Before MAUS proved that US comics could take on the most serious subjects with intelligence and dignity, the Japanese were there first. BAREFOOT GEN took on another World War II horror — the bombing of Hiroshima — with 10 harrowing volumes, based on the real life experiences of Keiji Nakazawa. The series — published in 6 volumes in the US by Last Gasp — is the subject of this month’s Manga Movable Feast, hosted at A Life in Panels, but also summarized by Ed Sizemore who reviews the series at Manga Worth Reading:
The greatest impression one gets reading all ten volumes is one of unrelenting sorrow. There is no bright light, just endless tunnel. The tragedy begins when Gen sees his father, sister, and younger brother pinned under the rubble of their home. He and his eight-month-pregnant mother struggle to get them out, but can’t. They beg for help from people passing by and are ignored. The debris catches fire, and he watches as his family is burned to death.
This MMF provides a good introduction to one of the most important comics series ever published, grim as it may be, and includes a comparison to Grave of the Fireflies (the anime about the same events), a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Museum, a comparison to THE DRIFTING CLASSROOM, and other topics.
Nakazawa, 71, has recently been battling lung cancer — it’s amazing that he has survived so much but he plans to fight on.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.