If it's crap ... We'll tell you
In this review I will be talking about both Barefoot Gen (1983) & Barefoot Gen 2 (1986)in every respect even though there is a 3 year gap in production between the two movies I don’t really feel there is much of a difference with anything in particular. In many ways both films would have worked better a single release. This would have made more sense as the two movies address two different aspects of the given situation. Also considering the subject matter is quite difficult for many to digest I actually feel having the two films separate has hindered the second movie.
Using animation to tell this somewot autobiographical account of the Hiroshima disaster personifies the unique tool animation can be to tell a story. Although stories like this which are based on true events will always be the subject of some sort of criticism I have to commend Keiji Nakazawa for putting this out there in such a vivid way that still to this very day many similar titles based on WWII do not accomplish even outside the realm of animation.
The story begins on August 4, 1945, in Hiroshima with the everyday life of Gen, his younger brother Shinji, their father Daikichi, elder sister Eiko, and pregnant mother Kimie, during the final days of World War II.
The beginning of the plot mainly focuses on the Nakaoka family's struggle to afford food ration cards and other items due to food shortages throughout Japan. Like the other residents, the family wonders why Hiroshima has so far suffered only minor damage; when American B-29 Superfortress bombers have fire-bombed nearly all of Japan's major cities.
A few days later, on his way to school, Gen takes notice of a passing B-29 aircraft and discusses with a female friend how odd it is that a single B-29 would be passing over the city with no air raid siren warning beforehand, as was often common. Soon after this suddenly his father, sister, and brother watch their surroundings as they are all blinded by a flash of white light which is then closely followed by the tremendous explosion.
This is the moment Gen’s life changed forever.
Due to me NOT giving spoilers what I will summarize is that what follows is the tale of a young boy and his “cough” family’s ordeal through one of the greatest tragedies the world has even known and how he and the people around him strive to survive in the aftermath left by the atomic blast.
Barefoot Gen 2 takes place 3 years after the end of the original movie, with Gen trying to cope during the early post-war reconstruction of Japan. While the first movie focused more on the immediate affects of the atomic bombing, the second film focuses more on the long-term problems that faced the survivors, such as the devastated economy and national infrastructure, and lingering affects of the bomb's radiation.
The ONE and only thing I do not like about the story is that it focuses so much on the actual attack dealt by the Americans, viewers who do not know their WWII history may see this film as a horrible injustice to the Japanese and there are no mentions of Japans previous participation in the war which includes the slaughter of the Chinese during the invasion of china or of the attack on Americans at pearl harbor – which I must STRESS is not me hinting in any way that they had this coming to them…I’m just saying if you do not know the entire history of WWII this film does not educate anything relative and can be seen as propaganda which I feel is not the intention of these movies at all……but hey I’m goin off on one here…you get the point.
Animation style is a bit cartoonier than the typical Japanese animation style, especially with the character designs. I do however feel this animation style made things more clear, simple and vivid, particularly with the atomic blast sequence and the various human transformations (goddamn) – this was a truly horrifying but mesmerizing experience which I must again commend Keiji Nakazawa’s graphic and barebone depiction of the actual atrocities he witnessed. It really does feel like a living nightmare at these points.
Landscapes and background designs where simple yet decent considering this title is over 25 years old I was not expecting all that much anyway but overall everything was animated quite well no real complaints.
I have watched these titles twice. The first viewing was of BFG1 and it was in English dub which in my opinion was very good. BFG2 has no dub so I watched them both again with the original Japanese language and English subs. Here again I found no problems with voice actors or music. The only real downside was some of the actual sound affects felt dated and come off sounding sharp, especially during the explosion sequence. Other than that I have to say the overall language interaction and dialogue was good across the board.
Well I did like the characters and I did feel they exhibited a lot of real emotions but really the main character Gen himself to me was just a little bit unbelievable, why I say so is he just is so damn positive and optimistic in the face of the most horrifying events….he did have his moments of sadness but really they did not last very long before he was up and running again.
Now I’m not stupid he was ultimately the main plot device and the spirit of encouragement for both movies which was undoubtedly essential to these movies. Without someone like Gen in the movies this would have been the saddest and most depressing anime of all time…I also understand he was a kid and maybe could not fully process the full extent of the situation but I still just felt he was just a little bit unrealistic in certain situations.
The other characters around Gen seemed more believable…a lot of them where suffering and in some sort of agony but I liked the fact the story showed characters of all ages and how they where affected by the situation. Considering the situation however the character development could have been taken advantage of a bit more in my opinion…then again I may be asking for too much.
How can anyone use the word enjoyment for something like this…what I can say is i appreciate and applaud the author for having the guts to create something many people today may be totally oblivious to and to do so in such a way that is rarely seen but at the same time to not dwell totally on the pain of the disaster but also the spirit of perseverance and determination. The level of despair these titles reach is truly not enjoyable but at the same time one must remember these events actually happened, maybe not all to one person but to a whole range of people and for that I feel this is something as an anime fan, a historian…hell even as a human being should be watched at least once….but be warned this is not for the faint hearted!
It really irritates me this title is often compared as the weaker version of Grave of the fireflies. Yes they are similar and yes GOTF has better animation but I feel GOTF was more of a stand alone story on a smaller scale. These movies however have a much clearer, wider and dreadful message. It takes a bold but realistic look at how nuclear weapons have changed a whole nation’s perspective on life and ultimately ended WWII itself.
It’s a damn shame this title is not more well known to the masses and is often just passed off as some manipulative emotional guilt trip movie.
These movies do serve a purpose and send both a necessary negative and positive message but most of all it is something no viewer has ever forgot watching…even if they swear to never ever watch it again and yes many many people will not which is sadly understandable.
Barefoot Gen: Hall Of Fame
Oh i loved BFG movies though they were sad they were very touching and teached alot of lessons about living though conflict.
Definitely agree with you, a must see anime.
I heared of this anime/manga I will try to see it in the future.