“Barefoot Gen” Stomps His Way Into the Present Day

Barefoot GenJust in time for the 68th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Choubunsha Publishing Company has released a new and updated version of “Barefoot Gen”, a bilingual edition of the graphic novel that will now be told in both Japanese and English. This highly acclaimed manga was written and illustrated by A-bomb survivor Keiji Nakazawa.

Part of this story’s success can be attributed to its accessibility. It is told from the perspective of a child, in a simple fashion that remains easily understood to most readers today. We are able to see through pictures and words the terrifying and tragic reality that was borne out of the destruction from the world’s first atomic bomb. Through this manga we are able to witness the experiences of a small child in an impossible situation, the decisions he should have to make, and are left to question what our own decisions might truly have been.  As adults, we may be able to imagine we could rationalize the events and prioritize the actions we would have taken were we to have found ourselves in such a situation. For a child, however, this proved nearly impossible. But consider this: what would we do if faced with the decision of saving family members trapped inside a burning house or fleeing with those that happened to be outside at the time of the bombing; would we leave the others to burn, or flee with those we could still save? What would we do when confronted with the masses of dead and dying along the way to rumored safety? How do we decide when and if to share scarce food? These are some of the decisions faced by our protagonist and by many of the survivors of the bombings on that terrible August day in 1945.

Along with being accessible, Gen’s story remains relevant today. Not only are we faced with the anniversary of both tremendous bombings, we are also faced with the passing of another year since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and the nuclear tragedy that followed in its wake.  We should be mindful of the destructive power of nuclear energy. While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launches his pro-nuclear power campaign, travelling the world to spread his message, let us take notice of the story of “Barefoot Gen” and the lessons he can teach us. The posthumous re-release of the “Barefoot Gen” as a bi-lingual translation gives more people, both Japanese and English-speaking, the opportunity to reconsider the costs of nuclear power in all its forms. Before allowing any of our politicians to carry on supporting nuclear power, let us pause for a moment to remember what has and could come of such forces.



Photo source: JfilmPowWow