Barefoot Gen

Barefoot Gen (はだしのゲン, Hadashi no Gen) is a Japanese war manga series by Keiji Nakazawa. Loosely based on Nakazawa's own experiences as a Hiroshima survivor, the series begins in 1945 in and around Hiroshima, Japan, where the six-year-old boy Gen Nakaoka lives with his family. After Hiroshima is destroyed by atomic bombing, Gen and other survivors are left to deal with the aftermath. It ran in several magazines, including Weekly Shōnen Jump, from 1973 to 1987. It was subsequently adapted into three live action film adaptations directed by Tengo Yamada, which were released between 1976 and 1980. Madhouse released two anime films, one in 1983 and one in 1986. In 2007, a live action television drama series adaptation aired in Japan on Fuji TV over two nights, August 10 and 11.

Barefoot Gen
Barefoot Gen volume one.jpg
Original Japanese first volume of Barefoot Gen.
(Hadashi no Gen)
Written byKeiji Nakazawa
Published by
English publisher
DemographicShōnen, seinen
Original runMay 22, 19731987
Hadashi no Gen wa Pikadon wo wasurenai
(Barefoot Gen will never forget about the Bomb)
Written byKeiji Nakazawa
Published byIwanami Shoten
PublishedJuly 1982
Hadashi no Gen heno Tegami
(A letter to Barefoot Gen)
Written byKeiji Nakazawa
Published byKyouikuShiryo Publishing
PublishedJuly 1991
Jiden Hadashi no Gen
(Autobiography of Barefoot Gen)
Written byKeiji Nakazawa
Published byKyouikuShiryo Publishing
PublishedJuly 1994
Hadashi no Gen in Hiroshima
(Barefoot Gen in Hiroshima)
Written by
  • Keiji Nakazawa
  • Kyo Kijima
Published byKodansha
PublishedJuly 1999
Hadashi no Gen ga ita Fukei
(Seen where Barefoot Gen was)
Written by
  • Kazuma Yoshimura
  • Yoshiaki Fukuma
Published byAzusa Syuppansya
PublishedJuly 2006
Television drama
Barefoot Gen
Directed by
  • Nishiura Masaki
  • Murakami Masanori
Original networkFuji TV
Original run August 10, 2007 August 11, 2007
Hadashi no Gen wa Hiroshima wo Wasurenai
(Barefoot Gen will never forget about Hiroshima)
Written byKeiji Nakazawa
Published byIwanami Shoten
PublishedAugust 2008
Live-action films
Anime films
Wikipe-tan face.svg Anime and manga portal

Publication historyEdit

Cartoonist Keiji Nakazawa created the feature Ore wa Mita (translated into English as I Saw It), an eyewitness account of the atomic-bomb devastation in Japan, in the monthly manga Monthly Shōnen Jump in 1972. In the United States it was published through Educomics in 1982.[2] Nakazawa went on to serialize the longer, autobiographical Hadashi No Gen (Barefoot Gen)[2] beginning in the June 4, 1973 edition of Weekly Shōnen Jump manga magazine,[3] It was cancelled after a year and a half, and moved to three other less widely distributed magazines: Shimin (Citizen), Bunka Hyōron (Cultural Criticism), and Kyōiku Hyōron (Educational Criticism).[citation needed] It was published in book collections in Japan beginning in 1975.


The story begins in Hiroshima during the final months of World War II. Six-year-old Gen Nakaoka and his family live in poverty and struggle to make ends meet. Gen's father Daikichi urges them to "live like wheat," which always grows strong despite being trod on. Daikichi is critical of the war. When he shows up drunk to a mandatory combat drill and talks back to his instructor, the Nakaokas are branded as traitors and become subject to harassment and discrimination by their neighbors. To restore his family's honor, Gen's older brother Koji joins the Navy against Daikichi's wishes, where he is subjected to a brutal training regimen by his commanding officer and lost one friend who killed himself because of this. On August 6, the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima. Gen's father and siblings perish in the fires, but he and his mother escape. The shock causes her to give premature birth; Gen's new sister is named Tomoko.

