Barefoot Gen

Rating: 4½ Rampages Gen running, barefoot

On August 6th, 1945, Nakazawa Keiji survived the atomic bomb explosion in Hiroshima. Like his hero, Gen, he was then a first grader in elementary school and lost half of his family. He could never forget what he witnessed and experienced. In 1973, he began a comic series, "Hadashi no gen" (Barefoot Gen), in the weekly "Shonen Jump", a boy's magazine. Despite the seriousness of the theme, not in harmony with the nature of the magazine, the series won much acclaim by critics and the public. It was also printed as a series of books, and, to date, nine volumes have been published.

Barefoot Gen is the story of a young boy who lives through the dropping of the bomb at Hiroshima. It introduces all Americans to that historical bombing from the view of the people it had the most effect on---the ones who lived through it. Parents may want to watch this film before allowing younger children to watch it due to the graphic nature of the bomb exploding as well as the aftereffects. When the bomb explodes, the effects of the heat blast are shown in vivid detail. People walk around afterward with flesh hanging limply off them. Even though these scenes are extremely graphic, it actually shows more of what living through the bombing at Hiroshima was like. Mr. Nakazawa considers the Barefoot Gen series his life work. "I firmly believe," he says, "that we should not forget our hatred for wars and such bombs which ruthlessly destroy the very foundation of our existence."

Herself the Elf sez: Wow. This one really strikes home. It's almost too much to process, that everything in this movie really happened, that it really *was* this horrific. Unlike the quieter and more subtle Grave of the Fireflies, this movie pulls no punches as far as depicting the horrors of Hiroshima are concerned. Another way it differs from Grave of the Fireflies, though, is that there are some sparks of hope and happiness interspersed with the tragedy, even towards the end. Gen and his little brother manage to keep their spirits up most of the time and often reminded me of Satsuki and Mei from Totoro as they get into adventures.

The music is rather dated, but what do you expect from 1983? The animation is also somewhat dated but remains fairly classic in feel and the backgrounds are richly detailed in depicting 1945 Japan. Sometimes the melodrama is a little heavy-handed but considering the subject matter it's quite forgivable. Although Barefoot Gen isn't completely tragic like Grave of the Fireflies, it's still realistic and doesn't sugar-coat things. And what a surprise--the dub is watchable! The voice acting is a little exaggerated at times but for the most part isn't too bad. This is a movie that everybody should see at least once. Definitely recommended.

Was dubbed by the now-defunct Streamline Pictures. You can probably find a copy somewhere...