"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.
Barefoot Gen is in my opinion one of the most underrated anime on this site. In the West, it is completely overshadowed by Grave of the Firefly, which is unfortunate because in many ways Gen is actually the superior film! In this review I will be not only looking at Gen, but comparing it to its much more famous and critically lauded brother Grave of the Firefly (Hotaru no Haka).
Pacing and characters:
Barefoot Gen opens by showing the main character, a little boy named Gen, along with his family. Gen has a little brother named Shinji, an elder sister Eiko, a father, and a
mother who is currently in the late stages of pregnancy. Barefoot Gen shows the family trying to keep their chins up and appreciate the small joys left in life despite the food shortages and the looming danger of air raids. By spending more time showing happiness and cheerful character interactions than Firefly, it makes the impact of the tragedy even greater when it inevitably occurs. Barefoot Gen is roughly the same length as Firefly, but it feels much shorter, even though it is far more brutal in its portrayal of war. Even people that prefer Firefly over Gen would have to concede that Gen is a better paced film. It is long enough to feel for the characters and connect with them so that the tragedy is painful and horrible, but not so long that it overextends its narrative and drags.
The character Gen is based off the writer of the original Gen manga, who survived Hiroshima as a young boy. Some people criticize the realism of the characters because Gen stays so upbeat in the face of unimaginable tragedy, but that is exactly what he needed to do in order to survive. He wasn't able to stop and fully process the loss of his family when he was desperately looking for food to keep himself and his mother alive. This isn't unrealistic, but rather the human survival instinct kicking in. If Gen had pulled a Shinji Ikari, he wouldn't have lived to later tell this story to us! Gen's father is based loosely off the author's real father and is unique in that he dares to criticize the Japanese government for not surrendering when in 1945, it was clear Japan couldn't possibly win. The father character is strongly against the war, which reflects the attitude of both the author and his real life father. Later Gen meets another little boy named Ryota who I admit brings some tone jarring slapstick out of nowhere. The only area where haters of this film may have a point is that Barefoot Gen does suffer from some SERIOUS mood whiplash. It shows one of the most brutal sequences ever animated in one scene, but has Ryota and Gen roughhousing and laughing about 10 minutes later.
Animation is a visual medium of storytelling, so it is better to show than to tell. Barefoot Gen shows the horrors of nuclear war better than perhaps any other movie ever made be it animated or no. I'm serious! The horrible brutality of melting eyeballs, scorched flesh, maggot infested wounds, and all the stages of radiation poisoning are captured accurately and with an unflinching eye. Barefoot Gen is NOT a good movie to show little kids. The art style is curiously juvenile in order to create a sharp contrast between Gen's innocence and the horrors of war. Although I see what Barefoot Gen was trying to do, this art style choice may not work for everyone to portray such scenes of carnage. Grave of the Fireflies is a much more polished, larger budget, and better animated film. However, I give Gen the edge here for daring to show in full detail just why nuclear weapons are so horrible and morally unacceptable.
Themes and Politics:
Roger Ebert said that Grave of the Fireflies was one of the greatest anti-war films ever made, and since then American critics have viewed it in that light. However, the writer of Firefly explicitly stated it is NOT an anti-war film saying war in general is bad. He merely wished to show Japanese children the suffering and injustice that Americans did to Japan. He also wished Firefly to act as an Aesop's fable to tell the unruly Japanese youth of the 1980s to obey and tolerate adults. Japanese audiences were supposed to take away the message that if Seta had put up with his bitchy aunt, he and his sister would have lived. That was the main moral of the movie! Rather than an "anti war" masterpiece, Firefly is a preachy "Obey adults you little brats" film that is extremely anti-American and perpetuates the narrative that Japan was entirely a victim during WW2 to a new generation of Japanese youth. Barefoot Gen on the other hand actually IS an anti-war film that wishes to show that war is suffering, death, and evil. Barefoot Gen shows a balanced view of the war and shows both the innocence of Japanese civilians and the callous cruelty of the Japanese WW2 government, who is just as criticized in the film as the Americans. The reason Firefly lays all blame on the Americans and never says a word of condemnation for the WW2 Japan government is because the writer of Firefly had no qualms with the WW2 Japanese government, unlike the writer of Gen. In terms of themes and politics, it was GEN that deserved our praise all along, NOT Firefly!
The last major difference between Gen and Firefly is how they choose to end. Firefly ends with soul crushing depression and all the characters dying. The beautiful Japanese Empire has been crushed and all good is gone from the world. The characters are all dead, so they don't have to learn how to move on and rebuild towards a better future. Gen despite the film's extreme brutality ends with a note of optimism. Wheat is shown growing even though American scientists predicted that nothing would grow in Hiroshima for 70 years. The character Gen must learn like all those who survived the war to deal with the extreme loss and tragedy, as well as build a better Japan from the ashes. Gen doesn't just lament the beauty that was lost, but asks for such carnage to not be repeated again while working to build a better world. The endings are different because the 2 films have VASTLY different messages, but I must say I strongly prefer Gen's ending.