In the days following the attack, Gen and his mother witness the horrors wrought by the bomb. Hiroshima lies in ruins, and the city is full of people dead and dying from severe burns and radiation sickness. Gen meets a girl named Natsue, whose face has been severely burned. She attempts to commit suicide, but Gen convinces her to continue living. Gen and his mother adopt an orphan named Ryuta, who by sheer coincidence looks identical to Gen's deceased younger brother Shinji. After Gen returns to their burnt-out home and retrieves the remains of his father and siblings, he and his family go to live with Kime's friend Kiyo. However, Kiyo's crotchety mother-in-law conspires with her grandchildren to drive the Nakaokas out.

Gen looks for work to pay the family's rent. A man hires him to look after his brother Seiji, who has been burnt from head to toe and lives in squalor. Though Seiji is reluctant at first, he warms up to Gen over time: The boy learns Seiji is an artist who has lost the will to live because his burns have left him unable to hold a brush. With Gen's help, Seiji learns to paint with his teeth but, eventually, he dies of his wounds. On August 14, Emperor Hirohito announces Japan's surrender over the radio, ending the war.

Following Japan's unconditional surrender, American occupation forces arrive to help the nation rebuild. Gen and Ryuta, fearing rumours they've heard about the Americans, arm themselves with a pistol they find in an abandoned weapons cache. They learn the Americans aren't as bad as they'd thought when they're given free candy, but they also witness a group of American soldiers harvesting organs from corpses for medical research. Kiyo's mother-in-law evicts the Nakaokas after Gen gets into a fight with her grandchildren, and they move into an abandoned bomb shelter. Gen and Ryuta attempt to earn money to feed Tomoko, getting involved with the local Yakuza. After the Yakuza betray them, Ryuta kills one of them with the pistol they found and becomes a fugitive. Later, Gen learns that Tomoko has been kidnapped. He finds her with the help of a classmate, only to learn that she's become ill. Tomoko dies soon after.

In December 1947, Gen is reunited with Ryuta, who has become a juvenile delinquent, doing odd jobs for the Yakuza. He meets Katsuko, a girl scarred by burns from the bomb. As an orphan and a hibakusha, she is subject to discrimination and cannot go to school; Gen lends her his books and teaches her himself.


Major themes throughout the work are power, hegemony, resistance and loyalty.

Gen's family suffers as all families do in war. They must conduct themselves as proper members of society, as all Japanese are instructed in paying tribute to the Emperor. But because of a belief that their involvement in the war is due to the greed of the rich ruling class, Gen's father rejects the military propaganda and the family comes to be treated as traitors. Gen's family struggles with their bond of loyalty to each other and to a government that is willing to send teenagers on suicide missions in battle. This push and pull relationship is seen many times as Gen is ridiculed in school, mimicking his father's views on Japan's role in the war, and then is subsequently punished by his father for spouting things he learned through rote brainwashing in school.

Many of these themes are put into a much harsher perspective when portrayed alongside themes of the struggle between war and peace.

Takayuki Kawaguchi (川口 隆行, Kawaguchi Takayuki), author of "Barefoot Gen and ‘A bomb literature’ re-recollecting the nuclear experience," (「はだしのゲン」と「原爆文学」 ――原爆体験の再記憶化をめぐって, “Hadashi no Gen” to “Genbaku Bungaku”—Genbaku Taiken no Saikiokuka o Megutte) believes that the characters Katsuko and Natsue coopt but change the stereotypical "Hiroshima Maiden" story, as typified in Black Rain, as although courageous, Katsuko and Natsue are severely scarred both physically and mentally.[4]


A volunteer pacifist organization, Project Gen, formed in Tokyo in 1976 to produce English translations.[5] Leonard Rifas' EduComics (together with World Color Press) published it that same year as Gen of Hiroshima, the "first full-length translation of a manga from Japanese into English to be published in the West."[5][6] It was unpopular, and the series was cancelled after two volumes.[7]

The group Rondo Gen published an Esperanto translation as Nudpieda Gen (Barefoot Gen) in 1982. The chief translator was Izumi Yukio.

