Rose MG: Barefoot Gen: a Call for Peace, a Call for Change

Barefoot Gen is a pseudo autographical comic by Nakazawa Keiji. Keiji is a hibakusha, a term that translates literally to “Person exposed to explosion,” and in this case meaning that he was a survivor of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Barefoot Gen follows the titular character and his family in the time leading up to leading up to the dropping of the atomic bomb, and what he experiences with his mother in the time after the destruction.

The power to create peace in this manga comes from the nature of the content, and from the way it is portrayed for the reader. Keiji does not shy away from depicting the graphic horror of what the bomb and the radiation did to the bodies of those it killed and those who escaped death. Some of the images depicted are stomach turning. The reader cannot but detest the instrument and the powers that made this happen, which leads even those who may not have questioned the use of the bomb to do so. Furthermore, the manga’s primary focus is on the human affects of the bomb, and the mechanical distance of bomb itself and those who dropped it. When we see the horror of the after affects we see the bodies and the eyes and faces of those it is affecting. When we see the bomb drop we see the machines and there is no human face to the action. Readers are asked to empathize with those affected, and recognize the harm caused.

The story does not only address the bomb, however. In the first volume when we get a glimpse of the wartime before the war, Keiji relays an incredibly anti-war and anti imperialist message. In a time of intense nationalism, the father character is anti war and anti government, and moreover attacks the racism his sons and neighbors enact against their Korean neighbor. This story bears a strong message in regards to ethics of war, and ethics in general: total war is not just, war for profit is not just, harming of humans and of life is not excusable. This manga was furthermore intended to be read by children. And this author makes no attempt to shield them from the stark reality. To Keiji, the children must learn, they must empathize with those who have been harmed and see the suffering caused by war, while also seeing some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. They learn what they should strive to rid the world of, and ideally will grow up and work for peace and against injustice.