Manga Study Guide: Barefoot Gen/Printable version

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Manga Study Guide: Barefoot Gen

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The comic and the history

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Background of an atomic bomb that was dropped in Hiroshima (Little Boy)

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The horrific aftermath of the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima on the average citizens of the city inspired the creation of Barefoot Gen.

At first, America was planning to perform “Operation Downfall”, to assault Japan. However, after witnessing the horror of Iojima and Okinawa battles, America changed the plan and decided to drop atomic bombs on Japanese soil. There were some opinions that they need to strike further with napalm or other type of weapons to maximize the damage, but the government decided against it. Before they dropped atomic bombs, nobody knew about the secondary damage caused by atomic bombs - radiation.

Little Boy, codename of an atomic bomb, was built with Uranium-235. Simply, Little boy detonates when 2 uranium masses collide, creating a massive heat and energy.

August 6th, 1945, 3 American planes flew above Hiroshima in order to recon the area. The citizens evacuated hastily, but nothing happened. After a few hours later, B-29 appeared on Hiroshima’s sky. The citizens thought it would be another recon plane, and continued their normal life.

But, the B-29 dropped an atomic bomb; It was 240 meter far away from Aioi bridge. Hiroshima citizens saw a very brightening light when it was detonated; some of the people were even blinded. Everything instantly burnt near the hypocenter at 3000~4000C. Soon, thermal effect and shockwave followed at 340 meter per second speed, wiping out everything on the ground (1.5 km radius). Hiroshima suffered from high radiation, heat and gray atmosphere preventing the sunlight sifting on Hiroshima’s soil.

Author’s life and experience

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Background: Author's life and experience

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Keiji Nakazawa was born on March 14, 1939 and died on December 19th, 2012 when he was 73. When Nakazawa was young his father was imprisoned during the war for his "anti war activities." Him and his family were viewed as traitors. Nakazawa was in first grade when the first bomb was dropped in 1945, kill around 70,000 people in the blast alone. Nakazawa’s father, older sister and younger brother were killed in it. He was only 1.2 km away from where the bomb had hit, but he was saved by a wall of a building which shielded him from the flash of heat, that would have killed him. After the bomb had been dropped Keiji's mother, Kimiyo (pregnant at the time), seeing her husband, daughter and son burning alive tried to kill herself in the fire as well, so she could die with them, but was stopped by the neighbors. The extreme amount of shock make Kimiyo give birth before dated to a baby girl, who ended up dying four months later.

After the war Nakazawa would gather scraps of metal and glass which he would sell for money. That is when he was brought into the world of manga, when he started to read Osamu Tezuk's 'Now Legendary New Treasure Island' in 1947. Influenced by his father, Nakazawa loved to draw. In 5th grade he had made, and presented his own manga called 'Paper Dramas.' His 5th grade teacher also helped inspire him to become a manga artist. After finishing junior high he improved his drawing skills by painting every day in the evenings and watching three movies in a row at the local cinema, learning from them. He would also submit all of his work to magazines such as 'Omoshiro Bukku' ("Funny Book")

In 1961, at the age of 22, with only $600 in his pocket, Nakazawa moved to Tokyo and started working as an assistant to the manga creator Daiji Kazumine. Two years later Nakazawa made his own debut in the magazine 'Shonen Gaho' ("Boys' Illustrated.") Wanting a fresh start in Tokyo he wrote a story about car racing. He purposely did not write about the atomic bomb because growing up as a survivor of the bomb was not easy. Even his earlier pieces did not hint to his tragic past. In 1963, his direction in manga completely changed. This was caused by his mothers death from the effects of radiation poisoning. Only eight months later Nakazawa married Misayo Yamane, following traditional cremation, burning the body and putting certain bones that shouldn't burn in the family grave, but the bones were degraded by radiation and only a fine powder remained.

In rage Nakazawa returned to Tokyo and in inspiration wrote 'Kuroi ame ni utarete' ("Pelted By Black Rain"). The story about a 13 year old boy, a specialized assassin with killing Americans. With his clouded mind he did not think this through clearly. The story was rejected by every publisher he went to.

