nominations were canceled.
Early in its release, online criticism was so vehement that the film was nearly pulled from theaters, only to be saved by the personal support from Li Changchun, a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China.
The film was actually shot and printed on color film stocks; the image was desaturated in post-production. Cinematographer Yu Cao wanted to both shoot on real black & white and make release prints on a black & white positive. However, during testing he found the negatives to be grainier than he liked, and the producers thought that printing on black & white would have been too expensive.
The film includes a portrayal of Japanese soldiers burying Chinese civilians alive. This scene depicts a scene from newsreel or Japanese military footage from Nanking which was shown on American television in the 1950s.