Mania Grade: A
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- Art Rating: B-
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Text/Translatin Rating: B
- Age Rating: All
- Released By: Other
- MSRP: 14.99
- Pages: 240
- ISBN: 0-86719-619-X
- Size: A5
- Orientation: Left to Right
Barefoot Gen Vol. #02
By Eduardo M. Chavez
October 15, 2005
Release Date: October 01, 2004
Barefoot Gen Vol.#02
Translated by:Project Gen
Adapted by:What They SayBarefoot Gen
is the powerful, tragic, autobiographical story of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, seen through the eyes of the artist as a young boy growing up in Japan. The honest portrayal of emotions and experiences speaks to children and adults everywhere. Barefoot Gen
serves as a reminder of the suffering war brings to innocent people, and as a unique documentation of an especially horrible source of suffering, the atomic bomb. This is part two of a ten-part series.The ReviewPackaging:
This is the third production I have seen of Barefoot Gen and this is no doubt the best. There is one problem, though, and it comes from the start - this is presented left-to-right. Yeah, reading flipped manga in this age is frustrating but it is printed nice matted A5 with extremely clean and sharp printing. This version also features a couple nice extras - an intro by Art Spiegelman (Maus), a message from Nakazawa, a message from the Coordinator of Project Gen and a mini-bio of the mangaka.
This presentation is once again in an A5 but Last Gasp uses a new cover for this volume. This cover has an interesting image of Gen horsing around on a sunny afternoon. The image is framed on a blue background. The logo is very simple just the title in an all caps Arial font, with a subtitle "A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima" under it. The opposite cover has a huge volume description beneath a brown tone panel image of Gen walking through a flattened city. Artwork:
Nakazawa’s art really has not aged very well. The character designs are straight out of the 60’s. I often feel that Nakazawa’s art, like many of his contemporaries at the time, was influenced by American comic art. His characters are not very detailed. They have caricatured faces and comical expressions. Bodies are of pretty good proportion, although they are much rounder than current designs. Costume designs do not have much detail either, but that is actually in reference to the era this is set in. There was little money around for fancy garb, so the majority of people wore simple clothing.
There is a very flat feel to the manga. That might come from how little screen tone was used here. Depth is often done through the layout and with shading through inking. With the backgrounds being rather active in this story, I am reminded of Tezuka’s work and how characters can look so plain but the scenes he places them in are very detailed pieces (it is an interesting contrast). The layout is very active. I have to say after going through this only once some of the panels have been burned into my brain, illustrating how powerful Nakagawa’s images can be. WOW!Text/SFX:
The translation by Project Gen is a group effort and as good as it is there are moments when it feels really chunky. I am not sure how the translation duties were distributed, but there are some pages that just felt off, while the rest was very good. This also had me feeling the translation was a little flat. While the emotions came through well, I could not really distinguish personalities well. Maybe the context made for characters that would sound very similar, following the principles of propaganda.
SFX are pretty rare, even with all the violence and action. The SFX are all overlaid very simply, using the same font throughout the GN. What was more impressive was how they had to go back and flop all the text. They did not bother to flop left-handed spear practice or lefty swordsmanship, though. They also translated all the signage in the gutters so readers do not have to disrupt their reading too much to figure out what the significance of banners, posters and signs in the scenery.Contents:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gen lived through the explosion already. He knows the bomb caused great suffering for those who perished from the explosion. As a survivor he is going to quickly learn that it will cause much suffering for the living as well.
Being able to walk through the wreckage Gen and his family are now forced to live on their own for the world has cast them away. People are dying on the streets, fires are burning and there are very few means left to provide aid to the survivors. Gen was already living in a world where rationing and bombings were a regular occurrence, but even in those conditions they had basic necessities like water, food, shelter, medicine and emergency services. All of those were destroyed by the blast and help is needed now.
No one can give up what little they have to those who are going to die. The military treats the dead and the dying the same. Anyone found lying on the streets are piled into trucks. Only those with minor injuries are treated. The sick were transported out of town onto small islands. Soldiers working through the rubble are falling from the radiation poisoning. And people in neighboring cities and towns are afraid that they will lose their resources and safety because of the influx of urban survivors.
None of the victims wanted any of this. Yet, no one was able to take these people in and help them. The horrible truth has shown Gen that the effects of the bomb coupled with prevailing national policy will continue to destroy his nation in many ways.Comments
Up to this point in the war the Japanese had enduring numerous bombings from the US. The firebombing of cities has also been well documented. Many people died in these air raids and the damage to civilian and national property was enormous. The nation was pretty used to the bombings. Actually, if you look at volume one, Nakazawa has Gen experiencing the safety measures set in place for the conventional weapons of the time. But this manga presented the opening of a new chapter in the era of weapons of mass destruction.
The atomic bomb leveled much of the town. Shot out radiation rays through organic and inorganic matter and left the area with such a toxicity that harmed people for decades to come. No one on the ground was prepared for anything like this. Many can contend that even those who dropped the explosive where not even fully aware of its destructive properties.
We know that at least eighty-thousand perished from the blast. The vast majority of the dead were everyday civilians with little to do with the war. These people were doing their daily routine at about 8:00am and now they are charred remains rotting in the summer heat and humidity. A large part of town was completely leveled by the force of the explosion, destroying much of the existing infrastructure. But some of the real horrors would come from not the explosion but the release of nuclear radiation. The radiation left would quickly begin to kill people from the inside while burns, cuts and bruises would harm survivors from the outside. Science could do little to heal the sick. Burn victims died in the rivers. Maggots quickly began to eat the injured alive. Radiation poison began to eat away at the healthy that were not even in town for the blast.
Nakazawa does not shy away from any of that. He presents the horrors that were everywhere. Gen could not walk around without seeing the damage. Buildings were flattened. Bodies were tossed about. People who looked healthy died as they walked.
But what I felt the real horror here was the social ramifications. When you think there might be some hope, Nakazawa shows how there was an internal war going on as well. Class issues and race issues were already prevalent but now discrimination towards the hibakusha settled in. If there one could not count on a neighbor at a time like this, where can people find hope?
There possibly was no hope for many of the survivors at the time. The feelings of anger, loneliness, sadness and fear are all here shocking readers on every page. What Gen sees and feels reminds us that this horror occurred once more and it should never happen again. It shows readers what war can do to a people. I just hope more people can read this with an open mind, and maybe think about what Nakazawa is saying here about war as a whole.