Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Barefoot Gen Volume 1 by Keiji Nakazawa

"Remember this, my little one. This is war. This is what took your father, sister and brother from us... When you grow up you must never, ever let this happen again!" Kimie Nakaoka says as she holds up her new born to watch the fireball that has engulfed Hiroshima. Love, hate, honor, pride, fear, pity, Barefoot Gen is an incredible and timely story that will summon every feeling a human can possibly muster. The story is a short manga series about the life of Keiji Nakazawa before, during and after the nuclear bomb was dropped in his hometown, Hiroshima. The story does an amazing job at pulling you in and never letting go. For those who know what happens (and most of us do), they will be at the edge of their seats waiting for the climax of the bomb drop. The drop is delayed well into the story, giving the readers the opportunity to see the hardships that the Japanese people were already going through because of the war. Unlike most mangas, Barefoot Gen is full of text but the readers are very unlikely to notice it since it is well-integrated in the old school style of animation used by Nakazawa. I found this manga to be one of the most powerful ones I've read to date and I expect it will stay with me for a long time to come.--Claudio Leon

Interested readers can learn more about Project Gen here and here. Teachers can find a lesson plan for middle grades from the Zinn Education Project (utilizing the film version) here, and a study guide which can serve as a series of discussion questions from the National Association of Comics Art Educators here.

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