Barefoot Gen, Volume One: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima by Keiji Nakazawa Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Barefoot Gen, Volume One: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima

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 det

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    Bruce

    Jan 31, 2010

    rated it
    it was amazing

    Recommends it for:
    a must-read for everyone

    (detail from a panel of volume two, this is from p. 6 of 'Barefoot Gen - The Day After')
    (Detail from a panel of volume two, this is from p. 6 of Barefoot Gen – The Day After)

    It’s taken me a while since I finished the tenth and final volume of the Barefoot Gen series to write up a thorough review. It’s hard to say why, exactly, (the cause could simply be laziness) though I suspect the power of the subject matter has as much to do with it as anything else. Keiji Nakazawa, Gen’s author, was a 7 year old child living in Hiroshima when the first atomic weapon obliterated the city and ne

    It’s taken me a while since I finished the tenth and final volume of the Barefoot Gen series to write up a thorough review. It’s hard to say why, exactly, (the cause could simply be laziness) though I suspect the power of the subject matter has as much to do with it as anything else. Keiji Nakazawa, Gen’s author, was a 7 year old child living in Hiroshima when the first atomic weapon obliterated the city and nearly everyone in it. Barefoot Gen is his retelling of his own harrowing experiences living through atomic hell and its aftermath.

    This towering work, which took Nakazawa about 20 years to complete, has been called the Manga Maus, and in fact, this edition comes with a forward/testimonial written by Art Spiegelman himself. There are, however, a few key differences between the two. While both are autobiographical, Spiegelman pivots his narrative around his relationship to his father the Holocaust survivor. His work is literally as retold to him. Gen, on the other hand, is a lightly-fictionalized tale that puts us (with young Gen Nakaoka) directly behind the eyes of an A-bomb survivor in Japan from 1945 through 1953. Where Spiegelman relieves tension by releasing readers into the present day and uses visual metaphor (dogs, cats, mice) as a distancing technique, Nakazawa delivers an unrelenting, first person narrative in more or less realistic fashion.

    And (save for a 91-page digressive short story about baseball fandom at the start of Volume 8, which is a bit of a head-scratcher), it is unrelenting. I can’t count how many times in reading this 2000+ page opus I found myself blurting, “But wait, it gets EVEN WORSE,” as every social and biological consequence of militarism and nuclear fallout one could possibly imagine inexorably paid out. You want fascist oppression? Ritual suicide? Done. Heat shockwave melting the skin off those exposed? Right there. Watch helplessly as family members are crushed and burned to death in collapsed buildings and torched ruins. Suffer through the drownings of burn victims, maggot infestations at the height of summer, social ostracism, street beatings, revenge killings, malnutrition, starvation, descent into anarchy, gang violence, alcoholism and drug abuse, opportunistic politicians, inner organ fatigue, hemorrhaging, leukemia and other forms of cancer, espionage and predatory bureaucracy, loved ones dying mysteriously like clockwork all around you… oh, yes, and sometimes people lose their hair.

    What’s so remarkable about all this is how sanguinely the horror is packaged. Nakazawa’s refusal or incapacity to photorealistically portray keloid scarring, broken and ruptured limbs, human and animal waste, and similarly squeamish-shrinking content may undercut some of its visual power and coherence, but it does make this unbelievable story more palatable. As grounded as this series is in historic reality, it would be tragic to turn readers away or allow them to dismiss the material as fantasy. It is perhaps foremost the eyewitness credibility of the content that lends it such importance. On top of that, young Gen Nakaoka is an overwhelmingly positive protagonist. His steadfast refusal never to give up, his consistent moral honesty, and his trickster-like resilience in a mad, mad world motivate perseverance in readers as much as in his fictional friends and family.

    In this way, Nakazawa also appears to be targeting a younger audience than Spiegelman. In fact, his dialogue can lack sophistication, even be on-the-nose or preachy. Take the following example from page 100 of the first volume:

    ”Dear, I guess we have no choice but to cooperate with the war effort, no matter how wrong we think it is. }Sob…{ I can’t stand it anymore! Being bullied like this and called a traitor…”

    “It’s despicable… the way the authorities use their power to force people to go to war! They’re deceiving everyone, turning people into human bullets…”

    That reads to me a bit like classic dubbed chopsocky deadpan: “You and your clan of thieving warlords will now pay for the death of my brother. I will not rest until I have tasted my revenge.”

