Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Barefoot Gen

**Warning, contains some links to unsettling images**

Last night I watched Barefoot Gen, (1983 movie) which is the story of a young boy's experiences in Hiroshima during the latter part of the war, including, and following the atomic bombing.

Barefoot Gen is based (loosely) on the real life experiences of the original manga's original author, Keiji Nakazawa, and it manages to be both unflinching, heartfelt, and retain a sort of hopeful innocence that was totally unexpected, for me. That's not to say that Barefoot Gen sugarcoats the war, or the horrors of the atomic bombing. Far from it. 80's styled animation or no, there were some scenes that made me feel a little queasy, like the group of half-dead radiation victims stumbling blindly in search of help, one mother with a charred baby on her back.

However, even as the movie reminds us of the horrors of war, and the terrible pains human beings can inflict on one another, it staunchly refuses to point fingers. Americans are not demonized, nor are the Japanese or anyone else. The only place where blame is laid is with those on both sides who are hungry for bloodshed for its own sake.

Despite the movie's dark gruesomeness, as we watch half of Gen's family killed, watch the people of Hiroshima suffer through extreme burns, radiation sickness, and malnutrition, it manages to end on a note of hope, and of love, as Gen resolves to strive for a better future in the memory of those he has lost.

However, just to keep myself from getting too upbeat about it, I also spent an hour looking at actual images of victims of the bombings. I know that might sound a little twisted, and maybe it is, but for me I find that if I look at this kind of horror and really think about it hard at least once a year, it really puts things into perspective. My own physical, mental, and emotional problems seem so small in comparison to the suffering gone through by the real life counterparts of Gen and his family, that I really reinforce my own desire to become a better, more understanding, less sensitive, and less self-pitying individual.

Is using the suffering of others in this way self serving? Maybe. But hey, if I'm going to be self-serving, I might as well do it to the good.

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