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Barefoot Gen, Vol. 1: A Cartoon Story of…

Barefoot Gen, Vol. 1: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima (1973)

by Keiji Nakazawa

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Barefoot Gen (1)

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English (24)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
In the introduction to BAREFOOT GEN, Art Spiegelman describes his experience reading this work as follows:
"GEN burned its way into my heated brain with all the intensity of a fever-dream. I've found myself remembering images and events from the GEN books with a clarity that made them seem like memories from my own life, rather than Nakazawa's. I will never forget the people dragging their own melted skin as the walk through the ruins of Hiroshima, the panic-stricken horse on fire galloping through the city, the maggots crawling out of the sores of a young girl's ruined face. GEN deals with the trauma of the atom bomb without flinching." This really captures the effect that a book like GEN can have on a person. The book achieves on multiple fronts: it is a true story, written AND ILLUSTRATED by the person himself, who became an illustrator after the war. This profound and important story is enhanced through the powerful illustrations, which are at once simple and evocative. The newspaper-comic style is, perhaps, unexpected, but it works. A few pages in to the story, and the reader quickly becomes enraptured with the characters and plot, and the fat that they are depicted as cartoons does not diminish the "realness."

There is something unmistakable about how the author has taken such an intense experience- perhaps the most so in human history- and been able to depict his family being burned to death right in front of him while he helplessly watches...and then to assist his mother when she gives birth on the side of the road later that day. Also notable is the book's moving note from the author. Keiji Nakazawa introduces the story by telling readers how the atomic bomb exploded just a few hundred meters from his hometown, and he describes his experience in the moments, days, and years after the attack. Spiegelman was right: Nakazawa does not flinch or shy away from the brutal truths. He objectively tells a very personal and emotional story in an artistic way, giving this book a unique and unforgettable tone. The truth is not obscured: horrible realities are laid bare.

One scene in particular that resonated with me was how the students were taken out of school and forced to work in the war effort. At one point, the ninth grade students complain about the work detail, and question their society's involvement in the war. Furthermore, this account is deeply personal, rooted in complex and meaningful relationship dynamics among his family. Students and readers of all stripes will find this text engaging, informative, inspiring, shocking, and (incredibly, considering the context) uplifting. ( )
  andrewzutell | May 10, 2017 |
I'm still new to this genre, so I'm not entirely comfortable with all the terms. What exactly is a graphic novel? Comic books aren't considered graphic novels, so where is the line drawn? Barefoot Gen has the look of a daily comic, but feels more like a graphic novel, so what is it? My worry that I'll say something stupid sends me to the Internet searching for answers. Barefoot Gen is manga. I have a lot to learn. What exactly is manga? Japanese comics. I'm still confused as to where the line is drawn. Screw it, I hate lines anyway.

Barefoot Gen is a comic-style book-thingy that tells a complete story. It was originally published in Japan in the 1970s. By the 1980s, it had been translated into English and was one of the first manga to be marketed in the United States. (See the Internet made me smarter.) Barefoot Gen is a series of ten books that details the bombing of Hiroshima by one survivor, Keiji Nakazawa. Often the series is referred to as an autobiography, but the author's own introduction contradicts some of the details of the comic, so I think of it more as semi-biographical.

I've read books about the bombing of Japan (the fire bombs and the atomic bombings) and I knew of the horrors. I understood there would be limits to what a comic book could illustrate, so I didn't have the highest expectations when it came to realism. I was surprised. True, the comic couldn't capture the destruction, the darkness, the stench, but it really did quite a fine job introducing images that burn into the reader's mind, much more than I imagined was possible anyway.

Barefoot Gen (which refers to the first book in the series and not the series itself from this point forward) is an introduction to the Nakaoka family. The book takes place in the middle of 1945 and shows the day-to-day life of the average Japanese civilian during war. Food is sparse. Hope is dying. But the Nakaoka family has it particularly hard because they oppose the war and are branded as traitors. Most of Barefoot Gen illustrates the trials and struggle the family has internally and externally. The bomb doesn't fall until the end, which was a wise choice on the author's part, getting the reader fully acquainted with the family first.

This is a really great comic depiction of Hiroshima before and during the atomic bombing. I've already started the second in the series, entitled The Day After. I did have two small complaints about this first book. The first is that there is quite a bit of comic mischief throughout, squabbles that lead to fights which seem to be played for laughs. It reminded me of Looney Toons cartoons. Perhaps this is just the style, but it did distract from the story line and didn't really seem to fit in with the ethics of this pacifist family. The second issue is that the story seems to be anti-Japanese. Perhaps this will be rectified in later volumes when Gen actually meets the occupying forces, but in this first volume, the Nakaoka family seems to blame Japan for all that is happening. A more balanced account is certainly welcome.

For those wanting an introduction to nuclear warfare and those who can appreciate a good comic, I recommend Barefoot Gen. (Just know that the contents may haunt you for a while). ( )
  chrisblocker | Jan 28, 2016 |
Amazing biographical graphic novel. The characters in the family unit at the work's center are beautifully realized (particularly the combative/loving relationship between the two brothers), and the strong anti-war message of the work blazes from the pages. This volume in the series highlights the deprivation and misery of Hiroshima's citizens leading up to and including the bombing in WWII. The simplistic astro boy-cartoon style of the art is a product of the time period and, in my opinion, does not detract from the gravity and horror of the events. Stunning and heartbreaking. ( )
  LadyBill | Jan 23, 2016 |
I think this should be required reading for anyone studying the Second World War. ( )
  LJMax | Aug 21, 2015 |
How much worse do things have to get before people wake up?
They should turn their anger against the men who started the, no each other ( )
  sam.amadei | Jul 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nakazawa, KeijiAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Futakuchi, KazukoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gleason, AlanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hopkins, LibbyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matsuoka, HiromiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nishita, KiyokoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Project GenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spiegelman, ArtIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stenson, GeorgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0867196025, Paperback)

This harrowing story of Hiroshima was one of the original Japanese manga series. New and unabridged, this is an all-new translation of the author's first-person experiences of Hiroshima and its aftermath, is a reminder of the suffering war brings to innocent people. Its emotions and experiences speak to children and adults everywhere. Volume one of this ten-part series details the events leading up to and immediately following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

This captivating story of Hiroshima was one of the original Japanese manga series. New and unabridged, this is an all-new translation of the author's first-person experiences of Hiroshima and its aftermath, a reminder of the suffering war brings to innocent people. Its emotions and experiences speak to children and adults everywhere. Volume One of this ten-part series details the events leading up to and immediately following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.… (more)

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