No.168 (7/23/10)

Japanese Manga Comic "Hadashi no Gen: Barefoot Gen"

By Keiko H. Johnson
Staff Writer

It was August 6, 1945, when the city of Hiroshima vanished under the immense shadow of a dark mushroom cloud when one of two atomic bombs exploded over Japan at the end of WW2. This incredibly powerful bomb had not only turned houses to ashes within seconds, but it also instantly evaporated people and any living thing. Leaving only heaps of rubble and a hovering black dust cloud in the air, Hiroshima was completely devastated. This event consequently put an end to the spiteful event of human history, WW2. The tale of Hadashi no Gen (Barefoot Gen) is the Japanese Manga comic, which describes the aftermath of Japanese people living in Hiroshima. The tale serves as a strong anti-war sentiment and a powerful message to the world to remember the innocent victims of war.

This Manga comic, Hadashi No Gen (Barefoot Gen) was first serialized in the weekly magazine of Shonen Jump in 1973. The sequences of the tale were published for 3 years with the last chronicle being published in 1975. A few years later, the comic was translated into many languages (including English) and published. It's convincingly depicted art of manga attracted attention and stirred the hearts of many in Japan as well as those who were introduced to this comic throughout the world. Its animated film version, directed by Mori Masaki and many others, also hit a few Japanese theaters in 1983.

The tale depicts people's lives living under the hardships of wartime in Hiroshima. This semi autographical tale of Keiji Nakazawa, who spent his childhood in Hiroshima during that dire time, related the story of his surviving tale through the nuclear blast into Manga comic. Kenji vividly and clearly depicts the hardships of living such as; the hunger, the deprivation, and the war hysteria of nationalists; the repression and violence of militants toward the oppositions of the war through the eyes of a little boy Gen in this Manga comic. The story unfolds as Gen and his family, regardless of the hardships of living during the war time, maintained their lives in high spirits as much as they could possibly do. When the atomic bomb exploded just 560m above the ground of Hiroshima City, however, his life crumbled as well as his loving city of Hiroshima which was turned to ash. He and his pregnant mother were survivors of the blast, but the horrifying events of nuclear related deaths awaited those who survived.

After the bomb went off, Gen witnessed unnerving sights. The river that ran through the city was covered with burnt human bodies, whose skin had melted and peeled off of their flesh. Some of the survivors with such conditions as burnt skin and pieces of glass from shattered windows sticking into their body were racing toward the river in need of water, without knowing that quenching their burned throat was the way to end their life. Such gruesome scenes Gen witnessed right after the blast put him into emotional distress. As the tale unfolds, the fierce power of nuclear poisoning that undermines human health becomes evident and gradually affects Gen as well.

The collective form of Manga continues, but I cannot introduce the entire series of Manga in this short article. As the Japanese Memorial Day is approaching in August, reading this graphic depiction of nuclear devastation may become one of the ways to remember the war as a conflict which involved many citizens as its casualties and injured victims. On Memorial Day, let’s listen to the true voice of innocent civilian victims and casualties who sends strong anti war messages to the world.

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