In 1967 his first was born, which made him to work at a very fast pace, still trying to get 'Pelted By Black Rain' published and still having a clouded mind writing stories with unifying themes. All he made was about anger and mad grief. Targeted at the U.S., Japanese government, weapon makers and war profiteers. The characters he wrote into his story were normal, flawed people that are angry. In the 1970’s the leukemia rates were higher than usual, which then inspired Nakazawa to write a story about a Hiroshima survivor that has a son that develops leukemia and dies. After finishing the 60 page draft he gave it to the editor for editing. After he was done reading it he broke into tears because it was so emotional. He then told Nakazawa that he should make the story 80 pages long which had never been done before. He later in 1972 wrote his most dramatic story, ‘Ore wa mita’ (“I Saw It!”) a 48 page story, which was the first time he had ever written down his own experiences of the atomic bombing of HIroshima in pictures and words. Then soon after he started his best selling novel ‘Barefoot Gen’

By the end of the 1970s Nakazawa had stopped writing and drawing all together when he was diagnosed with diabetes. It made it difficult for him to draw and when the cataract surgery failed to improve his eyesight, he finally retired from writing, drawing and the creating manga in 2009.

Author's purpose and philosophy

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Background: Author’s Purpose and Philosophy

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Nakazawa Keiji the writer of ‘Barefoot Gen’, wrote the book in such a way as children, young adults and even adults enjoyable and attracts attention about the war. He had also written this story based by himself and what he have experienced.

First he has written this book based on the story of his life and telling the readers what similar events have happened to him. For example his family died because they became trapped under the debris of their house but his mother still lives with his baby sister which have died 4 months later. In the comic Nakazawa put down all of his experiences and feelings. Genn`s family died the same way with but lives with his mother and baby sister.

Secondly he wrote this book in manga because of 2 main reasons. Firstly, the reason is that he have already been writing manga for a long period of time and Jump Shounenn Manga was popular so he thought he could use that to make the book more famous for young people that are interested in mangas and make them know how the war can affect your whole life even the country. So he would let them know so when they grow up they won't think that the war is the solution to everything and will spend their lives so easily in war.

Plot summary

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The Setting (Year 1945, Hiroshima)

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  1. Barefoot Gen starts with an air strike by American bombers.
  2. The father refuses to be trained because he knows it is meaningless; he thinks Japanese cannot win with bamboo sticks while Americans are using machine guns and other firearms.
  3. The father is arrested due to his refusal of training and is beaten.
  4. Gen’s family gets in trouble because people are hostile to anti-war ideas.
  5. Gen bites off fingers of the chairman and his son.
  6. Gen’s sister is stripped because she is accused of stealing money.
  7. Mr.Pak shares his valuable bowl of rice.
  8. Gen’s father scolds his children several times (Respect for Koreans and so on)
  9. Gen’s elder brother goes to war in order to take honor back to his family.
  10. Gen’s elder brother goes to training camp - one of his teammates commit suicide after continuous excessive trainings. He realizes the war is really wrong.
  11. Gen and Shinji disguises as beggars to help their family financially
  12. Gen breaks glasses in order to support the owner of glass-house, and receives a toy battleship as a gift. Gen gives the battleship to his younger brother.
  13. Enola Gay drops an atomic bomb called Little Boy in 8:15, 6th August, 1945.
  14. Gen witnesses the horror and devastation caused by the atomic bomb.
  15. Despite all the difficulties that occurred, Gen saves the chairman and his son
  16. Gen and his mother survive, but the rest of the family burns alive because they could not escape from a collapsed building.
  17. After witnessing the excruciating death of the family members, the mother loses her sanity.
  18. With the help of Mr. Pak, Gen is able to safely evacuate him and his mother from the burning buildings
  19. Instantly after the bombing, Gen’s mother gives birth
  20. Gen helps bring up his sister
  21. The volume ends with an intense scene: the newborn witnesses the grievous scene of the bombing, vowed not to tolerate any further tragic affairs.

