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Barefoot Gen Manga Removed From Matsue City School Libraries

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge
Board cites depiction of violence by Imperial Japanese Army

The education board in the southwestern Japanese city of Matsue decided last December to pull copies of the late Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen manga from library shelves in primary and junior high schools. The decision was made after a complaint was filed about the historical manga's depiction of violence used by the Imperial Japanese Army troops.

“Children would gain a wrong perception of history because the work describes atrocities by Japanese troops that did not take place,” the complaint argued.

The manga depicts troops beheading and stabbing citizens in other Asian countries. Historical events, such as The Rape of Nanking, a publicized account of two soldiers aiming to kill 100 Chinese citizens first in a contest, and other war crimes committed by Japanese troops in World War II are routinely contested by Japanese nationalists and history revisionists who deny the occurrences took place.

The education board decided to remove the manga due to the graphic nature of the violence, not for the claimed historical inaccuracies. (While students are not allowed to check out the manga, teachers can still access copies of the manga as education materials.) Nakazawa's widow, Misayo Nakazawa, said the violence in the manga is softened for young readers.

The series 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 over 10 million copies and have been translated in English, Russian, Korean, and many other languages.

Tomoko Watanabe, the founder of the emergency relief group ANT-Hiroshima stated, "The work does describe brutal scenes, but children are intrinsically able to get to the essence of the story—that people should live despite the difficulties. We must trust the children and let them read as they want to."

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 Asahi Shimbun

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