For every war that is probably fought, there are untold horrors for survivors of an atrocity. One example of such a period, was how Japan was defeated in World War II, with the the Atomic Bomb. The bombings completely destroyed two cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and this is the first time that nuclear warfare is used in the history of mankind. Now even up to this day, Hiroshima has become a City of Peace, with a continued advocacy to abolish all nuclear weapons.
Keiji Nakazawa, himself a Hibakusha or a victim of the atomic bomb, writes a harrowing tale of bomb survival in his graphic novel: Barefoot Gen. Nakazawa himself as a survivor is also suffering affects of the bomb, with cancer. This is a story that is told in ten volumes, and published in English by Last Gasp.
Barefoot Gen reveals a story of struggle, and survival. Being that this is a graphic novel, mostly everything is revealed in stark and bleak terms. From the first volume, Gen survives with his family in tatters. His character grows, as the country completely falls apart, right after the bombing, as people died left and right. It is a very gruesome reality to imagine, and the manga aptly depicts the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years after the bomb struck.
Some of the more gruesome depictions I read in the first two volumes is of bones consumption, massive burial sites, skins melting off, sudden death from radiation.
Another theme that the manga accurately depicts is the level of crime, and discrimination, that people will not be proud to have committed, but it does happen. With the lack of awareness and callousness, there are countless victims, and characters depicted in Barefoot Gen displays cruelty that is associated with a post apocalyptic type setting.
Last year was the 65th Anniversary of the Hiroshima Bombing, and this event invited international participation in the form of postcards to be used at an exhibit. Examples of postcards sent can be seen at the Japanese version of the website. Still for what it is worth, this is also a article of last year’s anniversary. That is the reality side of the Atomic Bomb, and how it is remembered.
For a more graphical depiction, that can’t be experienced with watching movies, documentaries, or books, there is Barefoot Gen. This is not reading material suitable for children, I would recommend this for older teens and adult. A similar read alike is Maus from Art Spiegelman for the similar time prospective of Holocaust Germany. The very message that both stories bring is that war can be a very destructive for both sides. There really is no victimless war.
Check out the archive for this month’s MMF of Barefoot Gen here.