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Barefoot Gen

Barefoot Gen (はだしのゲン, Hadashi no Gen) is a 1983 Japanese anime war drama film loosely based on the Japanese manga series of the same name by Keiji Nakazawa. Directed by Mori Masaki and starring Issei Miyazaki, Masaki Kōda and Tatsuya Jo, it depicts World War II in Japan from a child's point of view revolving around the events surrounding the bombing of Hiroshima and the main character's first hand experience of the bomb.

Barefoot Gen was dubbed by Streamline Pictures in 1995, despite the fact that it was released in the United States on June 13, 1992 and on July 3, 1992 at San Jose, California.

Plot[]

Gen Nakaoka and his family live in Hiroshima, Japan during the final days of World War II. The family struggles through food shortages and constant air raid warnings. Gen's mother, Kimie, is pregnant and suffering from malnutrition, and his sister Eiko helps Kimie in her housework. Gen and his brother Shinji help their father, Daikichi, in the family's wheat field and try to find food for Kimie. Daikichi and Kimie realize the war is not going well, though they wonder why Hiroshima has been spared from the air raids which devastated other Japanese cities.

On the night of August 5th, the family is awakened by an air raid and take refuge in their bomb shelter, though, after some time, it is clear this is yet another false alarm. During the ordeal, Gen's father Daikichi states his fears concerning the constant passing of enemy aircraft with no following attack and his suspicion that Hiroshima is being saved for something special.

The next morning, Gen presents a wooden battleship he has made to Shinji, promising to take him to the river to set it afloat after he returns from school, and leaves his home around 7:40 in the morning. Upon reaching his school, Gen takes notice of a passing B29 aircraft and discusses with a female friend the oddity of its passing over the city with no air raid siren warning accompanying it, as was often common. As this occurs, his father, sister, and brother watch and discuss as an army of ants enters their home in large numbers, while his mother hangs clothes on a clothesline on a second-floor balcony of the house. Suddenly, Gen, his friend, and his family are all blinded by a flash of white light which is then closely followed by the explosion, flinging Gen underneath a ruined wall, throwing his mother off the balcony, and burying his father and siblings under the house.

Gen woke up a few hours later and saw the enormous destruction of the city surrounding him, and the sight of deformed and extremely burned people wandering the streets. Gen finds Kimie trying to rescue their family, who are buried alive under their burning collapsed house, but Daikichi urges his son to take care of his mother and the baby. Daikichi, Eiko and Shinji burn to death as Kimie briefly suffers a mental breakdown. Soon after, Gen and his mother are taken to a safer area by a neighbor, where his mother is about to give birth. Gen leaves to find items and a midwife but is unable to and aids in the birth himself. Thankfully, the baby has been born, which turns out ot be a girl.

Later that night, Gen is unable to sleep due to the wailing of burned survivors nearby. He and his mother decide to get up and give the people water, as they are clamoring out of thirst, only to discover that they die soon after drinking it and so stop handing the water out.

By August 8, Gen finds that soldiers have entered the city and are distributing rice, but gets there too late, only to find them collecting corpses and burning the dead. He finds a fireman's hat which becomes a signature part of his character. He is later horrified to find a soldier shivering from cold in the intense summer heat, losing his hair, defecating blood, and vomiting blood. He takes the soldier to the Red Cross hospital only to find out that he is being left for dead by the doctors there, as his unknown sickness cannot be cured.

After several days of wandering around for food, Gen finds a ration storehouse containing rice, only to find that most of it has been seared by the heat of the blast. After digging through and onto the lower bags in the stack, he then finds that some have not been seared and takes them to his mother to eat along with some fresh vegetables. Kimie points out a few bald spots on her son's head, who recollects the memory of the soldier dying from the unknown illness. Soon afterwards, on August 9, another atomic bomb is dropped over Nagasaki after Japan refuses to surrender following an ultimatum from the US government.

Gen and his mother then take refuge in a makeshift shack, and on August 16, dig up the skulls of their dead family members from the ruins of the former home. As they do so, a passing family announces the surrender of Japan, to which Gen and his mother respond angrily; his mother emphasizing that it was too late now to surrender after this carnage. Soon after, Gen discovers his hair has started to fall out, and remembering the stricken soldier, panics, only to be reassured by his mother.

In the shack, Gen, his mother, and little sister eat as little of the rationed rice as possible in an attempt to save it, when a small boy attempts to steal the rice. Gen stops him and brings him back only to be shocked by his physical resemblance to his younger brother Shinji. However, the boy's name is actually Ryuta Kondo. After speaking with the boy and feeding him, Gen and his mother learn he is orphaned and decide to keep him with them, Gen's mother stating that she would wish for someone to mind after Shinji in a similar situation.

The following day, Gen and Ryuta head out to find food as their sister is suffering from malnutrition due to the lack of milk, and are picked up by a man from out of town who takes them to tend for his sick brother, another bomb survivor, for three Yen per day. The two accept and find the man they will take care of is crude, rotting, and angry, his family rejecting him and his attitude. Despite his harshness, Gen and Ryuta decide to stay and take care of him regardless, and Gen even spends the night with him, inspiring him to paint once again. Due to their commitment where others hired to care for him gave up or failed, the man's brother pays them 10 Yen, and the boys head out to find milk quickly, in hopes of bringing it back to feed Gen's sister. Unfortunately, to their dismay and horror, the baby has already died of malnutrition. Her body is then burned in a pyre, and Gen cries out to his father for guidance.

Soon after, Gen is cheered up by Ryuta who has come to call him older brother, something which makes Gen feel proud and gives him a strong connection to his new friend. Despite hearing that no grass would grow in Hiroshima for seventy years, Gen and Ryuta find that weeds are starting to grow, and Gen is excited to discover his hair is also growing back. In his new found optimism, Gen remembers the promise he made to Shinji of taking him to the river after school, and so, he builds a new wooden boat, placing a candle on to the top. Two weeks after the bomb, Gen takes Ryuta and his mother to the river, where they light the candle and release the boat, together they watch the flame in the sunset, a symbol meant to express that beyond all terrible experiences, lies hope.

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Sequel[]

A sequel, Barefoot Gen 2, was released on June 14, 1986.

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