15 Dec / Barefoot Gen: Never Give Up (vol. 10) by Keiji Nakazawa, translated by Project Gen
The final volume of Keiji Nakazawa’s 10-part Barefoot Gen series begins in March 1953, almost eight years after the widespread decimation of August 1945 caused by American-dropped atomic bombs.
Gen and his friends have established a routine in their young lives, with Ryuta, Katsuko, and Musubi working hard making and selling fashionable dresses, hoping to open a shop of their own someday soon. Gen graduates from middle school – giving quite the impromptu graduation speech to both teachers and students – and continues to work at the sign-painting company, in spite of the abusive ex-military owner who blindly continues to glorify the horrors of war. While Gen falls head over heels in love for the first time, Musubi gets entangled with local mafia. More tragedy awaits brave Gen, but he perseveres in his newfound path as an artist and heads towards a new life in Tokyo. “I’m gonna take on every challenge the future brings,” he promises. “I’m gonna live, and live, and live!”
Subtlety is nowhere to be found in Barefoot Gen, but a treatise against war has no room for nuance. The series’ naive drawings and straight dialogue build volume after volume with a clear, unforgettable message: war gets waged by government machines but is paid for by the suffering of innocent survivors. Pushed down and bulldozed over again and again, Gen somehow finds the glimmers of joy and hope that give him the tenacity to continue to live, and live, and live.
Today’s governments all over are not exactly listening – more troops, more arms, more destruction, more tragedy – so Gen’s journeys must continue: “As Gen travels the world,” writes the Project Gen team,” sharing his story with children everywhere, we entrust in him a message of peace and nuclear abolition, and wish him a safe and fruitful journey.”
Share Gen’s journey now with everyone you know. If you’re looking for socially responsible gifts this season, make sure your classrooms and local libraries have access to the series, too. And, like Gen, never give up … because surely world peace has to be possible in our lifetime …
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2009 (United States)