The German Rowohlt Verlag published only the first volume in 1982 under their mass-market label "rororo". Carlsen Comics tried it again in 2004 but cancelled the publication after four volumes. Both publishers took the name Barfuß durch Hiroshima (Barefoot through Hiroshima).

The first volume was published in Norwegian in 1986 by GEVION norsk forlag A/S. The Norwegian title is Gen, Gutten fra Hiroshima (Gen, the Boy from Hiroshima). A similar edition in Swedish (Gen – Pojken från Hiroshima was published in 1985 by Alvglans förlag, which may have been the earliest published manga in Swedish.[8]

The first volume was published in Finnish in 1985 by Jalava, becoming the first Japanese comic to be published in Finland, but publishing was likewise abandoned. The Finnish title is Hiroshiman poika (The Son of Hiroshima), and Finnish translation was done by Kaija-Leena Ogihara. In 2006 Jalava republished the first volume (with its original translation) and continued with publication of second volume.

All 10 volumes were published in Poland by Waneko in 2004–2011 under the title "Hiroszima 1945: Bosonogi Gen".[9]

New Society Publishers produced a second English-language run of the series in graphic novel format (as Barefoot Gen: The Cartoon Story of Hiroshima) starting in 1988.[5]

New English editionEdit

A new English translation has been released by Last Gasp (starting in 2004) with an introduction by Art Spiegelman, who has compared the work to his own work, Maus (which is about the experiences of Spiegelman's father during the Holocaust in Europe).

  • Barefoot Gen #1: A Cartoon Story Of Hiroshima (ISBN 0867196025)
  • Barefoot Gen #2: The Day After (ISBN 086719619X)
  • Barefoot Gen #3: Life After The Bomb (ISBN 0867195940)
  • Barefoot Gen #4: Out Of The Ashes (ISBN 0867195959)
  • Barefoot Gen #5: The Never-Ending War (17 April 2008, ISBN 0-86719-596-7)
  • Barefoot Gen #6: Writing the Truth (17 April 2008, ISBN 0-86719-597-5)
  • Barefoot Gen #7: Bones into Dust (5 Mar 2009, ISBN 0-86719-598-3)
  • Barefoot Gen #8: Merchants of Death (9 April 2009, ISBN 0-86719-599-1)
  • Barefoot Gen #9: Breaking Through Borders (10 Feb 2010, ISBN 0-86719-600-9)
  • Barefoot Gen #10: Never Give Up (10 Feb 2010, ISBN 0-86719-601-7)

Nakazawa planned to present a set of the series to US President Barack Obama to caution against nuclear proliferation.[10]




In 1976, 1977 and 1980, Tengo Yamada directed three live-action version films.

Animated filmsEdit

Two animated films were based on the manga, in 1983 and 1986, both directed by Mori Masaki for a production company that Nakazawa founded.

Barefoot Gen 2 is set three years after the bomb fell. It focuses on the continuing survival of Gen and orphans in Hiroshima.

Often action, dialogue and the images are almost expressionistic to add to the impact of the film. The falling of the bomb is shown first from the American point of view which is very orderly and impassive. Then, when the bomb explodes, the view is from the Japanese showing powerful images of people being graphically vaporized, buildings exploding and multi-color explosions.

Initially released individually on dub-only VHS tape by Streamline Pictures, and then dub-only DVD by Image Entertainment, Geneon eventually sold bilingual versions of the film on DVD as a set. On September 18, 2017, Discotek Media announced via Facebook that both films would be coming to blu ray with both the Japanese and English languages available in it.[11] The single disc set was released on December 26 of that year.

TV dramaEdit

A two episode TV drama was produced by Fuji Television in 2007 and was aired over two days.


10 books have been published about Barefoot Gen.

Theatre ProductionsEdit

There have been a number of stage play adaptations of Barefoot Gen produced in Japan.