Gen may have a few minor flaws, such as a juvenile animation style that some may feel clashes with its explicit portrayal of brutality. Others may dislike the tone shift between the lighthearted scenes and tragic scenes that occur very shortly one after another. I however, think that Gen is an overlooked gem that deserves FAR more praise than it receives in the West. All the praise that was showered on Grave of the Firefly in my opinion should rightfully go to Gen, the superior film!
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.
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.
"The bombing of Hiroshima, as seen through the eyes of a boy."
Barefoot Gen: 9/10
A line from Apocalypse Now kept creeping into my head whilst I watched this - "The horror, the horror..."
Barefoot Gen more than lived up to my expectations. I'd read before watching that it's very similar to Grave of the Fireflies, it being a story about children trying to survive during World War 2, and they are indeed worthy of being spoken of in the same breath. There aren't many films, live-action or animated, that have the sort of impact these films do on viewers.
Barefoot Gen is a story told from
the viewpoint of a child; the story being about the Hiroshima bombing. Instead of rushing into the bombing, time was spent showing the viewer Gen's (Gen is the main character) family and how they struggled to survive with little to no food. Gen spent a lot time with his younger brother during the early section, trying to find food for their pregnant mother and, basically, acting like kids do. This early pre-bombing section was good because it allowed viewers to become emotionally attached to the family and made them want the family to survive.
And then, suddenly, the atomic bomb hits and, in graphic detail, you see people falling apart and getting burnt alive. Eye sockets fall out, skin melts...it wasn't easy to watch. Gen then rushed back to home to find his father, brother and sister all stuck under their house, which had collapsed due to the blast. After Gen and his mother couldn't lift what their family was stuck under, he had to pull his mother away from their family in order to save themselves due to the fire spreading, but he first made a teary-eyed promise with his father: his father made him make a non-verbal promise that he'd protect his mother and the child growing inside her.
It continued like that until the end. It was realistic to the point of being painful to watch. Animation or not, it was hard not to see what was happening as real. Barefoot Gen was based on the real life story of the author, so it'd be wrong to view as "just a silly cartoon" because of the lack of real actors, but it's rare for animation to have that sort of impact on me.
There were a few things I wasn't impressed with, such as the semi-annoying voice actor of Gen, how easily Gen's brother was allowed to be replaced by someone who looked like him and how well Gen and his mother handled losing their loved ones, but the good outweighed the bad. It was a wonderful film, and I highly recommend it to anyone with interest in the more realistic side of anime.
Note: I'm going to include a little extra, going into some detail about the sequel. It's too short to post as a review on its own so I decided to add it to my review of the first film.
Barefoot Gen 2: 7.5/10
Barefoot Gen 2 continues the story three years after the end of the first film. Japan has started to return to normal but there are still problems like starvation and people being homeless. The bombing resulted in a lot of kids having their entire families killed, and that obviously meant there were a lot of kids living on the street, unable to even get education because people need to pay to go to school in Japan. The story in this film focuses on a group of kids Gen befriends and shows how, even after the bombings had stopped, Japan was still far from repaired.
In all honesty, there didn't need to be a sequel made. The first film covered everything important and only the left the aftermath, which was never going to be as powerful as what came before, to be shown. The film had potential but a lot of the potentially interesting aspects, such as how people with burns from the atomic bomb were treated like monsters, were never looked into too deeply. Although I didn't feel the film was bad, I felt it wasn't made with the same amount of effort as the first and, quite simply, the story was weaker due to it not having to cover anything as horrific as what was shown in the first film.
A decent sequel, and a very nice DVD extra (both Barefoot films are on the same disc), but not worthy of a high rating.
Barefoot Gen is at the same time a compelling visual of the horrors of war and a cheesy soap opera; a devastating tale of courage and survival and a badly written one dimensional flick. Gen can be seen as the polar opposite of the epic masterpiece Grave of the Fireflies, for although they deal with similar subjects the way they go about doing it are completely different in both style and quality. Where Fireflies focuses on the small picture, one brother trying to care for his litter sister, Gen is bent upon showing the "big picture" of the war, the devastation that it brought upon
the whole country. The difference is that in Gen, to get the desired emotional response they had to kill over 200,000 people, and when the mass deaths stopped so did the films quality; in Graves they only had to kill one, and that one death was more meaningful and more heartbreaking then all the millions of deaths in Barefoot Gen.
