Comparing Apples to Oranges: Barefoot Gen & Grave of Fireflies, How similar are they, really? by Patrick Jones

19 Feb

Patrick Jones is a guy, that happens to be on the internet, you can find him on twitter by the username @Johnny_Jobbs.

If you’re reading this, then there is a chance that you probably have heard of Barefoot Gen and a higher chance of knowing Grave of The Fireflies due to the prestige that it has garnered by Studio Ghibli & Roget Ebert and other people. You are most likely reading this during or because of the Manga Movable Feast since its hosted on the MMF site, as such I will save you the effort of telling you what these movies are about. The point of this article is that while Barefoot Gen is a phenomenal piece of work, reviewing or looking at Barefoot Gen in a vacuum is not just how we, Teh Internet, do things nowadays. We always make comparisons to other stuff whether it is for criticism or to get other people to watch it etc. It is simply a simpler way to convey things. Therefore a comparison MUST be made and I CHOOSE

GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES, THE MOST HORRIFYINGLY DEPRESSING MOVIE EVER MADE (Claimed by me, Patrick Jones….the writer of this article)

To go against

BAREFOOT GEN, THE MOST TERRIFYING SERIES EVAR! (Second verse same as the first)

WARNING: the following content bellow does not contain BRUTAL IMAGES AND CONTENT. Viewer discretion is not needed.

Now to start at the painfully obvious comparison, Barefoot Gen & Grave of the Fireflies are both Japanese stories made by Japanese people that take place in Japan around World War 2. Barefoot Gen & Grave of the Fireflies are both based on real stories. Akiyuki Nosaka and Keiji Nakazawa both experienced to an extent the bad things in the two stories.

Please note that I said to an extent. The two stories have changes to what actually happened in real life, similar to what Tim O’Brien did with his experience in Vietnam in the semi-autobiography turned Fiction, The Things They Carried , they changed around stuff to make the story better and to portray what Tim O’Brien names in The Things They Carried the “Story Truth” which according to Tim, is what “truly” happens or what the person who wrote the story felt what happened, While The Things They Carried came after the two stories were written. I (teh writer, Patrick Jones) believe that Akiyuki Nosaka and Keiji Nakazawa had a prototype of that idea while they wrote down their stories While Akiyuki didn’t actually die (that’s how he was even able to write the story in the first place….whoops SPOILERZ) Akiyuki wrote the story as an apology to his sister because he feels guilty about her death. To Akiyuki, he felt like he died when her sister died (At least that’s what I think…you might want to take that with a grain of salt). And Keiji did not actually help give birth to his mother’s child during the aftermath of the atomic bomb , but in Hiroshima: The Autobiography of Barefoot Gen Keiji says that he was told about his mother’s birth in such exquisite detail that he felt like he was there helping give birth to his sister. This in my mind and hopefully your mind shows that the two authors had some prototype of the “Story Truth”…or not, but that would destroy my argument.

There are numerous other comparisons that can be made between the two; I can hit some out right now. They are both had live-action movies, they both were written by male, Japanese authors and they both were targeted to all audiences. But another important comparison that MUST BE MADE is symbolism. The two stories are heavily reliant on symbolism whether its B-29 bombers to Gen’s barefoot feet or to the bomb (or bombs in Grave of the Fireflies case) that was dropped on the main characters town, the two have symbols, but so does almost every story ever. What is truly notable about these two is that they use one BIG symbol that they use to HAMMER THE MESSAGE OF THE STORY INTO YOUR BRAIN. In Barefoot Gen, the main symbol is Wheat, that delicious delectable food that completes our sandwiches and makes most cereal possible, is used to tell Gen and the audience to be strong and to stick to what you believe in. In Grave of the Fireflies the main symbol is, of course, Fireflies, that blinking insect, is used to portray the brief life of innocence and to respect the dead soldiers, which brings me and you to another comparison that can be made, they are both staunchly anti-war, to what severity can be debated endlessly but it’s there, and it’s loud and it is understandable. Most, if not all, the bad things that happened to the characters in both stories can be attributed to World War Two.

If you had read or watched Barefoot Gen or Grave of the Fireflies which you probably have if you are reading this article (If not…then why are you reading this; You’re ruining yourself on a madding, depressing trip through hell and back) you may have noticed the passion, the people who have wrote these stories were driven to tell them, if it was not for that then who knows if we would have ever gotten these magnificent pieces of work, works so deep with symbolism and meaning that one could endlessly debate about the works and the similarities about the two, which means that this article could technically go on for hundreds or thousands of pages about the similarities and why that may be, but who has the time or the patience to read or listen to something that is complementary to the works that is longer than those two works combined. It is highly likely that few people will read this whole article in the first place so why even bother writing this article? Because I am DRIVEN BY MY PASSION FOR THESE WORKS SO MUCH THAT I WROTE A WHOLE ARTICLE COMPARING THE TWO, EVEN KNOWING THAT FEW PEOPLE WILL READ IT BECAUSE I LOVE THESE WORKS THAT RIPS OUT MY HEARTSTRINGS. But I am not talented,disciplined,nor driven enough to write about all the similarities between Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies, there’s just so many. I don’t how they can be so similar but somehow they are and even more bewildering is that they can be unique and good enough that I would recommend both to anyone.

See what I did there? I took a whole paragraph to tell you that I can’t write down more stuff about this while simultaneously writing down more stuff, I’m sorry, this article needs to be handed in on time. I give apologies to Sam Kusek and Edward Sizemore, who gave me this opportunity and I am sorry for this train wreck( but not sorry enough to stop this train wreck but I’m still pretty sorry). I also give a big apology to Thomas (a.k.a. @ABCBTom on twitter) He was supposed to do this article and would have done a much better job than me and yet CRUEL FATE caused him to be unable to do his article in time for the Manga Movable Feast causing me to pick up the torch; to him I am truly sorry. Since I am being so meta right now I might as well give credit where credit is due at this point. Thanks to Sam Kusek (@SamKusek on twitter) for creating the Manga Movable Feast and having this one be about Barefoot Gen. hopefully the MMF will spread awareness of this piece of work and I also give him thanks for giving me (Patrick Jones @Johnny_Jobbs on twitter) my chance to shine…and fail miserably. I also give thanks to Edward Sizemore(@edsizemore on twitter) for talking Sam Kusek into letting me write for the MMF. But I give BIG thanks to Akiyuki Nosaka and Keiji Nakazawa for creating In my humble opinion what is essential read/watching to anyone and is something that everyone should read before they die( you can find Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies and Hiroshima: The Autobiography of Barefoot Gen and purchase them by clinking the clicky links in this sentence). Now that I’m done I need some way to end this article………………………………………………Hm………………………………………………………….

P.S. I don’t  own any of the photos used in this article; now you know.

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One Response to “Comparing Apples to Oranges: Barefoot Gen & Grave of Fireflies, How similar are they, really? by Patrick Jones”

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  1. Tweets that mention Comparing Apples to Oranges: Barefoot Gen & Grave of Fireflies, How similar are they, really? by Patrick Jones « A Life in Panels -- Topsy.com - February 19, 2011

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sam Kusek and Sam Kusek, Sam Kusek. Sam Kusek said: Comparing Apples to Oranges: Barefoot Gen & Grave of Fireflie, How similar are they, really? by Patrick Jones http://wp.me/p15VJx-31 [...]

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