In July 1996 the first stage adaptation in English was premiered at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, UK. The production was a collaboration between the Crucible Theatre and Theatre Zenshinza, Tokyo, Japan. In 1994 British theatre director Bryn Jones travelled to Japan to request Mr. Nakazawa's permission to adapt the first volume as a play. Permission was granted and Jones returned to Sheffield to prepare the production; research, design and dramatisation with the Crucible company, Tatsuo Suzuki and Fusako Kurahara. Mr. Nakazawa subsequently travelled to the UK to attend final rehearsals and gave post show talks after the opening performances. The final manuscript was adapted and dramatised by Tatsuo Suzuki and Bryn Jones and translated by Fusako Kurahara. The production received a Japan Festival Award 1997 for outstanding achievements in furthering the understanding of Japanese culture in the United Kingdom.

Operas and musicalsEdit

Some operas and musicals of Barefoot Gen have been on show.

Feature filmEdit

  • A Hollywood producer is interested in a studio version of the manga.[12]


The manga has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.[13]

The Barefoot Gen anime made TIME magazine's list of top five anime DVDs.[14]


In December 2012, access to Barefoot Gen became restricted in elementary schools and junior high schools[15] of Matsue city in Japan,[16] after a claim was made that Barefoot Gen "describes atrocities by Japanese troops that did not take place".[17] This was reviewed after 44 of 49 school principals polled in the city wanted the restriction removed[18] - the curb was later lifted in August 2013.[19]

Nakazawa’s widow, Misayo, had expressed shock that children’s access to the work was being curbed. “War is brutal. It expresses that in pictures, and I want people to keep reading it.”[20]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Barefoot Gen Manga to Be Used as School Material". Anime News Network. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Barefoot Gen a.k.a. Gen of Hiroshima at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on August 3, 2016.
  3. ^ "はだしのゲン". Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
  4. ^ Kawaguchi, Takayuki (September 2010). "Barefoot Gen and 'A-bomb literature' re-recollecting the nuclear experience (「はだしのゲン」と「原爆文学」――原爆体験の再記憶化をめぐって Hadashi no Gen" to "Genbaku Bungaku"-Genbaku Taiken no Sai Kioku ka Omegudde)". In Berndt, Jaqueline (ed.). Comics Worlds and the World of Comics: Towards Scholarship on a Global Scale (PDF). Kyoto, Japan: International Manga Research Center, Kyoto Seika University. pp. 233–243. ISBN 978-4-905187-01-1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2010. - Article translated by Nele Noppe. - Original Japanese article,
  5. ^ a b c Adams, Jeff (2008). Documentary graphic novels and social realism. Oxford: Peter Lang. pp. 92–93. ISBN 9783039113620.
  6. ^ Rifas, Leonard (2004). "Globalizing Comic Books from Below: How Manga Came to America". Rifas Leonard International Journal of Comics Art. 6 (2).
  7. ^ Booker, M. Keith. Comics through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas. p. 470. ISBN 9780313397516.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2010-08-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^
  10. ^ Yomiuri Shimbun 26 July 2009 Ver.13S p.38 and Close-up Gendai on 6 Aug. 2009
  11. ^ "Discotek Media". Retrieved 2020-03-25.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Lighter, Kim Sumiko (2013). "はだしのゲン / Barefoot Gen". (Asahi Shimbun). 発行部数は、国内外で 1000 万部以上に上り.... / Hakkō busū wa, kokunaigai de 1000 man-bu ijō ni nobori.... / More than 10 million copies are issued at home and abroad...
  14. ^ "5 Top Anime Movies on DVD". Time. 31 July 2005.
  15. ^ Matsue-shi homepage: Elementary school, junior high school homepage Retrieved 2013 August 24.
  16. ^ Williams, Maren (August 20, 2013). "Barefoot Gen Pulled from Matsue School Libraries". Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
  17. ^ Faith Aquino (August 19, 2013). "Anti-war manga 'Barefoot Gen' removed from school libraries". The Japan Daily News. Ewdison Then. Archived from the original on August 25, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
  18. ^ "Don't curb 'Barefoot Gen': Matsue principals". The Japan Times Online. 2013-08-22. ISSN 0447-5763. Retrieved 2020-02-15.
  19. ^ "Barefoot Gen Ban Lifted | Comic Book Legal Defense Fund". Retrieved 2020-02-15.
  20. ^ "Japan school board bows to outcry, drops curbs on anti-war comic". Reuters. 2013-08-26. Retrieved 2020-02-15.

External linksEdit