Gen is an energetic ten years old boy, living with his pregnant mother, his pacifist father, his overbearing older sister (about fourteen) and his loyal disciple, Shinji, whose maybe six years old. The war with America hasn't yet reached them in Hiroshima; they have food shortages, and every now and then they are rudely awakened by air raid sirens, but other than these inconveniences they are able to live their lives without the threat of being killed on a daily basis. But their mother is getting sicker, and baby in her womb is in danger of dying. Gen and Shinji take it upon themselves to find good, healthy food for her to eat. The movie is a feel good, heartwarming story about family trying its best to live their lives while their country falls apart around them; that is until August 6, 1945. On that fateful day Gen is on his way to school when he glances into the sky and sees a lonely B-29, the sun reflecting off its wings, flying overhead. A young girl beside him comments on how strange it is to see an American bomber all alone. Gen drops a pebble and bends down to pick it up; a moment later the sky turns white, a thunderous boom splits the air, and Gen looks on in horror as the girl who, seconds before, stood beside him took the full force of the atomic blast, her eyes melting out of their sockets, her skin instantly turning charcoal grey, skin peeling off her arms and legs. The visuals of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is almost enough to make me a pacifist, its devastation so real and unquestionably brutal that only a heartless monster could watch it and not think about how evil war is. It’s all too much for anyone with a weak stomach; a small girl instantly turning into a skeletal; a baby suckling on the breasts of its already dead mother; a young boy trapped beneath the weight of his own home, screaming, pleading, for his mother to save him before the atomic fires burn him to death. A dead infant in its mothers arms; zombiefied children, transformed by the radioactive fire, shambling about in the ruble, their eyes and skin melted away, seeking out the relief of water and drowning to death once they find it. Gen survives by sheer luck, but his family isn't so fortunate. The death and sorrow of these twenty minutes of film are almost unsurpassed in film, anime or otherwise.
Unfortunately once the initial shock of the bomb subsides the weaknesses of the film return in full force, driving the memory of those twenty minutes away and forcing the viewer to suffer though another hour of bad writing, bad acting, and an overall bad war commentary. No attempt is made to make Gen into a rich, three dimensional character; he serves as a plot tool only, the eyes though which we are shown the devastation of the war, but little more. The film takes the most illogical plot turns, and the characters act and speak in ways that will make most people scratch their heads in confusion. When the filmmakers realize this, they kill someone else off, but this time the emotional impact is more like a cheesy soap opera then anything else.
Barefoot Gen is simply the cartoony version of Grave of the Fireflies. It is in every way Graves’s inferior, in animation, music, character development and plot, it fails in every way to match the creative guineas of Ghiblis classic film. Those who have never seen Graves might find this a breath of fresh air, but to those who have Gen will be nothing more than a cheap imitation, void of the same life and warmth which resonated so well with Graves. If not for the twenty minutes of death and suffering, this film would be nothing more than a bad war movie.
Film one; 3/5.
Film 2; 2/5.
Overall; 2.5/5. Rounded to three.
Based on the manga of the same name and centred on author Keiji Nakazawa’s childhood exploits in post-atomic Hiroshima is Barefoot Gen, the classic anime directed by Mori Masaki. The crux of the story is centred on the suffering caused by the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It expands the story beyond the immediate and devastating effect to show how people were affected by the fall out of one of the most monstrous man-made disasters ever. Issues that affect the survivors are varied from the brutality, bullying and negligence of occupying American forces. But much more seriously it focuses the cameras gaze on the long term
affects of living in the shadow of such a disaster, the horrid and slow death that Pika brings, a disease which eats away at the body . This all results in children being orphaned and hated by the community for the lows that they have to resort to stay alive. Children are hated because of the death of their parents.
It should come as no surprise that this is an anti-war film. Traditionally as a genre the anti-war film is one that has a tendency to preach. A point may be trying to be made, that can change the film from a story to a rather nauseatingly heavy handed rant at how disgusting the world is. I have seen it enough for me to expect it of every new anti-war film that comes out, whether it is animated or not. This is what makes Barefoot Gen so good, not only does it avoid falling into genre cliché it also tells the story with humanity. What we experience is a story about people who had it harder than we can possibly imagine. This was real, not some hyper real comic book excess. So poignant and beautifully told is the story, I genuinely forgot that I was watching an animated feature. The only other times that has happened was with Princess Mononoke, Akira and the occasional series; it’s a rarity.
Instead of focusing my gaze on one or the other of the two films, I am talking about them both instead. Whether left as sequel and prequel or they are merged into a singular entity they are both emotionally draining experiences. This is at its most powerful in one emotionally crippling scene, the likes of which I hadn’t seen before or since. The scene in question is when Gen goes back to his house after miraculously surviving the explosion. You might be expecting it, you might not, but it doesn’t change the fact that you will cry here. You will cry like a baby.
I won’t spoil that scene any further, but it is needless to say that it is one of the most heart wrenching things I have ever seen in film. Thanks to not shying away from the truth, Barefoot Gen can be used as a proud example to advertise the fact that cartoons aren’t just for kids. Animation can be powerful, beautiful and incredibly poignant. As an art form it can be relevant to the issues in society and present them in a very real way without the need to projecting such issues onto anthropomorphised animals. The animated form can avoid those pitfalls that Disney is so fond of.