Plot structure (The Weekly Jump)

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The Weekly Jump

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The Weekly Jump is one of the most famous comic magazine in Japan, releasing many well-known comics to the world. The Weekly Jump is famous for its “questionnaire supremacy policy”, the policy of deciding if a series continues by the number of reader votes it receives, and will stop a series if it does not receive enough votes for a certain period of time. Barefoot Gen did not do receive as much support from the readers. After it was cut off the Weekly Jump in 1974, over 10 books of the series were published from a few publishers over a 14 year period. The comic appeared on magazines supported by the Japanese Communist Party which supported the anti-nuclear message of the comic. It was also published on the magazine of the Japan Teacher’s Union, and received support from teachers all around Japan. By this support, Barefoot Gen was the only comic allowed in school, gaining young readers who wanted to read comics in school. Nakazawa continued to create the series, until he announced his retirement in 2009 due to his illness

Barefoot Gen started off as a one-shot comic called “おれは見た(ore-wa-mita “I Saw It”)” as part of project of the Monthly Jump (not the same as the Weekly Jump) asking comic writers to write autobiographical comics in 1972. This one-shot comic later later developed into the series “Barefoot Gen” in 1973 which was put on the Weekly Jump as it received support from the editor of the magazine. Nakazawa used no assistants as he believed that was the best way to best express his thoughts. Barefoot Gen is structured in a short story form as it was first published in the Weekly Jump. As it is a weekly magazine, comics often appear with a short story every week so the readers do not get bored of the series, but have an overall main plot that develops over a period of time, resulting in the structure Barefoot Gen has. This is a common format many comic that appear on weekly magazines follow, as it keeps the readers interested while developing the overall plot of the comic.

Analysis (Q& A from study guide)

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Analysis(Q&A from Study Guide)

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This is an analysis created by answering a number of questions that the authors of this wiki were provided with by their supervisors in the form of a study guide.

1. Gen is a Japanese name meaning “root” or “source.” Nakazawa stated, “I named my main character Gen in the hope that he would become a root or source of strength for a new generation, one that can tread the charred soil of Hiroshima barefoot, feel the earth beneath its feet, and have the strength to say ‘NO’ to nuclear weapons.” Think about the wheat field that keeps coming up in the novel (especially on page 1). How does it relate to Gen’s name? Explain the metaphor.

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“Gen” is also the first letter of the word “Genki” which means strength and energy When wheat is stomped and stepped on, they do not die like other plants; they continue to grow. Like wheat, Gen struggles because of war and horrible neighbors, but does not lose the will to be a survivor. The wheat field symbolizes hope - how the wheat field provides them the bugs to eat as if it wants them to survive to persuade others to feel the same way as their family. It also visualizes Mr. Nakazawa’s explanation of the origin of the name, how the wheat field is the ‘root or source of strength’. The state of the wheat field correlates with the storyline, showing the situation of the family. For example, when the wheat field was destroyed, the family felt emotionally unstable. The kanji Gen not only symbolizes strength but also means the root of something. Combining these two interpretations together, it can infer that the main character, Gen is the “root” or “source” of strength, supporting the people in his lives and his family. Throughout the comic, Gen often acts almost as a hero for justice. For example, on page 239, it shows how Gen broke window glasses, knowing he would get in trouble, in order to help a legless man’s get over his debt and financial problems. The wheat also has a very symbolic meaning: in the story, the wheat suggests invincibility. Even after getting stepped on, frosted by the cold winter, wheat shoots right back up. All in all, Gen represents a figure of justice, someone who would not be defeated by anything. (In this case, the pre-war lifestyle and his struggles with society) Because of the events in the novel - of living harshly and being treated terribly and getting worse (the bomb) - it symbolizes that no matter how hard things get, you should always stand back as because there is always something to stand up for, like the wheat rising to grow and be used by the Nakazawas, Gen - whom is another symbol, must stand up for his family because they are worth standing up for. They need him as he needs them as well as all of the family needing the wheat. In another point of view, something worth standing up for is not always the case. A plant’s whole purpose is to grow. It does not care if it will be killed or destroyed, it’s only purpose is to grow no matter what, which is what Gen and his family should do. Live. Gen is described like the wheat they are growing and he is because like the wheat threw the war he is growing, learning and experience more. When Gen, his brother and sister are bullied and the shoes are thrown into the river is when the wheat had been stomped down, like him but it hadn’t died and kept growing such as Gen did.

2. Barefoot Gen has been described as a comic book for both children and adults – do you agree with this statement? What audience do you feel is most appropriate for this book?

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Hadashi no Gen has been serialized in a manga magazine specifically for young adults and teenagers. “Weekly Shonen Jump!” was a popular manga magazine, and still is, that was targeted towards a wide demographic. The age range of the people reading the magazine, and with it Hadashi no Gen, would most appropriately be the children around the age 15 to 20, as by then they would develop some immunity towards biased material, and be able to efficiently gather out the important aspects of the work while also being able to see how the mangaka was able to express his emotions.

