Posted Thursday, September 2nd, 2021 by Barry

Barefoot Gen (1973-1987)

Dec. 7, 1941, “a day that will live in infamy,” led to two others:  Aug. 6, 1945 and Aug. 9, 1945.

Not as controversial at the time, the two dates mark a rip in the fabric of time and history. They mark the dropping of two nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, in an effort to bring World War II in the Pacific to an end.

Since then, the decision to detonate the two bombs has come into question. Not one we’re going to debate.

Instead, to commemorate National V-J Day (Victor over Japan) we’re going to look at a serious treatment of the events before and after the bombings in a medium many believe exists for laughter.

Barefoot Gen, or Hadashi no Gen, is told from the viewpoint of a six-year-old Keiji Nakazawa who survived the bombing. The account began in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump titled Ore wa Mita, or I Saw It, in manga form.

It was printed in the United States in 1982 through Educomics.

Barefoot Gen (1973-1987)

Barefoot Gen is a serialized, longer version of I Saw It. While the original was printed in 1972, the extended telling began in 1973.

Gen Nakaoka, based on Nakazawa, is the protagonist who relives the final days of the war. His retelling of Japan’s actions is not flattering and the book was banned for a short period in its home country.

When the bomb is dropped, Gen loses his father and siblings. He is left to care for his pregnant mother. Together they bear witness in the aftermath.

Eventually they learn to live under American occupation, staying in an old bomb shelter. Gen joins the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza, to help feed his family.

Gen makes a break with the gangsters and meets Katsuko, an orphan marked by burns from the bomb. As an orphan and scarred, she is discriminated against and cannot attend school. Gen becomes her teacher.

While Nakazawa’s story doesn’t end there, Gen’s does.

The manga has sold more than 10-million copies worldwide. It was made into three live-action films, the first in 1976: Barefoot Gen; Barefoot Gen: Explosion of Tears in 1977 and Barefoot Gen:  Part 3 Battle of Hiroshima in 1980.

Two animated films have been made, Barefoot Gen in 1983 and Barefoot Gen 2 in 1986.

A two-episode television drama was released in 2007 simply called Barefoot Gen.

In addition, books and theater productions have retold the story.

National V-J Day recognizes Allied Forces’ victory over Japan during World War II. The official surrender to the Allies was Aug. 14, 1945, but the signing of the peace treaty was not held until Sept. 2, 1945.

President Harry Truman declared September 2 to be the official V-J Day.

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