Author Topic: Barefoot Gen  (Read 467 times)

LumRanmaYasha

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Barefoot Gen
« on: August 05, 2015, 12:54:50 AM »
I cannot hope to describe this series with enough justice. You probably all know the movie. You probably vividly remember the disturbing, graphic scene depicting the bombing of Hiroshima. The movie's narrative seems to drift after that, showing various different sketches depicting the suffering in the aftermath of the bombing with a decent ending of hope. The movie is a classic, and a must-watch. But it doesn't tell it's story or develop it's themes better than it's source material. Honestly, it doesn't even come close.

Barefoot Gen is possibly the most politically charged and downright angry manga ever made. It's a series with a purpose - to depict the living hell victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima felt and it's consequences over the years. It is extremely opinionated about the japanese societal and political systems of the 1940's and 50's and is pretty firmly anti-war. But all the biases in the series ring true and have weight. After all, it was written by a man who lived through it. He knows what he's talking about. The losses and struggles Gen endures are those he and people he knew suffered themselves, and that includes the loss of family members and other tragedies and atrocities seen in the series. It is not an easy manga to read. It's downright uncomfortable and sobering at times. Most of the characters do not get happy endings to their lives. The series is only as optimistic as it is pessimistic. It's not a "fun" read. But dammit, it's arguably the most important manga ever made, with a legitimate historical and cultural value that must be recognized, appreciated, and shared with people across the world. And in spite of everything that could go wrong going wrong, the series is inspiring. I don't think there is a character in manga with as much hope and courage as Gen Nakaoka. No matter what life puts him through, he refuses to let himself get beat down, and throughout the series his passion for life and helping others inspires many around him and changes lives. I find him inspiring as well; a true icon, representing the best a human being could possibly be, even when faced with heavy burdens and heart-breaking hardships. Gen is one of my favorite characters, and this series is one of my favorite manga and comics. I'd consider it as essential a read as Maus, and even The Diary of Anne Frank. It will help you better understand the perspective of a normal japanese citizen during the later years of WWII and the period of rebuilding and reconstruction following it's end, and it's a compelling piece of drama with messages that, while recognizably biased, are still incredibly important to discuss and share.

This brings me to the reason I've made this thread today. A while ago, the early volumes of Barefoot Gen went out of print. However, in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, Last Gasp has set up a kickstarter to fund a hard-cover re-printing of the first four volumes of the series with the goal of distributing them in libraries across the U.S. If you are able to, I think this is possibly one of the most worthwhile manga-related funding initiatives that there ever was. The more hands this series finds itself in, the better.

Barefoot Gen is the only manga I will ever suggest everyone on this board should read, even just once. You might not "enjoy" it, necessarily, but it's a story that deserves reading, and is well worth your time to do so.

goody2shoes

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Re: Barefoot Gen
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2015, 09:16:50 AM »
It's harrowing and inspiring. I think it's a good example of a work transcending its medium, and recommend it to everyone who can stomach it.

Don't think I picked up quite the same angry vibe you did though, CX. It's colored by the author's experiences and political views in places, sure, but I perceived it as a more somber story with the message about perseverance and hope taking center stage.

LumRanmaYasha

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Re: Barefoot Gen
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2015, 10:58:02 AM »
There's a lot of times where characters rant about how shitty the government is for dragging them into a war no one wanted, how people are blind to the dangers and act selfishly and self-destructively, the problems with the reconstruction, etc. I think it's chock full of the mangaka's anger and bitterness about his experiences. Though it doesn't overshadow the other themes or get in the way of telling a great story about family, friendship, perseverance, and survival, of course.

goody2shoes

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Re: Barefoot Gen
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2015, 05:45:58 AM »
Yeah, you're right. I just read "I Saw It" by the same author. His anger and resentment about the war and nuclear bombs was a clear driving factor to draw both comics.

LumRanmaYasha

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Re: Barefoot Gen
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2015, 03:15:43 PM »
The Kickstarter has been funded! I was worried it might not make it, so this is extremely pleasing news. ;D

LumRanmaYasha

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Re: Barefoot Gen
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2016, 09:44:40 PM »
A letter written by Keiji Nakazawa to President Obama was recently publicized.

Quote
Dear President Obama and Family,

My name is Keiji Nakazawa. I am a Japanese cartoonist, a citizen of Hiroshima, and the author of "Barefoot Gen," a graphic novel whose hero, Gen, is a young boy whose pluck and courage help him survive the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and its terrible aftermath.

First of all, I would like to offer you my sincere congratulations on your election to the presidency of the United States. I am writing to you because, with the recent completion of the English translation of all ten volumes of the "Barefoot Gen" series, it is my hope that you and your family will find time in your busy schedules to read Gen's story.

This year, the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, residents of those cities felt for the first time that our long-cherished dream of a nuclear-free world might really come true. What gave us hope was your speech in Prague on April 5 this year in which you declared your commitment to a "world without nuclear weapons." On the occasion of the anniversary of the bombing, Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba coined the word "Obamajority" to express his belief that the vast majority of the world's citizens share this commitment with you. As one such citizen, I too would like to declare my unwavering support for your initiative.

I was especially moved when I read a newspaper article that mentioned your visit in October 2007 to the exhibition of A-bomb panels at DePaul University in Chicago. I could not help thinking that what you saw there may have helped inspire your determination to achieve a nuclear-free world.

I know that such a goal will not be easy to achieve -- as you stated in Prague, perhaps not in our lifetimes. But as a significant step in that direction, it is my hope that you will come to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hear the voices of the atomic bomb survivors first-hand, and visit the Peace Memorial Museum here in Hiroshima. Such a visit by the leader of the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon would be a persuasive indicator to the other nuclear powers of the United States's sense of moral responsibility as well as your own personal commitment.

As perhaps the busiest person in the world, your schedule may not permit such a visit any time soon. In the meantime, however, I hope that you, your wife Michelle and your daughters Malia and Sasha will read "Barefoot Gen" together. I believe that you will find it a useful means of understanding the actual experience of the atomic bomb victims, and of preparing for an eventual visit to Hiroshima.

"Barefoot Gen" is not a work of fiction, but is based on my own experiences as a survivor as well as those of my family and friends. It is my prayer that Gen's story will help galvanize the commitment of peace-loving people around the world to the goals you have so eloquently expressed. I also pray for the health and happiness of you and your family.

Sincerely yours,

Keiji Nakazawa

Hiroshima, Japan

August 20, 2009

 :'(