Both adults and children can enjoy and learn about Barefoot Gen. It is important for children to know what happened during the WWII so that they'd understand that wars must not be repeated. Although it contains some gruesome scenes, the gruesomeness is not emphasized so we can accept them as the outcome of the A-bomb (like facts). Barefoot Gen can also be read by adults because after learning the WWII as series of events, which are mainly about defeats and victories of the counties, they can have a look at the individuals' stories.

3. One thing that makes Barefoot Gen unique is that it describes the day-to-day life of ordinary men, women and children living in wartime. The bulk of the book deals with suffering outside of the battlefield. Select a scene from their daily life that you found affecting or moving and explain why it affected you.

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On page 16 Gen and Shinji are fighting over a sweet potato. They punch each other trying to eat the sweet potato by themselves. This scene was affecting and moving as it shows the greed and hunger of a human which we usually hide behind a curtain of respect or shame. However, seeing them fight over it while showing open greed shows the effect of war on people. in addition, it makes the audience compare their life to Gen’s.

Pg. 52- This is a scene in Gen’s classroom, where they are reading out letters to send to the soldiers off in the battlefields; Gen reads out his letter, encouraging them to survive instead of dying, and his teacher’s fist comes flying into him and he gets told to rewrite it. I found this strange because nowadays, teachers don’t use violence on students because their parents would soon find out and will protest. Secondly, school is a place to learn peace, at least not to encourage them to die in the war. On Page 60, Mr.Pak and Gen are teased by the classmates, although they have not done any misbehavior.

On page 193 - 194, Gen and Shinji are shown street performing, under false identities and circumstances, as well as attempted stealing a fish from a man’s Koi Pond. This is particularly affectionate as it shows how far an individual will go for their family. As the old saying is, Family comes first. The two lied about themselves, lied to others and stole from others to keep their family in relatively good, better, condition. In addition, as I am from the Philippines, I’ve seen how the hardship people experience and know how far people will go and do for those they care about to survive and thrive.

4. Look at the villains in the novel. Are there any similarities in the way they are drawn? Analyze the effectiveness of Nakazawa’s portrayal of them.

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Nakazawa often portrays the villains in a very stereotypical way. They have pursed lips, thick and slanted eyebrows, and they often have narrowed eyes. The superior, grown-up villains, such as instructors, the chairman and officers often have mustaches. The mustache symbolizes power and class. In addition, many of the villains have dark circles under their eyes: symbolizing mischief and wickedness.The effects of these facial expressions are very effective. It becomes a crucial clue of who the antagonists are to the readers. The audience can easily recognize the role the character is playing, therefore, the author can easily evoke the feelings he wants the audience to feel. One of the resembles in the villains in Mr.Nakazawa’s comic book is their clothing. Many antagonists tend to wear uniforms, such as chairman, instructors and officials. When protagonists were sometimes seen in more casual clothes antagonists remained in uniforms: symbolizing royalty to the emperor in addition creating a stiff and hard impression.

5. Throughout the book, there are instances in which characters who are initially portrayed as villains are later shown in a sympathetic light. Select and describe a passage where this occurs. What do you believe Nakazawa was trying to achieve?

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When Koji encounters a man who tries to injure him shares his experience and feelings with him (pg. 142-161): there are sympathetic light on the man to emphasize the tragedy and the situation of the war - how they are forced to volunteer to be the Kamikaze pilots and how the man doesn’t want to die. It also shows how the citizens are forced to think that contribution to war and sacrificing your life is something to be proud of. Through this experience, Koji realizes his father was right all along and war brought nothing but misery to the people

6. Barefoot Gen’s main focus is the Nakaoka family; the story unfolds through their words, thoughts and actions. At times, a separate narrative voice is present, in the form of captions. This unknown narrator conveys information beyond the family’s experience, such as facts about the war. How well do these two storytelling approaches work together?

