Writer and Artist: Keiji Nakazawa
|via Atomic Books
Volume 1 begins in April 1945 and ends on the day of the bomb. The hardships of the average Japanese family during the late stages of the war are laid plain. Gen, a young boy and fictional stand-in for the author, and his family live under constant air raid threat while struggling to even feed themselves. One older brother is evacuated to the countryside. Another enlists in pilot training and learns the horrors of kamikaze pilots. To complicate matters further, Gen's father is openly critical of Japan's involvement in the war, a position that inspires vicious hostility from the neighbors.
Rambunctious little boys in manga often seem to bounce and Gen and his brother Shinji come off as a bit clownish at times. The father's occasional violent outbursts are off-putting. But overall, the reader develops great affection for Gen's family in plenty of time for the crushing blow we all know is coming. We are not spared the graphic details when the bomb hits - skin melting off the victims, bodies covered with shards of shattered glass, etc.
I never made it to Hiroshima during my time in Japan, though I did go to Nagasaki, target of the second A-bomb on August 9th. Visiting the bomb museum was a haunting experience I'll carry with me always. Fortunately, both cities thrive in modern Japan and have been at the forefront of world peace and nuclear antiproliferation movements for decades - always aware of the horrifying past, but also determined to help make sure it never happens again. First person accounts such as Nakazawa's have long been an important aspect of these efforts.