The film might represent something that will mean something to all the fans of animation reading this, but there is still an actual film under all this. As much as it is a celebration of the form, it is also a film that couldn’t be done as well in any other cinematic form. This is true for one reason.
The first reason is that it’s too graphic. The animation may be very dated by today’s standards, still the skeletal figures, the melting skin have the power to shock. If somebody was brave enough to make this film in the current age without shying away from the punches I feel it wouldn’t escape without turning the story into an orchestra of gore. If this did happen it would be presented via computer graphics, so not only would it be depicting something gruesome it would also look false. This would make the viewer focus on the spectacle rather than the story which is where the films greatest strength lies. The story would be crushed under tonnes of atom, ash and death.
The film evokes such sadness merely by having the character’s cry, it may be common in anime, but its still effective. Naturally these are sad films. Some scenes will be scarred into your memory, what with the imagery and the emotional intensity. That is to be expected, but at the same time the strength of the human spirit plays a great part too. It would be all too easy for this film to spend all its time being miserable and upsetting (like its brother in arms, Grave of the Fireflies), but it doesn’t. Their city may have been turned to dust, they may have lost many of their loved ones and those who survived may be slowly getting picked off by starvation and ‘Pika’ but the protagonists are always laughing and smiling, not letting their circumstances beat them. It’s these scenes that balance the film and stop it from being unwatchable, the instrinsic optimism makes this a film to watch rather than an experience to be overwhelmed by.
In my opinion it is this balance between the harsh and the beautiful that put this down in the annals of history as one of the greatest anti-war films ever made. Barefoot Gen is a cinematic classic that everybody should see at least once in their lifetime.
Gen is a little boy who lives in Hiroshima in Japan along with his father,little brother,Shinji,elder sister,Eiko,and mother,Kimie,who is pregnant and about to give birth soon.The backdrop is the ongoing Second World War and the year is 1945,the year the world came to a still.The city of Hiroshima is suffering from severe scarcity of even basic food like rice and also medicines and other such necessary commodities of life.Even then,Gen and Shinji are two boys with magnanimous spirits who live life king-size even in the face of adversity.They were a happy family with every one taking care of the others and working hard together to
make ends meet.The common goal of the other members of the family was to look after Kimie,Gen's mother,so that she could painlessly give birth to a healthy baby.
The war had been going on for quite a few years and by now it had become a routine for them to hide in shelters whenever enemy planes were sighted in the sky to protect themselves from being bombed.But one day,an enemy plane was sighted in the sky but the alarm for the residents to take cover didn't go off.Gen was on his way to school that morning.And then the bomb was dropped.The atomic bomb was dropped on hiroshima by the U.S. plane Enola Gay which changed the couse of Japan's history forever.
'Barefoot Gen' doesn't need to be explained.It is as straightforward as anything can be.The atomic bomb which devastatingly wiped out more than 60% of Hiroshima on that fateful day has been justly depicted.The movie doesn't condemn or appreciate the bombing and it doesn't impose any views on the viewer.It just shows in its full scale the nightmare that millions of people lived through since that day and how humans created hell on Earth themselves.
As soon as the bomb was dropped,all life was obliterated,and those who survived were actually the more unfortunate ones.Mutated by the radiation beyond human recognition,there is a scene where Gen wonders whether the zombie-like people on the verge of death were still humans or not.Then came the black radioactive rain from the lethal cloud of poisonous gases and smoke that had enveloped the city which polluted all the water sources killing anyone who drank such water.Gen and his mother were the lucky survivors.They strived to survive in that hell even after they had to watch the rest of their family being burned alive helplessly.Gen's newborn sister is now his and his mother's only reason to go on living.But the curse doesn't spare his sister either.But he still goes on living.That is Gen and that is how every person should be.
Barefoot Gen makes us self-reflect.It shows how inhumane we can become for selfish purposes.It shows how the curse called 'War' affects innocent people who have nothing to do with it.It also shows how some aristrocrats and politicians act against the wishes of the citizens of the country and shrewdly propagate war to protect their own pride without caring for the millions of people whose life they take in the process.This ignorance and selfishness of the country's leaders is shown when even after such a devasting damage was inflicted upon its citizens,the then leaders of Japan refused to surrender even when they knew that then the U.S. would drop another atomic bomb on the country.And thus,three days later,the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and it all ended when after this Japan finally surrendered.But the damage was done with everyone at the losing end.
"Why not before?",Kimie asked enragedly upon hearing about Japan surrendering after enduring the two greatest human-induced mass extinctions in history.This sent a chilling shiver down my spine as I sensed the desperation,the helpness,the measure of pain and sadness that canot be put in words behind this question.Scavenging for food,fighting over trash,being infected by deadly worms and shunned from human contact just waiting for their death every day as their flesh goes on rotting,this tells us how Mankind's biggest enemy is mankind itself.
