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Barefoot Gen Manga Pulled from Izumisano City's School Library Shelves

posted on 2014-03-24 11:00 EDT
School board: Seizure is due to derogatory terms for beggars & the unemployed

Copies of Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen manga were temporarily removed from 13 elementary and middle schools in Osaka's Izumisano City. Nakazawa's manga that tells the story of survival after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The copies were removed at the request of Izumisano mayor Hiroyasu Chiyomatsu for what he says are "many expressions in the manga that impact human rights," including derogatory terms for beggars and the unemployed.

A total of 128 copies of the manga were removed by the municipal board of education. Chiyomatsu stated the manga "contains many discriminatory expressions" and "cannot be left" on the shelves. He advised education superintendent Tatsuhiro Nakafuji to remove the series and store the copies at the school board offices. Nakafuji began seizing the copies in January. The copies are supposed to be returned on Thursday after the education board "makes preparations to provide guidance to students regarding the problematic expressions" in the work.

The board plans to distribute a list of unacceptable phrases used in the manga to students.

Mayor Chiyomatsu first stated his issues with the series in November and advised Nakafuji to take countermeasures. Nakafuji passed a resolution that same month to have the manga pulled, but some schools did not comply with the resolution. The Izumisano association of public school principals submitted two written protests to the board regarding the resoltuion, stating "School library administration is under the jurisdiction of school principals, and the association cannot accept the unilateral collection (of the manga) by the board of education. To deny children the chance to read the manga grounded in certain sense of values and ideas is a violation of their human rights."

The association demanded the copies be returned.

Chiyomatsu read the series after he received letters from citizens regarding the city of Matsue's attempt to restrict access to the manga in schools.

History

This is not the first time Barefoot Gen was challenged in Japanese schools. The Japanese city of Matsue attempted to restrict access to late Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen after a complaint was filed about the historical manga's depiction of violence used by the Imperial Japanese Army troops. The board eventually decided to remove the manga due to the graphic nature of the violence, not for the claimed historical inaccuracies. The removal would not have allowed students to check out the manga, but teachers still could have access to copies as educational materials.

The city rescinded its order to remove copies of the manga. The board said it made the new decision because of procedural problems with the way the order was originally given. The board added that the decisions of the individual schools in the city regarding access to the books should be respected. The board had conducted a survey with principals in 49 city schools, and the survey found that only five principals had said they saw a need to restrict access to the books.

Barefoot Gen first ran in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in 1973 and follows Gen Nakaoka, a character based on the author's own experiences. Nakazawa was six years old when the Hiroshima bombing killed his father, two sisters, and brother. The resulting 10 volumes of Barefoot Gen have since sold more than 10 million copies and have been translated in English, Russian, Korean, and many other languages.

The Hiroshima City Board of Education added Barefoot Gen to its schools' curriculum for third-year elementary school students last year as part of its "Peace Education Program." A group petitioned for the work to be dropped from the curriculum, asserting that it is a "one-sided portrayal."

Last Gasp Publishing republished the Barefoot Gen manga in North America. The story has been adapted into two animated films and a live-action television drama special in Japan. Producer Northrop Davis and a partner have been pitching the story to Hollywood studios.

Source: The Mainichi


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