Saturday, October 2, 2021

Review of "Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon History of Hiroshima, Volume One," by Keiji Nakazawa

 Review of

Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon History of Hiroshima, Volume One, by Keiji Nakazawa, ISBN 9780867196023

Five out of five stars

Riveting tale of the most horrific of events

 The author was six years old and present when the atomic bomb was exploded over Hiroshima. Fortunately, there was a concrete wall between him and the explosion, so he was spared the devastating effects of the heat of the flash. Therefore, he was an eyewitness to the horror of people walking around where their flesh was literally melted from their bodies. His family dwelling collapsed and some of his family members trapped, later killed by the firestorm that engulfed the city.

 This graphic novel is a graphic depiction of those events that were literally seared into the city and into his memory. It depicts a family (the author’s) that did not follow the official line of Japanese greatness with inevitable victory in what was becoming more and more a suicidal war. His portrayal of their struggles to find sufficient food and overcome the ostracism of others is a bit of fresh air in the usual depiction of the Japanese people blindly following their leaders. Willing to die for the Emperor without questioning the purpose.

 One negative aspect is the depictions of people being brutally punched by neighbors, parents and siblings. Not simple slaps but punched powerful enough to bounce them off the walls. It is puzzling why the author decided to include these scenes.

 This is one of the best graphic novels ever written. The anti-war message is powerful, specifically the reality of the consequences of an atomic war and what it does to living beings. Based on one of the most significant and destructive events of all time, this book could serve as a resource in the teaching of history.

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