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The two storytelling approaches work well together. This is because we get the insight of the Nakaoka Family and their struggles that are because of the war. We learn about their struggles and their experiences for wanting the war to end. They are called traitors for despising war, but nevertheless, want nothing more than to end it. Having a narrator that is not the main character while we also see the story from the families point of view (main character) is very good as it enables us to see the story from different perspectives. As the Nakaoka family generally disagrees to war it is good to see a general perspective. it enables the reader to interpret the story in an unbiased way understanding the story to a deeper extent. on the other hand it can also intensify the emotions of the reader as seeing the anti-war Nakaoka family with the Pro-war people around them which the unknown narrator explains, expresses the desperate situation of the family even more. There are few moments where the story is narrated by supporting characters which gives readers an opportunity to see the ways other people perceived with struggles in their lives during the war.

7. The pages of this book are filled with scenes of violence – from childish brawls to cruel beatings. Even within the Nakaoka family, violence is normal (look at page 1!). This is common in manga, but how did the amount of violence affect you as a reader? How did it affect your sympathy for Gen and his family?

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The amount of violence in Barefoot Gen was essential in order to make the reader feel rather excited than shocked. In most of the scenes where violence is used, Mr Nakazawa used onomatopoeia and visualizing things that you can’t see, such as the shock when the father hits Gen and Shinji on the head. The Japanese are more accepting towards physical punishment. A stereotypical character in manga or anime, especially in the old ones, are depicted as an “enthusiastic teacher”. They are commonly portrayed as muscular men who may look scary or mean at first glance because they give physical punishments. But the students later finds out that the teacher was punishing them for their own sake, to teach them what is wrong to do, etc. The teacher soon becomes the most popular teacher amongst students because he can empathize with them, and at the end of the story, the students and the teacher run towards the sunset. As seen in this example, Japanese culture is quite forgiving when it comes to violence that are done for others instead of own satisfaction. In addition, the fact that Gen and Shinji are smiling but crying at the same time when their father punch them makes the violence seem less painful. However, in scenes where the children are abused for unjust reasons (E.g. pg.174 the police officer stops them from eating sweet potatoes), Gen and Shinji are not smiling. This made me feel very bad for them because it looked very painful, and as violence to the Nakaoka family were repeated throughout the book, their impression changed to victims.

8. Though this story has a large cast of characters and many subplots, Gen plays the central role. Describe Gen and the pivotal role he plays throughout the novel.

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Gen is also a symbol of hope and happiness. He plays the central role, as he has a huge impact in relation to the development or success of the rest of the characters that appear throughout the text. The small anecdotes and subplots are mostly based on the justice Gen creates. Whether it’s a feud or an obstacle, Gen confronts the villains. For example, Gen and Shinji skips school and acts like beggars in the streets in order to get money for their sick mother. The pure intention of Gen is what the author hoped for the readers (especially the youths) to capture: almost acting as a moral or theme for the book. But Gen is still a child, and so he is highly gullible and believe anything that his teachers tell him, even if it is a form of propaganda, as in false education to mislead the children so that they stay obedient to the country. Through his interactions with various people of that time, we get to see a side of Hiroshima that everyone subconsciously knows exists, but wishes to not see.

9. Symbolism is characteristic of Japanese comics; in Barefoot Gen it takes the form of a reappearing sun that glares through the pages. It is the marker of time passing, the giver of life, and the flag of Japan. Find as many instances of the sun as you can and analyze what it represents in the examples.

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8 – The sun is a symbol of safety in this page, after the US fighter planes fly away from the city, allowing the people to continue with their lives. With the sun shining bright without any clouds, it gives a sense of normality (of the weather and the people’s activity).

14 30 31 34 39 – This sun has some dark clouds around it, forecasting a twist in the story that will affect the Nakaoka family a difficult time. As it is drawn the same way as the sun from page 8, it gives a comparison.

35 75 78 127 139 163 - The sun has lines spreading from the center. The spiky sun appears before the members of the family feels anger towards a person or the society.

61 64 179 – The shady sun appears when the family has a peaceful, quiet, happy time. It also appears as the end of the sub plots, and the sun represents the afternoon.

Character summary

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The Text: Character Summary

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Nakaoka family:

Gen Nakaoka(main character): Gen is a main character and a second son, portrayed as a protagonist in the manga; Barefoot Gen.

Shinji Nakaoka: Third and last son. Shinji plays an important role in showing the war from childrens’ eyes/perspective. He shows the way war affected innocent children like himself.

Kimie Nakaoka(mother) she is a hard-working mother, who is also pregnant. Nakaoka was a strong woman who protected her children but in the end she failed to protect her daughter, Eiko, and other son, Shinji, as well as her husband.

