Barefoot Gen: The Day After, Vol. 2 Paperback – Sep 10 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
American comics readers, used to superheroes, science fiction or fantasy, may not be prepared for the raw honesty of Nakazawa's semi-autobiographical novel of destruction and hope. This grim tale begins in Hiroshima, Japan, on August 7, 1945, the day after the detonation of the atomic bomb, and depicts a singular level of wartime social dislocation. The city is rendered, in an instant, a ruined hell littered with tens of thousands of rotting corpses. The Nakaoka family is virtually wiped out, leaving only Gen, a young boy, and his pregnant mother. In this gruesome landscape of incomparable suffering and death, young Gen, bald from radiation sickness, struggles to find food and provide solace to his mother, his newly born sister and a succession of dispossessed characters in the doomed city. The simplicity of the black-and-white drawings and the theme of uncomplicated faith and its betrayal are in vivid contrast to Gen's fearsome experiences. The author of this disturbing testament was seven years old when the bomb hit his city, and this is the second volume in his continuing re-creation of wartime Hiroshima. While the publishers intend that its message be shared with children as well as with adults, the novel's intense realism makes the fulfillment of that expectation unlikely. The volume is as gripping and horrifying in its portrayal of death and pain as it is poignant in delineating Gen's bewildered decency and determination to survive. Nakazawa has produced a stark, relevant documentation of the consequences of nuclear war.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The story of Barefoot Gen, spunky atomic bomb survivor, continues in this second volume of the four-part series. It's not a stretch to predict that how you feel about The Day After will probably reflect how you felt about Barefoot Gen, without much variance.
The Day After (which, in fact, covers the next two days) opens just after the end of Barefoot Gen, and is concerned entirely with the survival of Gen, his mother, and his baby sister Tomoko. Gen's task during this time is to find food for the family, and this quest takes him on a number of small side adventures the present a much larger picture of the greater Hiroshima area after the bomb than the first book provided of Hiroshima before the bomb. Gen meets a number of different people, helps some, and learns that even after the bomb, when everyone around him is shrouded in misery and horror, the banality and prejudice around him doesn't disappear-- in fact, people are worse than they were beforehand. Nakazawa, as is his wont, tells us all this in his stories, and never allows his messages to get in the way of his storytelling. Ironically, Barbara Reynolds' introduction to this edition is a perfect contrast to Nakazawa's story; it's awfully-written, ham-handed, flat-out wrong (Reynolds harps on about American denial of responsibility for Hiroshima, and she's writing ten years or more after the release, and vast popularity, of John Hersey's Hiroshima) polemic whose sole purpose in inclusion, it seems, is to highlight how subtle Nakazawa is. Skip the introduction. Or, if you're a completist, read the book first and come back to the introduction afterwards, so it won't taint you.
This is very good stuff. Well worth your time. *** ½
The work has been wonderfully translated from the Japanese original: Hadashi no Gen. It was originally published in serial form in 1972 and 1973 in Shukan Shonen Jampu, the largest weekly comic magazine in Japan, with a circulation of over two million. The drawings are all in black and white. This US edition was published as part of a movement to translate the book into other languages and spread its message. It is a wonderful testimony to the strength of the human spirit and the horrors of nuclear war. There are a few introductory essays at the front of the book that help to put this book into perspective. It is a powerful and tragic story that I highly recommend for anyone interested in the topic.
This true story of a little boy in wartime Japan presents a view of what life was like for Japanese civilians at the height of World War II. It shows in great detail (a picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes) the effect the war had on the Japanese: malnutrition, bombings of almost all cities, etcetera, while still keeping in mind that Japan was also guilty of war crimes. But the end of Barefoot Gen is a nightmarish vision of the worst war crime of all: the dropping of a weapon of mass destruction on a heavily populated, civilian town.
The images of injured, haggard victims of the atom bomb moaning and weeping that are shown in this comic are terrible, but far more terrible still is the knowledge that this isn't fiction, it's a memoir. This really happened to women, babies, children and all other unsuspecting civilians. Although Barefoot Gen is not widely known, it is still arguably one of the best anti-war books on the subject, and highly recommended reading. By Elizabeth DeAngelis for Daisy Alliance
For Daisy Alliance by Elizabeth DeAngelis
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