Barefoot Gen

 BARI   (Last Gasp, 2003-2009)

™ and © 2005 Keiji Nakazawa, Jun Ishiko

Art Spiegelman’s Maus has rightly been dubbed a classic of our age. His frank depictions of The Holocaust have earned him the respect and admiration of “real-world” publishers. Manga artist Keiji Nakazawa crafted a similar work in his native Japan years before Spiegelman’s epic, one that focused on World War II’s Pacific Theater, specifically the bombing of Hiroshima. Last Gasp has done the comics world a favor by bringing this masterpiece back into print.

Nakazawa was a little boy when the most powerful weapon known to mankind exploded over his city. This graphic novel is the first of four volumes that tell the story of his experience immediately before and after this tragic event. No shortcuts are taken, and the kid gloves are off, as the brutalities of this act are transcribed in all their horrendous detail. Melting faces and puddles of flesh abound but are never presented gratuitously.

Even though the subject matter is extremely intense, this isn’t just a story about the bombing of Hiroshima. It’s a novel about normal people struggling to survive in the face of hardship. The depth of characterization is immense; a solid 250 pages of story are developed before the bomb even drops. Gen’s father, a fierce anti-war artisan, struggles with his own political beliefs that cause both him and his family an endless sea of misery.

This volume would make an excellent addition to any historical library and would supplement any World War II scholar’s research. Don’t be fooled by cartoon aspect of the drawings; within the first 10 pages, you’ll realize this is one of the most serious works of comics literature around.

— Scott Semet

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