The best and shining star here is Gen.Even in such dire straits,he doesn't back away from helping anyone,he thinks about everyone else before himself.He refuses to back down and vows to survive and protect everyone and make his deceased father proud of him.His honesty should put every one of us to shame.They took away everything from him,but that doesn't keep him from living life to the fullest.The saga of this honest and brave boy makes us all bow our heads in shame.It is he,who through all his pain and suffering,makes us realise how savage war is and that it proves nothing.NOTHING good ever comes from war.
Hadashi no Gen is a revelation.It is meant to show us the effects of our selfish deeds.We all read in our history books about how Japan endured such hell being raised on its grounds but that's about all of it.We don't really realise the grim situation,the extent of suffering of the victims.This movie is meant to show us that.It is meant to make us experience the widespread sorrow and pain that still prevails in these parts of the world.I don't know how anyone can not cry after watching this because as for me,I don't remember crying this much over something for a long time.I pay my respects to the fallen and the innocent victims of human hate and greed.We can only hope that after this,we humans will finally become wise enough not to repeat such horrors.
Even if for no other reason,whether you like it or not,watch this because the millions of victims of this tragic and inhumane incident at least deserve to have the tragedy and pain in their life known to people throughout the world.It is the least we can do for them to show our respect.
I can sum my Barefoot Gen experience up in one word: ANNOYING.
It was so damn annoying! I was ripping at my hair as Gen ripped at his!
So why was it so irritating?
First, Gen's voice. He has the most annoying voice I've heard in any anime to date. I don't know if people liked hearing voices like this in 1983, but from a 2010 viewpoint, I couldn't stand it. It's loud, obnoxious, and stays that way all throughout the movie.
I'm sitting here, trying desperately to see the emotional qualities of the movie, and this voice comes out of nowhere, blasting at my
ears and detracting from what little sentimental elements there are.
Which leads into my second point. The characters are distant. This is no After Story. The characters aren't shallow, yet they seem to be hopelessly so! How is this possible?
Well, the first half hour is spent trying to connect us with the characters. But it fails. It fails horribly. Part of this is due to Gen's horrific voice, but part of this is due to the not-so-autobiographical nature of the movie - my third point.
Yes, this is based on Nakazawa's own experiences, but it is (quoth Wikipedia) "loosely based." That means it shouldn't be taken as 100% true. And thank God it's not, since there are so many stereotypes in it. The old man lets you get away with the fish? Oh goody. I could care less. The woman suddenly changes her mind?
Because it's both autobiographical and fiction, there's an incompatible mix of the horrors Nakazawa experienced and the stereotypes he didn't. Even if he did witness them, I'm sure they weren't as awkwardly presented as in the film. The old man stares Gen down for what seems like a whole hour while Gen and his brother try desperately to guilt trip him. Huh. Is that really how it goes in real life? The woman changes her mind in two frames. Woah, now that was fast. I wonder if she even had time to think!
But enough about Barefoot Gen's faults. Let's see what good things it has to offer:
1) The horrific sights and sounds of Hiroshima. I didn't find it hard to watch, but it sure is something. I especially liked the accuracy of the storytelling (dropping the bomb on the T-bridge, the rain, the water, the dead and half-dead, even the maggots). If you've never learned about WWII or the bomb, this is going to be a wake-up call. If, like me, you already know about what happened, this might not be as shocking, but it's still worthwhile to see.
2) There's nothing else.
Barefoot Gen is essentially an animated documentary of the bomb. That's all there is. If you want to see a good WWII anime, go watch Ushiro no Shoumen Daare or Grave of the Fireflies. Don't watch Barefoot Gen. If you want to see a drama, don't watch Barefoot Gen. If you want to see a story, don't watch Barefoot Gen. If you want to see an anime, don't watch Barefoot Gen.
But if you really want to watch Barefoot Gen, skip to 30:00 and leave it on for ten minutes. You'll be blown away (very mean-spirited pun unintended). Just don't watch any more, or you'll be painfully disappointed.
Barefoot Gen is often compared to Grave of the fireflies. That's undrstandable but I just feel like I have to mention that I liked Barefoot Gen a tiny bit more.
As far as I know, the story is based on the experince of the writer who lived in Hiroshima when the bombing happened. I don't want to sound over-excited but I loved every second of the film. I have to admit it made me cry a fair few times.
The story was told by a narrator from time to time, which is not my favourite thing but I can't really think of a better way to do
it so I guess it's fine.
As it went, more and more things kept happening but I can't go into much detail since I have to avoid spoilers.
The ending was nice, (I don't want to spoil it so you might want to skip this sentence) it didn't have the even-sadder-than-the-story type of ending but the boat, as a symbol of hope, gave it a bit of a happy vibe.
The drawing style was a bit different than other anime but I think that made it better. It was quite 'cartoony' but I loved the way the explosion was portrayed.
The colours and the way the suffering people were shown helped to express the overall 'mood' of the situation. I think it fitted the story quite well. Particularly, the way the people who were most affected by the bomb were drawn is what shocked me the most. It was trully horrifying...
