English: Barefoot Gen
Synonyms: Gen of Hiroshima
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Jul 21, 1983
1 hr. 23 min.
PG-13 - Teens 13 or older
L represents licensing company
Score: 7.981 (scored by 4552 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
SynopsisIt's the summer of 1945. 3 years have elapsed since the war between Japan and USA began. Gen is a young boy living a struggling yet satisfying life in the city of Hiroshima, that has been strangely spared by the bombing taken in almost every other Japanese City. Food is scarce, and Gen's family is suffering from severe malnutrition, which endangeres his pregnant mother. There isn't much spare time as Gen and his little brother Shinji help their father and mother at work and try to make sure their family survives the tought times. Little do they know, what the Americans have in store for the city of Hiroshima and as of the 6th of August 1945, their lives are about to change dramatically.
Related AnimeAdaptation: Hadashi no Gen
Sequel: Hadashi no Gen 2
Characters & Voice Actors
"I dug my father, sister and brother out of the ruins. Their skulls and other bones were intact. I thought humans became like that when they were burnt. When my mother's body was cremated however, there were very few bones. It made me shake with anger that the atomic bomb radiation deprived my mother, who had survived for 21 years, of even her bones. I vowed never to endure wars or atomic bombs"
(Taken from an interview with Nakazawa Keiji by Jonathan Clements.)
On Moday, August 6th, 1945, the US bomber Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb known as "Little Boy" on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The explosion killed around 70,000 people immediately, with almost as many again dead from the resulting radiation by the end of 1945.
Nakazawa Keiji, the author of Barefoot Gen, was 6 years old at the time of the bombing, and is one of the survivors of the destruction of Hiroshima. The bomb was responsible for the death of his father, his sister, and his brother. At the age of 6 he and his mother dug their remains out of the ruins of their home. In 1963 Nakazawa moved to Tokyo to become a manga artist, but returned to Hiroshima in 1966 to attend his mothers funeral. It was his discovery of the true impact of the radiation from the bomb that inspired him to risk becoming a social pariah by openly discussing his experience of the bomb with the first of his "Black" series, Beneath the Black Rain.
Barefoot Gen is the autobiographical account of his experience of the bomb and radiation. The manga was fraught with problems because of it's nature and content, and was effectively sidelined by mainstream publications. In 1976 however, a volunteer group called Project Gen was formed, and they took on the task of producing english translations of the manga. In truth, Barefoot Gen was the first manga to be translated and published in english.
The story was later adapted into three live action movies, two animated features, and a TV series, however the first anime movie adaptation remains, to this day, one of the most harrowing versions because of its counterintuitive nature.
As the story in Barefoot Gen is predominantly autobiographical it is difficult to consider it in terms of a normal story. The anime loses out to the manga in certain repects because sections had to be left out, however this in no way takes away from the story which remains an reasonably accurate, if abbreviated, account of Nakazawa's sof the bomb and its aftermath.
The art style is unusual in that it adopts a more "cartoony" approach compared to other anime, however the movie manages to attain a certain ethereal quality that the manga cannot match, especially in its depiction of the results of radiation sickness. The atomic blast is rendered with shocking clarity, and the transformation of people into "monsters" (from Gen's perspective), is horrifyingly realised.
Althought production values may be dated (the anime is over 25 years old now), the movie should not be marginalised on the basis of "poor" animation. The cartoon like quality of the characters only adds to the emotional impact, as it is a stark contrast to how "normal" cartoon characters are depicted.
Sound is another area where the movie shows its age. The effects, although well used, can sometimes be overwhelming for the viewer, while at other times the various noises are relegated to the background. This can give the movie a slightly "off-kilter" feeling for some viewers, but for the most part the sound and visuals work well together.
The music is generally good throughout the movie. The various pieces used to enhance the impact of a given scene are generally appropriate and fairly well choregraphed, especially during the more foreboding scenes. The variety of tracks complement the pervading atmosphere of the film, and most surprising are the scenes where music, noise and visuals combine to give the viewer a truly visceral experience.
