Barefoot Gen (Hadashi no Gen) is a manga, or Japanese comic book, created by Keiji Nakazawa. Nakazawa became a cartoonist, or mangaka, in 1961. Barefoot Gen was first published in 1973 by Chuokoron-Shinsha. It ran for 10 volumes and was seen in Weekly Shonen Jump. The series ended in 1974. Barefoot Gen was adapted into two anime movies, three live action movies, and is recently being made into a live action television drama that will be released on Fuji TV in the fall of 2007.
Barefoot Gen is the story about Gen and his family. Gen is a normal everyday Japanese boy who is living a typical life. His mother and father love him and his brother, and his brother and he fight as normal siblings do. Suddenly Gen’s world changes, when Hiroshima, the city he lives in, is bombed by the United States. In the bombing, both Gen’s father and brother are killed, along with the rest of his extended family. Only his mother and he survive.
Life then becomes a struggle to find food. Shortly after the bombing, Gen’s mother gives birth to a baby. Now Gen needs to find food for both him and his mother, as well as milk for the baby. He comes upon a boy who reminds him, and his mother, of his dead younger brother. The boy is an orphan, and Gen and his mother end up adopting him. After some time, the baby dies from malnutrition. The series ends with plants growing, proving that life does go on, and that people will survive.
The Barefoot Gen anime was released in 1983. It has been ranked as powerful as the movie Schindler’s List. The anime has since become “the” movie to watch for people who want to watch anime movies that have a touch of realism to them, and are short on fantasy.
The author, Keiji Nakazawa, was actually in Hiroshima when it was bombed in 1945. At the time, he was only six years old. He had a lot of memories about the time and first wrote a story known as “Ore wa Mita”, which translates into “I Saw It” in Monthly Shonen Jump. It was directly after he finished this story that he started to work on Barefoot Gen. The major difference between Barefoot Gen and I Saw It is that Barefoot Gen is fictional, where as I Saw It is autobiographical.
There has been a lot of talk about how Barefoot Gen influenced the popular anime, Grave of the Fireflies. In Grave of the Fireflies, two brothers, one a pre-teen the other much younger, have to survive during World War II in Japan. They end up hiding in a cave, using fireflies caught at night to light their evenings. In the morning, all of the fireflies would be dead, and they would bury them outside the cave. Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies are similar in tone, but differ greatly in that Barefoot Gen is about post-war, while Grave of the Fireflies is about surviving during war.