Koji Nakaoka: First son in the family. He decides to go against his father by going to pilot training to clear the title ‘traitor’ of their family.

Eiko Nakaoka: Elder daughter of Nakaoka family. She is affected by the war and as she is mainly portrayed as a victim in the story. Since most of the main casts are men, she plays a important role, showing the affects to young, feminine girls.

Daikichi Nakaoka: He is a pacifist father. Through out the manga he stubbornly believes that war was started by the “people at the top”and that they brain-wash people to keep the nation on their side. Daikichi Nakakoka dearly loves his family and does anything to save his family.

Akira Nakaoka: Second son of Nakaoka family. He was evacuated to the countryside to be safe from all of the bombing in Hiroshima.



Police officers



(from this layout, we can see that most of the villains have some sort of relation directly to the government, therefore, we can see that the reasons are purely through patriotism: people who have been brain-washed by the ideas made by the government) Ryukichi (chairman’s son) (shows how youths are effected by the society. For example, school programs and propaganda)

sub-characters that appear in anecdotes/ sub-plots

Tamura (escapee from the country evacuation/ friends with Akira) Kumai (a kamikaze pilot Koji met on the way to his training) Mr.Horikawa (a legless man Gen helped) A carp owner Gen and Shinji met whilst stealing a carp for their sick mother

Each of these characters shows what the affects of pre-war and war time difficulties may cause. (Both mentally and physically)

Minor characters:

Mr.Pak/Boku Pak (korean immigrant) he is portrayed as a protagonist, as he helps the Nakaoka family throughout the text. He plays an important role, as he becomes the key to showing that the stereo-typical Japanese way of thinking is not always correct. in addition, his relationship with the Nakaoka family is heart-warming and may create a different point of view toward immigrants. school teachers (they are directly involved with the government, therefore, they act as propaganda, to brain-wash the youths.)

Symbolism (eg wheat field, sun)

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Symbolism is used very often in stories, especially in visual sources such as manga. They can provide a dramatic shortcut to explaining a lot more than just writing what you are trying to tell, it gives the reader a visual understanding rather than someone writing the words down. Texts wouldn’t give the reader as much understanding nor the visual impact as a Manga can give to the reader. An action, person, place, word, or object can all have a symbolic meaning; this is usually when the author wants to show emotion rather than expressing it. Visualizing gives more emotion and understanding to the reader compared to written texts. The example below shows the sun rising between the clouds; which is a symbolism of hope.

The baby at the end of the story symbolizes strength

Use of cartoon violence

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Why did the comic "Barefoot Gen" use cartoon violence?

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An abbreviated strong language and violent expression. The Weekly Jump could not show a realistic violence.

Style of manga comic’s info

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In a case, Japanese comics has excessive violence and expression. But they aren’t meant to injure person. They just entertain the reader. Realistic expressions have the blood sprat, scars, and destruction and realistic faces. They look like real photographs. However comical expressions have have unrealistic motions (e.g jumping to the sky).

Pieces of work that use realistic violence

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  • History- “Explain the past times with details”
  • War log- “Describe events that happened in the great War”
  • Mystery- ”A story to elucidate the truth of a crime.”
  • Gekiga(劇画)-”Comic style of a realistic narrative”

Pieces of work that use comical violence

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  • Gag manga- “Funny moment and such jokes”
  • Satire- “Draw contents in derision of specific object interestingly”
  • Comedy

Pieces of work that use both expressions

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  • Adventure
  • Action
  • Fantasy

In Barefoot Gen that has very heavy and serious theme from the war. Barefoot Gen has both expressions. Because, When the scene where Gen was hit by father. Then moment, Gen cut in his mouth. (You can see a little bit of blood). So, This is a realistic expression but, he flew up by a hit shock (In some cases, people can fly up). In most cases, these expressions are comical.


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Gag manga is a type of Japanese manga that portrays humor. Gag manga started from the Taisyou era to the Syouwa era. At that time, humor was essential to every manga and people called it the ponch picture. But in the 1960s a new type of manga called Gekiga was created that had no elements of humor. Because of this, manga was divided in groups and the Gag manga was born.

For example one of the techniques used in gag manga is ‘chibikyara’: Chibikyara are mini version of a character. Chibikyara are usually a used in a comedy manga. Authors also create mangas that include only Chibikyara for a sub story.