    Another typical selection appears at p. 130:

    ”Mr. Kishi, please don’t be too hard on the boys. They aren’t getting enough to eat.”

    “You musn’t indulge them, Miss Osato. No matter how tough it is on them, we’ve got to raise them to be strong children for the Empire.”

    Now where is that Darth Vader sound effect when you need it?

    Yet if this is a work written at something of a fourth-grade reading level, it is no less gripping or significant. In fact, I was moved to let my fourth-grade daughter read it on the strength of one of the prefaces, which mentioned that the series is introduced to Japanese schoolchildren at that age. (She devoured it, loved it, and was willing to talk about it with me.) Moreover, reading this work allowed me to understand more immediately the impact of historic events I had otherwise taken for granted. For example, the onset of the Korean War takes on a chilling aspect in the context of exposed Japanese civilians less than 5 years after the devastation of Hiroshima/Nagasaki/Tokyo. Nakazawa conveys this information through the chain link of a US military installation, thereby shrewdly juxtaposing power and powerlessness.

    This series is a great read, a must read. It is a terrifying, towering contribution to literature that stands as a warning to humanity of the consequences of aggression, the excesses of brutality, and the painful hubris born of arrogance, ignorance, and intolerance. I have read it. My daughter has read it. My son will read it in a couple of years has read it. I’m so happy we have this in our library.

    Thumbnail synopsis of each book in the series:

    * BG1 – chronicles a 7 year old boy’s struggles in Hiroshima, Japan, enduring the hardships of war under Japan’s militaristic regime in 1945 as an Allied invasion looms ever nearer. But the US drops an atomic bomb instead… and immediate hell erupts.

    * BG2 – “The Day After” (second only to BG7 in narrative brutality; reading these books especially will build character)

    * BG3 – Gen plays nursemaid to a dying artist shunned by his own family

    * BG4 – Gen, Tomoko, and Ryuta take refuge with “friends” in Eba; Gen returns to school

    * BG5 – Ryuta takes on the yakuza as Gen learns his ABCCs

    * BG6 – Gen intervenes in a few suicide attempts and earns money stripping the city’s remains

    * BG7 – USGHQ arrests Gen for distributing a first-hand account of the bomb… and worse things happen

    * BG8 – Gen learns the difference between alcohol and Philopon

    * BG9 – urban renewal takes Gen’s improvised house and Gen finds an art teacher

    * BG10 – Gen finds work as a sign painter and falls in love

    {As of this revision, my daughter has published her own website with friends. Her short, trenchant review of the Gen series can be found here. …I’m so proud!}
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    Rebecca McNutt

    description
    If there’s one graphic novel that I’d recommend to anyone, even if they hate the manga style with a passion, it would be Barefoot Gen. Also a shocking if not completely horrific and graphic film, this is the story of a young boy caught in the chaos of WWII’s Hiroshima, the disaster that leaves him struggling to survive when the people around him are destroyed in an instant. He’s resilient, but the terror awaiting him and his family makes for a powerful cautionary tale for any reader. This is on


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    James

    Dec 11, 2007

    rated it
    it was amazing

    Recommends it for:
    anyone/everyone. They’re hard to find though.

    My 6th grade teacher, Ms. Greenwood, had the Barefoot Gen series on a shelf in our classroom. I read all of these there. I now realize what a profoundly anti-war statement it was, leaving these books within the grasp of 12-year-olds–these are graphic novels about the bombing of Hiroshima, from the perspective of a young civilian boy who loses almost his entire family.

    The books juxtapose cartoons and the trivialities of youth with the singularly gruesome, nightmarish truths of using nuclear weap

    The books juxtapose cartoons and the trivialities of youth with the singularly gruesome, nightmarish truths of using nuclear weapons on a heavily populated, largely civilian city. All in cartoon, you witness people’s flesh melting off like batter; bloated bodies floating in a waterway, bursting; Gen helping to care for an artist who has barely survived, which involves replacing his bandages and cleaning his maggot infested wounds.

    This book shows you some fucked up stuff. Reading it at that age goes a long way to molding your opinion of nuclear weapons and exposes the idiocy of trying to justify their use under any circumstances or in any context.


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