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Barefoot Gen, Vol. 1: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima (original 1973; edition 2004)

by Keiji Nakazawa, Art Spiegelman, Project Gen (Translator)

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4352224,192 (4.21)46
Member:Zirl
Title:Barefoot Gen, Vol. 1: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima
Authors:Keiji Nakazawa
Other authors:Art Spiegelman, Project Gen (Translator)
Info:Last Gasp of San Francisco (2004), Paperback, 288 pages
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Barefoot Gen, Vol. 1: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima by Keiji Nakazawa (1973)

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English (19)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
I don't know what there is to say about this book that isn't obvious--the horrors and trials of war, the looming tragedy, the unreality of the city after the bomb. And it's good. A little slapstick-y and cartoony at times, but I find that with most manga. Maybe that's a cultural thing, but it doesn't really work for me to be reading a serious story and then have these cartoony moments; it's jarring and doesn't fit with the rest of the work. Anyway, those parts didn't really work for me, but the rest of the book is good. ( )
  librarybrandy | Mar 29, 2013 |
In his fictionalized memoir, artist Keiji Nakazawa tells the story of his childhood during WWII and his survival of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In this first volume of ten, Nakazawa depicts the hardships of life in Japan during the war with mandatory homeland defense training, near starvation, and constant bombing. Gen's father is outspoken about his anti-war views and he serves time in jail, leaving his family to fend for themselves. Gen's mother is pregnant, and falls ill due to malnutrition and overwork. Gen, his younger brother, and older sister live at home and are treated abominably by the neighbors for being related to a anti-war traitor. Gen and his brother retaliate violently, but it often backfires and brings down more trouble. One of Gen's older brothers joins the Naval Air Corps to be a kamikaze pilot and bring honor to the family, much against his family's wishes. The other, a third grader, is evacuated with his school class to the countryside where he works in the fields in harsh conditions. When Gen's father returns home, the family rejoices, but is also subject to his casual violence as he tries to beat his values into his children.

The fate of Gen's family when the bomb falls on August 6, 1945 is harrowing and true to life, with the exception that in the book Gen returns home in time to witness the events that Nakazawa actually learns later that day from his mother. Although the author describes these events in the introduction, and thus it's not really a spoiler, I am going to avoid relating what happens as the impact of reading Nakazawa words cannot be replicated.

After finishing the book, I had very mixed feelings. The memoir itself is exceptional, if difficult to read, but I had a hard time with the stylized grimacing and sweating faces of the characters. I am not familiar with manga and found the art off-putting. I also found the casual brutality depicted in the book, both within Gen's family and within the larger community, to be very disturbing, especially the violence to and by children. (Although, of course, this violence is nothing compared to the horror of the atomic bombing.) In his introduction, [[Art Spiegelman]] addresses both of these issues, and I found his explanations helpful, if not palliative. In short, according to Spiegelman, both violence and the stylized faces are typical of manga of the time and would not be seen as out of place to a Japanese audience. Nor would the length of the entire Barefoot Gen series, which runs to almost 2000 pages. Although I am glad that I read the first volume, I am going to cancel my interlibrary loan of the next two volumes, at least for now. For me, it's a story best digested in small chunks. ( )
  labfs39 | Jan 18, 2013 |
Graphic, heart-reading, incredible. I can't wait to read the other nine. ( )
  sshadoan | Nov 10, 2011 |
Barefoot Gen is volume one of a 10-volume manga-format memoir of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. This volume covers the months leading up to the bomb through the initial moments after the bomb explodes.

Through 6-year-old Gen and his family and community, we see the effects on civilians of the late stages of war -- the nationalism alongside the growing disengagement with the war and the emperor, the impossible hunger and desperation that prompts both kindness and evil and is horribly sated by whole-family suicides. But we also see an optimistic and inventive young boy, whose story I must pursue further.

The most memorable single sentence (written in the 1970s and translated in the ‘80s but evocative again) occurs as Gen’s family greets the morning of August 6, 1945: “What a beautiful day -- the sky’s so blue!” ( )
1 vote DetailMuse | Jun 10, 2011 |
I’ll admit, I was somewhat nervous when Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen was selected for February 2011’s Manga Moveable Feast. I studied the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki extensively while in high school--even selecting it as the subject of my major senior project--and I have a tendency to get into heated arguments with people about it (which is really saying something for me). But ultimately, I was glad the series was selected, especially as I hadn’t actually read it myself. Nakazawa began Barefoot Gen in 1973 and it is heavily based on his own experiences as a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing. Ten volumes and over twenty-four hundred pages later, he finished the work in 1985. The first collected volume, Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima was originally published in Japan in 1975. A partial English translation was also released in the late 1970s, making Barefoot Gen one of the first manga to be made available in English. It wasn’t until 2004 that the first complete English translation, with an introduction by Art Spiegelman, was published by Last Gasp.

Most of the first volume of Barefoot Gen follows the lives of the Nakaoka family, beginning several months before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by the United States on August 6, 1945. Like many families living in Hiroshima at the time, their primary concern was finding enough to eat—not an easy task in wartime Japan for a household of seven. Day to day existence was enough of a struggle, but on top of the that the Nakaoka’s father was vehemently anti-war, often speaking out against it and the government. Since that viewpoint was seen as traitorous and was punishable, this mean that the family faced additional difficulties and discrimination from the authorities and their neighbors. But when the bomb dropped it didn’t matter who was for or against the war—civilians, military personnel, government officials, prisoners of war—everyone had to deal with the brutal consequences of the city’s destruction.

Nakazawa’s style of art in Barefoot Gen is very approachable, almost friendly and seemingly at odds with the story being told, but Nakazawa doesn’t shy away from showing the terrible realities of war and it can be quite emotional. Two motifs that appear repeatedly through Barefoot Gen are wheat and the sun. The meaning of the wheat is explained on the very first page of the manga, symbolizing the constant struggle to persevere over adversity. The symbolism of the sun is more ambiguous and left up to individual interpretation. It is a very prominent image--often the sun is the only visual element in a panel--and it recurs frequently. In addition to marking the passage of time, the sun acts as a impartial and uncaring observer, a reminder that we are only a small part of the universe, watching over the events and tragedies that unfold. Although there are few natural stopping points, there are no explicit chapter breaks in Barefoot Gen making it very easy to become absorbed in Nakazawa’s tale.

Because of its subject matter, Barefoot Gen is rather heavy reading and not easy to get through. War is a terrible thing and people can be incredibly cruel to one another. But there are heart-warming moments in Barefoot Gen as well when I couldn’t help but smile. Despite both internal and external conflicts, the Nakaoka family are wonderfully close and loving and there are those who appreciate their stance against the war. So, while Barefoot Gen honestly shows the suffering caused by war and nuclear weapons and has the potential of being overwhelmingly bleak, it is not without hope. Nakazawa was one of the first artist in Japan to address and speak out about what happened at Hiroshima through his work at a time when that information was being suppressed. Although Barefoot Gen is a fictionalized account, it is a true story based on his and his family’s lives. It is a very important, powerful and heartbreaking work.

Experiments in Manga ( )
2 vote PhoenixTerran | Feb 18, 2011 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:24 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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