Tsukkomi is a technique to create humor in Japan. This technique usually has two roles, the Boke role (funny man) and the Tsukkomi role (straight man). Usually Boke role says something funny or does something silly. In response, the Tsukkomi role points out the mistake that the Boke role did and starts rectify what the Boke role said or did. By pulling back the topic, it creates a tempo making it easier for the Boke role to say more jokes.

In Japanese manga, sometimes the authors use words with similar meanings, spellings, sounds etc. A sentence such as “Friends for dinner” is a good example. It has two meanings, one is having dinner with your friends. The other definition would be eating friends for dinner. Like this manga also uses this technique to make the manga funny. It also helps the Tsukkomi technique to create a topic.

Facial features ( esp. eyes)

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Manga Conventions: Facial Features

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Many manga characters have very large eyes nowadays; female characters especially have eyes larger than male ones to make them look attractive. In some cases, character’s emotions is reflected in their eyes. When the character is feeling lucky, stars might replace their eyes, or if they have desire towards money, symbols that relates to money (usually ¥/yen) show in their eyes. However, Manga characters don’t always have eyes; instead, they might have shadows over their eyes to show tension. When character’s eyes or eyebrows twitch, it tells us that the character is holding back his/her anger, laughter or shock. Sparks literally fly between characters’ eyes when they are fighting or when the illustrator wants to show a rivalry relationship.


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Many characters in manga have very small mouth, many in which are just a straight line added to their faces. Fangs in their mouths indicate that the character is angry or shocked, unless the character have had that feature throughout the story. Sometimes, features of eyes and mouth can be used together. When the character is feeling very shocked, they have oblong mouth shapes and white round eyes, along series of lines on their forehead.

When a character is sleeping, a bubble comes out from their nose, inflating and deflating. Female characters have small noses compared to male ones; in fact, it usually consists little more than a vertically short line.


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When the character is hurt physically, white crossed bandages show up on their faces. If the character is feeling angry, cross-shaped lines show on their heads which are actually popping veins. A round swelling on their fead is and exaggeration of injury.

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Manga Conventions: Layout

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Composition plays a major role in how the reader will follow the story, determined mainly by the positioning of the panels (images), and it also creates the atmosphere through lightings. Sizes of the panels determines the scene, typically showing mental images over large boxes, and small but many boxes will give a sequential feeling.

Positive/Negative Spacing is referred to the two colors: black (negative) and white (positive). A good balance in the two types of spacing will make a best composition, and balance can be maintained by adding black to areas that are too white, and the same for white.

Flow is how the reader’s eye moves across the page. Many Japanese Manga is read from right to left, whilst Western comics are to be read from left to right. Depending on your audience, it is important for the illustrator to distribute the images in the right place, and use other features in a way that makes the reader’s eye move in the correct order.

Timing is what determines the flow, but also portrays the importance of the scene and the key points by the size, shape and the position of the panels. The time it takes the reader to look through one frame is what determines the pace of events and illusion of time. Commonly, when the panels are bigger, they are showing the scene that the illustrator (mangaka) wants to emphasize the important points in the story - the bigger the panel, the longer the eye will linger on the frame. The smaller panels tend to give a sequential feeling but also show the personality of characters, and the faster the eye will move onto another panel.

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Pace is an important factor in Manga conventions. The pacing of the story is essentially how fast the story is progressing and how important the scene is depending on situation.

Slow pace: It makes the reader focus on the scene and gives us an impression of close up, that way emphasizes the scene. It shows that the scene is an important aspect that is worth slowing down the pace and that it plays a vital role in both story progression and character building.

Fast pace: Fast pace is used for showing quick action. The fast change of scenes give the reader the impression of fast movement as quick change enables the reader to understand and move quickly from panel to panel and imply the feeling of action on the reader.

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Manga Conventions: Thought Bubble

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Thought bubbles, also called Fukidashi in Japanese, are usually used for expressing the thoughts of characters. Some manga authors come up with their original thought bubbles, but their fundamental basics are same enough for the readers to notice that the character is thinking in his or her head.

There are two basic types of thought bubbles:

One is a very common and widely-accepted thought bubble that resembles a cloud. This thought bubble comes with small circles that connect the person's head to the thought bubble.

