Barefoot Gen

By littlesweetfish No comments

My sister told me about the black rain. She said if you got showered by the black rain, first, your hair would fall off, and then you would vomit blood and eventually die in pain. After that, every time it rained, I ran into the house and checked the color of asphalt from the safe distance. I asked my grandmother about the black rain, and she told me there wasn’t going to be the black rain anymore.

In the school library, other kids talked about Barefoot Gen, an autobiographical manga by Keiji Nakazawa, who, as a boy, survived the nuclear bomb and its aftermath in Hiroshima. The kids at school were attracted to the gore of human bodies burned and poisoned by radiation. They said the manga was once available at the school library, but now removed. Unavailability made me curious. Why did the school not want us to read them?

I don’t remember how, but eventually, I gained access to the Barefoot Gen manga. (Spoiler alert!!) Gen lived with his parents, his older sister, and a younger brother. His mother was pregnant at the beginning. When the bomb was dropped, Gen survived the initial explosion because he had stood in the shade of a tall wall. A little boy standing by him burnt into the soot on the road. He returned home to find his parents and siblings buried under the crushed house. He was able to save his mother, but before he could lift the rubble too heavy for him, a fire caught up and burnt the rest of his family with the house. And this was not the most traumatic part of the story.

After the explosion, there came the black rain. The whole city was radioactive. When Gen roamed around the city to get help, he witnessed burnt bodies everywhere. There were people who walked dragging their peeled skin at the ankles. A girl had millions of shuttered glass stuck on her face and head. A healthy soldier perished in a matter of hours, as he shot out bloody diarrhea, shivered ferociously with a chill, and vomited blood. Survivors suffered years and years afterward, with horrid burns or developing cancer as his mother did.

I didn’t finish reading the manga at the time for fear of losing sleep again. But when I picked it up much later as an adult, I was able to see the author’s anti-war messages. But then I questioned, was the nuclear bomb a result of the war?

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