Barefoot Gen: About the Book(s)

13 Feb

Before  Gen started his plucky journey across Japan, Keiji Nakazawa produced an autobiographical work called Ore wa Mita or I Saw It, focusing more specifically on his experiences as a bomb survivor, how it effected his family (particularly in his mother’s death) and how these events lead him to want to produce a longer work about the struggles Japan underwent.

The 48 page one-shot first appeared in 1972  in the magazine Monthly Shōnen Jump, and was published in America by a company called Educomics under the title I Saw It: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima: A Survivor’s True Story in 1982. While it is not readily available today in stores, I was able to find a copy easily and for little money on Ebay.

This work was the spark that lite the fire for Nakazawa’s masterpiece. Barefoot Gen, as we know it today, started publishing in Weekly Shonen Jump in 1973, shortly after the original release of “I Saw It”. The series, for whatever reason (wrong demographic? inappropriate subject material for Jump?), was cancelled after a year & a half, moving between three different magazines (Shimin (Citizen), Bunka Hyōron (Cultural Criticism), and Kyōiku Hyōron (Educational Criticism)). The published works began to be collected in 1975.

While BFG may have not been as wildly successful at the time in Japan, the story in America was a bit different. Starting in 1976, as a way to raise awareness about the bombings of Hiroshima and other worldwide disasters, Japanese peace activists began a Transcontinental Walk for Peace and Social Justice. Two activists, Masahiro Oshima and Yukio Aki had a Japanese copy of Barefoot Gen and shared it with those people who were concerned about how the innocent Japanese people were effected, who then urged them to find a way to have this material translated into English. When the two returned to their homes in New York, they created Project Gen, a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that was able to translate the first four volumes into English in the late 1970s. Project Gen has had a number of ups & downs over the years, as well as various incarnations but the project was finally realized in 2000 when a group of nine Japanese volunteers spent three years completing a translation of all ten volumes!

Keiji Nakazawa knew about and was involved in this project and in 2002, introduced the group to Alan Gleason, a member of the first Project Gen who had a relationship with the San Francisco publisher Last Gasp, who took the unabridged translation and republished the material, in its entirety for an American audience.

These covers is arguably the most accessible and well-known version of the series but I wanted to include a few snapshots of how Barefoot Gen was published otherwise. Enjoy:

9 Responses to “Barefoot Gen: About the Book(s)”

  1. Gilles Poitras February 15, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    Don’t forget the author’s autobiography is also put in English from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

    Hiroshima: The Autobiography of Barefoot Gen


  1. MMF: Barefoot Gen 1 and 2 - February 14, 2011

    […] preparing for the current Manga Moveable Feast, I’d only read about a chapter of Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen (Last Gasp), the one reprinted […]

  2. Proyektong Gen || Project Gen | Otaku Champloo - February 14, 2011

    […] project on the classic manga by Keiji Nakazawa, Barefoot Gen, now featured for this month’s Manga Moveable Feast. This translation project was brought on by a group that proudly took the name Project […]

  3. Madinkbeard » MMF: Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa - February 14, 2011

    […] (English translation from Last Gasp) in preparation for this week’s Manga Moveable Feast (which is hosted over here). As you will see I did not fall in love with the series. The post below was written in one draft […]

  4. Barefoot Gen Manga Moveable Feast » Manga Worth Reading - February 15, 2011

    […] This month Sam Kusek is hosting the Manga Moveable Feast for Barefoot Gen at his site, A Life in Panels. He has an excellent opening post that covers the Barefoot Gen books. […]

  5. Manga Moveable Feast kicks off with Barefoot Gen « MangaBlog - February 15, 2011

    […] is hosting this month’s Manga Moveable Feast at A Life in Panels, and he starts us off with an introduction to Barefoot Gen, the topic of this month’s feast. Ed Sizemore pinch-hits for the first day with a roundup of […]

  6. Gerrys Blog » Blog Archive » Clerici | Sergio Ruzzier: Cristiana Clerici’s Picture Book List - February 15, 2011

    […] Barefoot Gen: About the Book(s) « A Life in Panels […]

  7. Links: Borders patrol « Good Comics for Kids - February 17, 2011

    […] Sam Kusek is hosting this month’s Manga Movable Feast. On the menu: Kenji Nakazawa’s autobiographical series Barefoot Gen, which recounts Nakazawa’s experiences as a hibakusha, or Hiroshima survivor. For readers new to this manga classic, Kusek provides a helpful overview of the series’ publication history. […]

  8. » Manga Moveable Feast kicks off with Barefoot Gen - February 18, 2011

    […] is hosting this month’s Manga Moveable Feast at A Life in Panels, and he starts us off with an introduction to Barefoot Gen, the topic of this month’s feast. Ed Sizemore pinch-hits for the first day with a roundup of […]

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