Another type is a thought bubble that is more commonly used in manga. The thought bubble is an oval that has lines going out from it, and text in the centre of the thought bubble. It is usually used to express character’s voice or opinion that is powerful although other characters cannot hear it. This type is also used to express telepathy. These thought bubbles are placed close to the character who is speaking. As stated before, authors of manga can create their original thought bubble. For example, instead of lines, it can be dots that is radiating, or just fuzzy outline which is often used in Shojo Manga (manga for young girls).

‘Barefoot Gen’ uses thought bubble in shape of a cloud, but it is rarely used in the book.Usually, thought bubbles are used often to express the character’s opinion, because it is not a conversation and the characters do not feel the need to share their opinion. For example, it will be unrealistic if the character suddenly starts talking to a nearby person about the day’s weather. But in ‘Barefoot Gen’, although many views and opinions are expressed, they always talk about it to somebody or something. This can be seen in page 104, where Gen’s father begs to stop the war. Gen’s father looks in the direction of Iwakuni where Americans are bombing, and it seems as though Gen’s father is talking to the Americans or the war itself. The only situations where thought bubbles are used are when the character is thinking to themselves about personal things. Such as when they are offending somebody else. An example of this is in page 63 of ‘Barefoot Gen’, where both Gen and the chairman insults at each other, but without saying it out loud. It can be inferred that Keiji Nakazawa used speech bubbles for when he wants a strong message delivered to the readers. And because there are many strong messages concerning war and peace, many characters, especially the Nakazawa family speaks their mind out.

Manga conventions dialogue bubble

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Dialogue balloons are a graphic convention used most commonly in manga books, comic strips and strips and cartoons to allow words to be understand as representing the dialogue of a given character in the comic. -Speak tails are small, dedicate or even missing, usually over character’s head.The normal talk’s bubble are circles with tails.

Bubbles representing different character’s dialogue features different edge designs.One character’s dialogue might be inside perfectly oval dialogue bubbles, while their companion’s dialogue falls into a geometric shape.

If a character is upset, the text bubble may be jagged to emphasize this emotion without words.

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Manga Convention:Onomatopoeia Onomatopoeias are the words containing sounds similar to the noises they describe. In Japanese manga, onomatopoeias are drawn as a part of the picture to show the sound of the action or the feeling of the character, it is often called Kakimoji or Onyu (symbolic words) in Japan. To show the different types of actions and feelings, the onomatopoeias are also drawn differently. For example, in the battle scene, the thick and black Kakimoji is used.

Same kind of onomatopoeias are used by different authors. However there are also many other onomatopoeias that different authors has originally made. The famous author Araki and are famous for making their original onomatopoeias.

In Barefoot Gen, there are some onomatopoeias that describes the sounds that we're often lay heard during the war. For example "whooooooeeeeee" is a sound of the emergency alarm when the enemy plane is coming.

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Gutters are the spaces between the borders of the panel, It is also defined as a closure. In comic books the gutter is usually white, but not all the time. The artist has taken leeway on certain pages and mixes the panels together in a seamless set of images for greater impact. The gutter is the thing that separates the images. Without the gutter the reader would have a hard time following along and the transitions between each image and would get very confused with what is happening at the time. the term gutter is referring to the space between the borders of the panels in the comic book(manga). It is called this because it looks like the gutter of a house with its two parallel lines. This space is very important as it separates the panels and lets the reader know that we are going from one scene to the next and makes it easy to follow a long with the comic strip and not get lost between panels.

Diagram. 1 This diagram shows how gutters are used as a manga convention
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Lines used in Manga

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Lines are a common use in comics. They are often used to emphasize situations or add

extra information to the scene. Most commonly they are used to express action, motion,

mood, power or depression.

Action lines:

Action lines are usually parallel straight, diagonal or curved lines. Action lines have two

main categories, one being focus lines and the other speed lines.

Focus lines are used to create focus towards a certain object/person by using thus focus

lines via outward projections. (image)

Speed lines are a combination of a lot of lines going in the same direction, usually parallel

straight lines. It is used to indicate velocity, or speed, in the scene whilst directing where

the character(s) is moving towards. (image)

Mood/atmospheric lines:

These lines are often curved, spiky or even shown like smoke to indicate the atmosphere

or the current mood of a character or an object. They are often around –or emitted from - a

character or object making it seem like steam is coming off them. (image)

Depressing lines:

Lines to show depression are mainly vertical straight lines. These indicate the character's feeling towards the situation.