The very first manga that had been officially translated in English was Barefoot Gen, a dystopian story about a boy named Gen in the aftermath of the Hiroshima Atom bombing incident in 1945 Japan. The story was loosely based on the experiences of the mangaka, Keiji Nakazawa, who was a Hiroshima survivor. Nakazawa was six years old at the time of the bombing, a year younger than protagonist Gen, but Gen’s family reflects Nakazawa’s in almost identical detail. Barefoot Gen, while inspiring in its message and story, was not for the faint of heart. The manga features graphic imagery of the effects of the Atom bomb, showcasing the mass destruction it caused as well as the gruesome detail of melting flesh and bone from the heat and radiation of the blast. This was especially apparent in the scene where Gen and his pregnant mother find Gen’s father and siblings trapped underneath the rubble of their home. Unable to lift the rubble, Gen is forced to watch his father, sister, and brother die as the flames come down on them. After the death of his family, not only does Gen have to survive the aftermath of the bombing, he also has to deal with prejudice and insults from other survivors as his family was outspoken critics of the war.
Barefoot Gen is a heartbreaking but inspiring story that would take eight years and three different magazines until it completed its publication run in the west. Thankfully, the internet has allowed for manga of different eras to be translated by large communities, including Nakazawa’s work. All you need to do is check out the apps to read manga on Android found on this list and you can follow the barefooted steps of Barefoot Gen.
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