The characters are a bit of a tricky subject in Barefoot Gen, as they are generally taken from the people that nakazawa met before, during and after the bombing, whilst Gen himself is Nakazawa as a child. Granted, there is obviously a degree of artisitic license with both the design and the portrayal, however this in no way diminishes their impact of the overall movie. Because of this things like character developmentand interaction are difficult to consider, especially given the fact that this is mainly a factual account, and in the absence of of evidence to the contrary, I prefer to think of the characters as "real" - at least, for this movie.
Watching this movie is a truly harrowing experience. There is no real way to "enjoy" this in normal terms, especially given its history and content. Very few movies, especially animated ones, are able to convey the level of emotional impact that Barefoot Gen achieves, and only Grave of the Fireflies or Ushiro no Shoumen Daare can be considered equal in terms of content and viewing experience (although the former deals with the aftermath of the firebombing of Kobe, and is semi-autobiographical in nature, and the latter is more of a historical fiction).
Although there are similarities between those two movies and Barefoot Gen, there are major differences as well. It is extremely difficult to compare any other anime or manga to Barefoot Gen as no other work is taken directly from real life. If you decide to watch Barefoot Gen then you cannot compare it in any way to shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Death Note, Akira, Code Geass, or any other popular movie or series. You cannot use normal standards to judge this movie.
In all honesty, Barefoot Gen isn't something to enjoy, even though it ends on a hopfeul note. This is a movie to be experienced, as it is the story of a boy who has literally seen hell. It is both a lesson and a warning for future generations of the true horror of nuclear and atomic weapons, and I urge everyone, whether you're a fan of anime and manga or not, to read the books and watch the movie.
Note: In this review I will be talking about both Barefoot Gen (1983) & Barefoot Gen 2 (1986) in every respect even though there is a 3 year gap in production between the two movies I don’t really feel there is much of a difference with anything in particular. In many ways both films would have worked better a single release. This would have made more sense as the two movies address two different aspects of the given situation. Also considering the subject matter is quite difficult for many to digest I actually feel having the two films separate has hindered the second movie.
Using animation to tell this somewot autobiographical account of the Hiroshima disaster personifies the unique tool animation can be to tell a story. Although stories like this which are based on true events will always be the subject of some sort of criticism I have to commend Keiji Nakazawa for putting this out there in such a vivid way that still to this very day many similar titles based on WWII do not accomplish even outside the realm of animation.
The story begins on August 4, 1945, in Hiroshima with the everyday life of Gen, his younger brother Shinji, their father Daikichi, elder sister Eiko, and pregnant mother Kimie, during the final days of World War II.
The beginning of the plot mainly focuses on the Nakaoka family's struggle to afford food ration cards and other items due to food shortages throughout Japan. Like the other residents, the family wonders why Hiroshima has so far suffered only minor damage; when American B-29 Superfortress bombers have fire-bombed nearly all of Japan's major cities.
A few days later, on his way to school, Gen takes notice of a passing B-29 aircraft and discusses with a female friend how odd it is that a single B-29 would be passing over the city with no air raid siren warning beforehand, as was often common. Soon after this suddenly his father, sister, and brother watch their surroundings as they are all blinded by a flash of white light which is then closely followed by the tremendous explosion.
This is the moment Gen’s life changed forever.
Due to me NOT giving spoilers what I will summarize is that what follows is the tale of a young boy and his “cough” family’s ordeal through one of the greatest tragedies the world has even known and how he and the people around him strive to survive in the aftermath left by the atomic blast.
Barefoot Gen 2 takes place 3 years after the end of the original movie, with Gen trying to cope during the early post-war reconstruction of Japan. While the first movie focused more on the immediate affects of the atomic bombing, the second film focuses more on the long-term problems that faced the survivors, such as the devastated economy and national infrastructure, and lingering affects of the bomb's radiation.
The ONE and only thing I do not like about the story is that it focuses so much on the actual attack dealt by the Americans, viewers who do not know their WWII history may see this film as a horrible injustice to the Japanese and there are no mentions of Japans previous participation in the war which includes the slaughter of the Chinese during the invasion of china or of the attack on Americans at pearl harbor – which I must STRESS is not me hinting in any way that they had this coming to them…I’m just saying if you do not know the entire history of WWII this film does not educate anything relative and can be seen as propaganda which I feel is not the intention of these movies at all……but hey I’m goin off on one here…you get the point.