I watched the film in Japanese with English subtitles so I can't really tell if the voice acting was good or not but as far as I can tell it was alright. The background music seemed fitting but I'm not the best at paying attention to sounds. Still, the dramatic tunes managed to catch my attention.
The characters were easy to relate to. Shinji seemed to be a typical little kid who doesn't understand the situation (which he is). The mother was quite typical as well but the whole 'burning' thing she did after that first really sad thing happened (avoiding spoilers) confused me...
However, I feel like the other family members weren't given much character. I understand they didn't have that big of a role but all the father did was pretty much give them advice about the wheat and say what he tought of the war. As of the sister, she had little to none character development (in my opinion, of course). But that's about it, the other characters were alright, even that old artist guy...
Well, I've rated it as outstanding as I felt a lot of emotion whilst watching it but it's a drama, it's sad so talking about enjoyment is pretty difficult...
I think that anyone would like the film, as it's quite easy to relate to. However, if you don't like... pretty much seeing people die and just sad things in general, this might not be your cup of tea. Still it's definitely not as violent as other anime (maybe except for the melting eyeballs), despite the fact that it's based on a huge tragedy. Probably even non-anime fans will enjoy the film as it's pretty realistic...
As of rewatching it, I might or might not do it as I tend to only watch films once, especially ones with such a great impact.
I believe I will remember the film for a long long time... It sure was a great experience.
Overall, I loved it! The story, the emotion.... I recommend Barefoot Gen to everyone, even if you're not into films about war (like me) you might end up liking it.
I have to say I'm a bit annoyed about how underrated the film is. I think it deserves much more attention than it actually gets. It's an amazing experience as well as a great life lesson...
P.S. I tried my best to not include this but this is my first review so please excuse any mistakes I might have made. I tried my best. Thanks!
Barefoot Gen is one of the rare Anime films that everyone must see, at least once. If you've read the Manga then you might be a little disappointed by this movie, initially. This movie, in comparison to the Manga, lacks some of the Manga's emotional depth due to the movie cutting out most of the characters' establishing story. In this way, the feeling for the characters by the audience is diminished. Instead, the movie moves quickly to the day of the actual bombing of Hiroshima. In doing so, the movie forgoes much of the interpersonal violence that takes place in the Manga and replaces it
with a much wider sweeping and graphic violence. The events during and following the bomb are depicted rather grusomely. The advantage of Anime as a medium is used to full effect here as the bomb's blast is depicted with such grotesque brutality that it is hard to watch. Indeed, the art is one of the big strengths of the film. There are scenes, pre-explosion, that are simply beautiful, beautiful animation and art. There are scenes during the explosion that depict events vividly that could scarcely be imagined by one who wasn't there. As well, after there are many well-animated scenes as well. The art is strong, and the direction, on the whole is largely good. The story, to some extent, bares that strength of direction out. There are many sad moments in the film as many, many people die and Gen is forced to find a way to survive in this new harsh world after the bomb. The emotional level of this movie can easily, and fairly, be compared to Grave of the Fireflies. However, where this movie (Barefoot Gen) is different from Grave of the Fireflies is in its tone. While Barefoot Gen is an immensely sad film for two-thirds of its length, overall it takes a more hopeful and encourageing 'never give up' look at life and events. While the art and the story are strong, the sound is not as wonderful. The theme music is fun, and otherwise ok, but nothing spectacular. Otherwise, the music is nothing to write home about, unfortunately. While it certainly has a highly developed and wonderful artistic style and strength, the music is not up to that same level. Overall, Barefoot Gen is the kind of movie that is very important - it tells an important story and it tells it well. It is not perfect - sometimes even too graphic to watch - but its an important film, beautiful artistically and otherwise, that teaches an important lesson through the eyes of someone who has seen the absolute worst.
Don't watch this movie. Not that it's a bad movie, by any means. It's just that if you've been taking antidepressants, or have a cynical view of the world already, this movie won't help improve your outlook on anything for the time that you're watching it. It's not a date movie. And it might not be the best movie to introduce someone to anime. However, it's a great film in its own right, and will tug at your heartstrings, and give you the sniffles, or at least a manly, single tear.
For those of you who haven't finished this part of your history books, skip this
The city of Hiroshima gets bombed. People die. A lot of innocent people die. Barefoot Gen is WWII unfiltered, and unapologetic (and a little over-exaggerated, but you can suspend your belief because of the important point it's trying to make) . It doesn't pick sides, but exposes the horrors of war through animation, which makes scenes that would have been unwatchable a lot more palatable. (Seeing children turned to ash in a live-action movie... Eh. I haven't seen the live-action adaptations, but I'd probably feel worse after watching them)
Like the other super-sad-WWII-movie-people-mention-when-they-talk-about-animation-as-an-artform, Grave of the Fireflies, BG uses painted cells to show what the war would look like to children. That's probably the most heart-breaking part of all. The two brothers in the movie and other children experienced things nobody should ever have to-things that, unfortunately, real children had. It's like a memorial to the survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it's never preachy. In fact, I think I liked this better than GotF because of how hopeful (if somewhat cheesy) the ending was. But after the bleakness before it, it's a welcome relief.
