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Barefoot Gen: Life After the Bomb: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima by Keiji Nakazawa Review

Title: Barefoot Gen: Life After the Bomb: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima

Author: Keiji Nakazawa

First published January 1, 1973

164 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780867194524 (ISBN10: 0867194529)

Rating: 4.34

Overview

Exclusively available through Last Gasp, Barefoot Gen: Life After the Bomb is a captivating cartoon story by Keiji Nakazawa. The book chronicles the life of seven-year-old Gen, who lived in Hiroshima during the early days of August in 1945.

Gen’s life is forever altered when the U.S.A drops an atomic bomb on the city. The four-volume series is a poignant portrayal of life in Japan after years of war and privation.

The scope and intensity of this story can be compared to that of Maus. Experience the emotional journey of Gen as he navigates through the aftermath of devastation and loss in this powerful and thought-provoking book.

About the Author

Keiji Nakazawa was born in Hiroshima and was there when the city was destroyed by an atomic bomb in 1945. Sadly, all of his family members who had not evacuated died due to the explosion, except for his mother and an infant sister who passed away a few weeks later.

In 1961, Nakazawa moved to Tokyo to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time cartoonist. He created short stories for manga anthologies like Shōnen Gaho, Shōnen King, and Bokura.

After his mother’s death in 1966, Nakazawa began to reflect on the destruction of Hiroshima and started to express his memories through his stories. He wrote Kuroi Ame ni Utarete (Struck by Black Rain), the first of a series of five books.

This fictional story depicted Hiroshima survivors involved in the postwar black market. Nakazawa chose to depict his own experience more directly in the 1972 story, Ore wa Mita, published in Monthly Shōnen Jump.

This story was translated into English and published as a one-shot comic book by Educomics titled I Saw It.

After completing I Saw It, Nakazawa began his most significant work, Hadashi no Gen (Barefoot Gen). This series, which filled ten volumes, was based on the same events as I Saw It but fictionalized, with the young character, Gen, serving as a stand-in for the author.

Barefoot Gen portrayed the bombing and its aftermath in vivid detail, with Gen’s experiences being even more traumatic than Nakazawa’s. The series also criticized the militarization of Japanese society during World War II and the sometimes abusive dynamics of traditional families.

Barefoot Gen was adapted into two animated films and a live-action TV drama.

In September 2009, Nakazawa announced his retirement due to deteriorating diabetes and cataract conditions. He also canceled plans for a Barefoot Gen sequel.

In September 2010, Nakazawa was diagnosed with lung cancer, and in July 2011, metastasis from lung cancer was discovered. He passed away on December 19, 2012.

Editoral Review

Barefoot Gen: Life After the Bomb by Keiji Nakazawa is an iconic manga that has captivated readers since its publication in 1973. Nakazawa himself lived through the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which serves as the backdrop for the story.

This historical context, combined with Nakazawa’s powerful storytelling, makes Barefoot Gen a truly unforgettable work. The story follows Gen, a young boy who survives the bombing along with his mother and baby sister.

They are left to navigate the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Hiroshima, struggling to find food and shelter while facing the aftermath of the bomb. Despite the devastation around him, Gen remains resilient and determined to survive.

One of the strengths of Barefoot Gen is its vivid depiction of the horrors of war. Nakazawa’s use of cartoonish illustrations serves to heighten the impact of the violence and tragedy experienced by the characters.

He also masterfully navigates the emotional terrain of the story, capturing both the despair and hope that arise in the face of catastrophe. However, some readers may find the characters to be somewhat one-dimensional, with little nuance or complexity.

Additionally, the pacing of the story can be slow at times, particularly in the middle section. However, these flaws do not detract from the overall power of the story.

Barefoot Gen has significant cultural and historical significance as a firsthand account of one of the most devastating events in modern history. It is particularly relevant in today’s society as we continue to grapple with the consequences of war and the devastating impact of atomic weapons.

Overall, Barefoot Gen: Life After the Bomb is a must-read for those interested in the manga genre or in historical fiction. It is a powerful testament to the human spirit in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

We give it a score of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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