This anime gets you and grips you from the start. From how society shows their disdain for these boys in the first moments of the show, to how they become friends, to the trials and tibulations, loves, losses, and hardships these boys go through, this knows how to tell a story.
The summary is a bit misleading. While there is a lot about how the boys manage to live through their reformatory years, only about half the anime is about that. They all have hopes and dreams, and this anime is also about those- how they live afterwards to try and achieve them.
These seven boys go through the impossible. Corrupt, abusive guards, breaking out, getting out on their own merits…. And long after everything is said and done, their pasts coming back to bite them. Yet through it all, they manage to keep a bright hope burning for the future.
Overall, this is a great anime. Very true to the period that it was made, and very well-told.
Violence/Gore- The boys are tormented, by being placed under water to die of hypothermia, being beaten until bruised and swollen, one boy having his hand smashed, nearly being killed in a fire. Some of the boys come from abusive homes - one boy's family died in the atomic bombing. There is one death onsceen due to stabbing and shooting. One guy also wants to be a boxer, so there is some fighting when he's in a match.
Nudity/Sexual Content- There is partial nudity, semi-graphic depiction of child rape and molestation of young boys. It only occurs in two or three episodes, but is heavily implied in more than a few (one of the boys deals with it since it happened to him). There was a scene in the doctor's offuce where the guard tells them to put their hands and feet on the markers for an anal examination. Thankfully, this is not gone into.
Other Themes- Surprisingly, for all that the boys go through, it's not a dark title- it's one of hope and to go on under adversity. There is fairly frequent smoking and some drinking, and a little bit of language, but not as much as one would think.