What a horrible movie..And I don't mean horrible in like a PeeWee Herman or Micheal Jackson sorta way I mean horrible in a *cut wrist* sorta way. I'll admit that initially, since I had watched Grave of the Fireflies before this movie, that because the animation wasn't as realistic as it could have been that I wasn't sure if I wanted to watch it or not. However, I have always been interested in the events of World War 2 so I gave it a go. Wow...that's all I can really say. The story is something most of us already know. During WW2, the Enola Gay
dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb over Hiroshima. This movie is about that experience, but shown through the eyes of a little boy. I have never seen a movie that showed these horrific events in such detail. We see people getting burned alive, dying in the streets, suffering, attacking each other..Some of it is very hard to watch at times. I know that comparing this film to Grave of the Fireflies is unavoidable due to them both taking place during WW2, but I consider this to be the more horrific of the 2. Watch them both though, but if you're already depressed, don't bother till you are happy cause the chances of you coming away from this movie in a happy-go-lucky mood are slim to none.
Warning: As Hadashi no Gen is extremely graphic, it is not to be viewed by the faint of heart.
First off :-
What tugged at my heartstrings the most:
The scene where Gen's mother lost control of her senses as she watched her husband, daughter and youngest son perish in the flames.
The madness brought about by this atomic bombing truly was horrifying, and through this movie, I was given a little insight of what life was like for the survivors.
Though the atomic bombing did end the war, what really stunned me was the fact that the dunces of war leaders involved took way too much time
to finally hang up their 'pride' and admit their defeat. The movie producers depicted this shock perfectly through the doing up of a scene whereby Gen's mother learnt of Japan's surrender, and her subsequent reaction (of disbelief, and to some extent, grief and anger).
All in all, I gave this movie a rating of 8/10, where 2 points were docked off due to some of the exaggerated scenes (I understand that radiation does simply horrible things to the body, but does it actually reduce the person in question to something that is no different from the living dead?) and inappropriate fanfare used at regular intervals.
I would like to take the opportunity to once more reiterate my point that this movie is not for the faint of heart. It should only be watched by one who is prepared for the grisly chaos that nuclear disasters are capable of bringing about.
War reaps benefit to no one. It does not prove who's right, only who's left. And i understood these sayings even more when I watched this film. Barefoot Gen was an eye-opener, especially to the young generation who had never experienced war.
Now, I understand that this is a very old film (as proven by the art on the cover), but if you look past that, you'll see that the story, characters and emotions emitted by each of them are timeless and undying. Not only did it serve as the message that war brings hell on earth, but also showed the reality of history: that
these events did happen and that people suffered greatly.
But underneath that darkness and despair laid a small ray of hope: that being Gen himself. He emitted so much hope despite living in a relentless environment. When everyone else gave up on life, he was one of those who didn't.
Also, I liked how it did not delve deep into the enemies of the country during that time. It focused solely on the chaos which war brought to the inhabitants, not exactly hatred against the opposing force.
Now I live in Isahaya, a city not too far from Nagasaki. And every time I visit Nagasaki, I cannot believe that it was once the land where an atomic bomb was dropped. It was amazing to see a land once in devastation turn into a city full of hope.
And so I ask: please do not turn your back on this film simply because of the art style. This is a film rooted in history: something you need to watch. Walking barefoot and standing headstrong despite so much tragedy: that's what makes Barefoot Gen so amazing.
Barefoot Gen... Well, what can I say? It's one of the most important anime films in history, along side with Akira. It became famous for it's dark and brutal take on the bombings of Hiroshima, which was based on the manga by Keiji Nakazawa who wrote this manga based on his experience as a Hiroshima survivor when he was 6 years old and it is still the most harrowing experience ever witnessed on an anime film.
Barefoot Gen takes place in Hiroshima, as we see Gen and Shinji live with his family and working their very best to help them in a time of need, since
the bombings destroyed half of Japan's cities in the war. Gen and their family lived the good life until that fateful day when the bomb, created by American WWII scientists, was dropped in Hiroshima and everyone got burned through radiation in their bodies, due to the power of the atomic bomb and therefore, Gen's family get killed in the blast, leaving Gen and her mother as the only survivors. Gen must now find a way to protect her mother by any means necessary to survive.