Animation style is a bit cartoonier than the typical Japanese animation style, especially with the character designs. I do however feel this animation style made things more clear, simple and vivid, particularly with the atomic blast sequence and the various human transformations (goddamn) – this was a truly horrifying but mesmerizing experience which I must again commend Keiji Nakazawa’s graphic and barebone depiction of the actual atrocities he witnessed. It really does feel like a living nightmare at these points.
Landscapes and background designs where simple yet decent considering this title is over 25 years old I was not expecting all that much anyway but overall everything was animated quite well no real complaints.
I have watched these titles twice. The first viewing was of BFG1 and it was in English dub which in my opinion was very good. BFG2 has no dub so I watched them both again with the original Japanese language and English subs. Here again I found no problems with voice actors or music. The only real downside was some of the actual sound affects felt dated and come off sounding sharp, especially during the explosion sequence. Other than that I have to say the overall language interaction and dialogue was good across the board.
Well I did like the characters and I did feel they exhibited a lot of real emotions but really the main character Gen himself to me was just a little bit unbelievable, why I say so is he just is so damn positive and optimistic in the face of the most horrifying events….he did have his moments of sadness but really they did not last very long before he was up and running again.
Now I’m not stupid he was ultimately the main plot device and the spirit of encouragement for both movies which was undoubtedly essential to these movies. Without someone like Gen in the movies this would have been the saddest and most depressing anime of all time…I also understand he was a kid and maybe could not fully process the full extent of the situation but I still just felt he was just a little bit unrealistic in certain situations.
The other characters around Gen seemed more believable…a lot of them where suffering and in some sort of agony but I liked the fact the story showed characters of all ages and how they where affected by the situation. Considering the situation however the character development could have been taken advantage of a bit more in my opinion…then again I may be asking for too much.
How can anyone use the word enjoyment for something like this…what I can say is i appreciate and applaud the author for having the guts to create something many people today may be totally oblivious to and to do so in such a way that is rarely seen but at the same time to not dwell totally on the pain of the disaster but also the spirit of perseverance and determination. The level of despair these titles reach is truly not enjoyable but at the same time one must remember these events actually happened, maybe not all to one person but to a whole range of people and for that I feel this is something as an anime fan, a historian…hell even as a human being should be watched at least once….but be warned this is not for the fain hearted!
It really irritates me this title is often compared as the weaker version of Grave of the fireflies. Yes they are similar and yes GOTF has better animation but I feel GOTF was more of a stand alone story on a smaller scale. These movies however have a much clearer, wider and dreadful message. It takes a bold but realistic look at how nuclear weapons have changed a whole nation’s perspective on life and ultimately ended WWII itself.
It’s a damn shame this title is not more well know to the masses and is often just passed off as some manipulative emotional guilt trip movie.
These movies do serve a purpose and send both a necessary negative and positive message but most of all it is something no viewer has ever forgotten watching…even if they swear to never ever watch it again and yes many many people will not wwhich is sadly understandable.
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They are both about the same thing - war. These two stories are very depressing, sad and cruel...
They both give depictions of what it was like after WWII in Japan. Grave of the Fireflies gives the opinion more after the war was nearing it's end while Barefoot Gen gives perspective of both during and after the war.
Not only are both films a must watch - they also share a lot in common. Both lead characters are forced to 'be a man' at times of tragedy (despite their age) and both must come to terms with the losses that occur - as such they are both extremely powerful anti-war movies based on real events the authors went through. They are both very upsetting, but don't let that put you off watching these great films!
It's hard to imagine you'd like one of these titles and not the other --- they are each a unique and interesting story yet both composed of very similar content and themes. Watch both back-to-back for guaranteed sadness.
It will also make you cry... A lot. The tears will not stop flowing if you watch either of these. They both portray tear jerking tragedies caused during World War 2.
Both set during war time in Japan. Barefoot Gen is a really heart-wrenching story about one boys struggle after the bombing in Hiroshima. Not for the faint-hearted.
Both anime tell about children struggling during war in Japan. Hadashi no Gen and Hotaru no Haka, two animes that portray the cruelty of war where innocent people become victims.
Both tell a tragic tale of Japanese children struggling in the final years of WWII.
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