Films

Barefoot Gen: The Bombing of Hiroshima As Seen Through the Eyes of a Young Boy

Film. By Geneon; directed by Mori Masaki. 1992. 170 min.
A story about the devastating effects of war on everyday life.

Time Periods: 20th Century, Prosperity, Depression, & World War II: 1920 - 1944
Themes: US Foreign Policy, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements, World History/Global Studies

Barefoot Gen

As teachers know, some classroom materials invariably work, no matter the group of students. Barefoot Gen is one of them.

Barefoot Gen, a Japanese animated feature film, tells the story of Gen (pronounced with a hard “G”), a young boy who, along with his mother, survives the bombing of Hiroshima.

The story chronicles their struggles as they try to rebuild their lives from the bomb’s ashes. It is based on the critically acclaimed, semi-autobiographical Japanese comic book series Hadashi no Gen, by Keiji Nakazawa. Both the comic strip and the feature film oppose the Japanese government’s actions during World War II and include criticism of the intense poverty and suffering forced onto the Japanese people by their government’s war effort.

In the lesson, Haiku and Hiroshima: Teaching About the Atomic Bomb, Wayne Au describes how he introduces the film to high school students and how he follows up with haiku written by survivors of the bombings and students’ own writing.


Opening in the rundown city of Hiroshima, we witness the events leading up to the bombing through the eyes of Gen, a young boy growing up in post-war Japan. Fortunately when the bomb detonates, Gen is shielded by a stone wall. Others are not so lucky and are burned to death instantly by the 5000 degree heat flash. As Gen runs home to find his family, he sees victims of the bomb blast staggering around shocked and helpless in the rubble, their skin burnt and melting. When Gen reaches home he finds that his house has collapsed, trapping his father, brother and sister in the wreckage. Pulling his pregnant mother to safety, Gen watches as the rest of his family are burnt alive. What follows is a night-marish journey into the unimaginable horrors of atomic war and the struggle to survive in a place that has been destroyed by the most devastating device ever conceived by man. [Description from the distributor.]

Produced by Geneon. Japanese/English subtitles. Watch online at YouTube.

Trailer

2 comments on “Barefoot Gen: The Bombing of Hiroshima As Seen Through the Eyes of a Young Boy

  1. mboop@ymail.com on

    As an adult student, I am using this movie to review the changes in Americans’ point of view then and comparing it to Americans’ point of view now, regarding the dropping of the atomic bomb. This analysis considers all the new information we have now that was not available before, with great weight on witness accounts from survivors. This is a very interesting subject, and the movie Barefoot Gen is a perfect example of survivor accounts and the reality of the devastation and difficulties in life after the bomb exploded.

  2. Barbara Markham on

    I purchased this film after I visited Hiroshima, Japan. I show parts of the film and use it to frame an alternative perspective that is less a statement of “anti-Americanism” and more about Keiji Nakazawa’s personal viewpoint worth examining. I also incorporate the images from the Marukis’ Hellfire Murals. Since we all use primary documents to teach history, I want students to see that art (and art forms like anime and manga) can serve as powerful documents as well. I highly recommend this film.

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