At first, Barefoot Gen starts like a cutesy anime in the first few minutes with the happy tone and music, but when the bombing begins in Hiroshima, all happy thoughts are thrown into the floor like melted ice cream. Dead bodies everywhere, people moaning while dying from radiation, even babies die in front of you and you got yourself a terrifying experience that will scar you and will make you think of the consequences that we've done in WWII. It also boasts one of the most haunting scenes in film history: The scene of Hiroshima being destroyed by the bomb. Yeah, it is that scary and I feel sorry for them that they had to die. I understand that Japan started this with Pearl Harbor and that the Japanese soldiers were ruthless killers during WW2, but America just went too far with this bomb and If I rewatch this movie again, my anger will just burst to extreme levels. Also, Gen is a strong character throughout the entire film as we sympathize on his journey to bring hope to human life after the bombing and will never give up on himself, even if his family is gone after the incident. There are more emotional teary moments in this film, but I will not spoil the movie even further, cause I might piss off some anime fans that never watched or heard of this film.
The animation by Madhouse, while dated, still holds up and I'll never forget the haunting animation scene of the bombing in my life and the music is serviceable, but nothing groundbreaking. The Japanese voice-acting is great and while they yell a lot in this movie, you will get used to it pretty well, except the English dub, in which they make Gen sound like Popeye's testicles that dropped in the morning and the english voices ruins the emotional moments of the film. So skip the dub and wath the Japanese version instead.
Barefoot Gen is well made film like Grave Of The Fireflies and it must be seen to be believed, if you have the guts to see it.
The problem with textbooks when they talk about the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that they lack description of what really happened. Usually it just says the "bombing which ended the Second World War" but doesn't get more in-depth than that. What I love about Hadashi no Gen is that it shows the bombings to the perspective of a person living there. So you could correlate and feel empathy to each other.
Basically, this movie makes it feel like your own hometown was bombed the atomic blast, what would you feel of that?
From the disastrous air raids before the bombing, to the lone bomber that
dropped the bomb which ended the war. From the seconds after the appearance of the mushroom clouds, to the broadcasted capitulation of the Empire of Japan, this is a show that truly showed the horrors of the aftermath of the bomb, and how it casted physical, mental and psychological damage to the people living there. There isn't much shows that have these storylines.
The story line revolves around a boy named Gen who, with his family, is surviving current-era-war Japan, with rations low and his pregnant mother sick, things couldn't get any worse, right?
Then came the atomic bomb that killed thousands of people instantaneously upon its detonation. Now they have to survive the aftermath of the blast, and make sure they make it out alive.
The art was fair for an anime that showed during it's time. Nothing special here except for the grotesque visualization of those mutated from the blast, honestly they are more scarier than most jumpscares I've seen to date.
The characters in the film had their own characteristics and were fitting in the storyline and really enhanced the impression that the film had. The producers did a great job in doing that.
I've enjoyed the story from start to end. It may be from my fascination of the War in the Pacific, but I would presume that anybody would enjoy the movie no matter if you are fascinated or not.
To wrap it all up, Hidashi no Gen is one of the shows which is a hidden gem in the pile of coal. If you stumble upon this anime, and you are interested from reading the description alone, then I recommend that you watch this anime because you could learn something from it.
Also impress your history teacher by describing what those mutilated bodies looked like.
Barefoot Gen paints a realistic and graphic look at the damage to Hiroshima during and after the dropping of an American atomic bomb on August 6, 1945. The movie doesn't hold back any punches in depicting the horrific reality of the situation as homes are destroyed; hundreds of thousands of people are either dead, homeless or suffering serious health problems from the radiation of the bomb; military personnel are around to pick up corpses and tend to those who can be saved; and water and food supplies are contaminated thanks to radiation exposure. Seeing villagers being fried to a crisp from the atomic bomb and
the countless burnt corpses in the aftermath made for some of the most disturbing material I've seen in an anime and this is saying something when I've seen titles like Elfen Lied and Shigurui whose intent with their graphic content is only to shock and awe their audience instead of trying to elicit an emotional response.
The movie is prominently focused on how these events effect Gen and his mother, who wind up being the only survivors of the bombing. A good amount of the first half of Barefoot Gen is focused on Gen's family life showing how they are barely getting by financially and dealing with receiving limited food rations from the Japanese military, a believable element to Japan in the final days of World War II which got elaborated on in Grave of the Fireflies. To a certain extent, Gen and his family's struggles before and after the atomic bomb dropping were believable for the time period, though the mood is usually inconsistent at points with Gen getting in comical antics that take away from the serious mood of the movie and the over-dramatization of some parts of the story such as Gen's final chat with his dying father and siblings.
The presentation to Barefoot Gen is a bit subpar with visuals that are clearly outdated and look to be on par with a late-70s TV anime series, though it still gets the job done in showing off the macabre setting of Hiroshima after the bombing. The music also doesn't do too well in flowing with the dramatic mood of the movie and none of the musical tracks stick out too well.
Overall, Barefoot Gen made for a decent watch in seeing a believable depiction of how Japanese civilians were affected by the dropping of American atomic bombs in the final days of World War II despite its subpar presentation and some rough elements to its storytelling. It's nowhere on the caliber of Grave of the Fireflies' powerful storytelling, but it is still worth a look if you are looking for an anime believably based on major Japanese historical events.