12 (Nice) Moments of Anime 2011 No. 3 – The Bomb

Barefoot Gen is often compared with Studio Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies – both concern themselves with the dire situation in Japan as World War II drove to a close, and both movies view the war through the eyes of children. Barefoot Gen is a comparatively sloppy movie: The animation isn’t particularly strong, and the voice acting for the kids is raw and weak (mainly because actual children are providing the voices). But there’s one moment in Barefoot Gen that will be burned into my memory for life: The moment when the bomb is dropped on Hiroshima.

I’ve watched so many war movies that I am almost numb to the violence. Real violence still shakes me to my core — I think you’d have to be inhuman to not be affected by it in some way. But through the haze of fiction? We see so much violence in our stories (and have for decades; this is not a new development) that it’s difficult to be shocked by it. When the bomb drops in Barefoot Gen, however, the way the nuclear fire rips through the citizens of Hiroshima is so raw and disturbingly detailed that I felt it deep down in my gut.

It’s not something that is played for entertainment; it’s something that exists so that humanity will never forget. However one views the sides and roles of World War II, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — along with the other numerous horrific events and battles of the war — should never disappear from our collective memory. Every day that passes, I hope we can learn from the past and move closer to an era where such brutal conflict is unnecessary.

The cynic in me thinks I’ll die disappointed; the optimist in me thinks movement even by centimeters is a worthy goal.

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4 Responses to “12 (Nice) Moments of Anime 2011 No. 3 – The Bomb”

  1. “The cynic in me thinks I’ll die disappointed; the optimist in me thinks movement even by centimeters is a worthy goal.”

    Those are powerful words that summarize this post beautifully, bringing together your impressions of the anime and your hopes for the real world into one line. While the scenes were horribly graphic and disturbing (and thus memorable) you’re using it to remind yourself of the horrors of our past and are using it to better our world. Impressive. It also fits nicely into my own personal philosophy. I’m going to borrow those words from you if you don’t mind.

  2. Somewhat OT:

    “I’ve watched so many war movies that I am almost numb to the violence. Real violence still shakes me to my core — I think you’d have to be inhuman to not be affected by it in some way. But through the haze of fiction? We see so much violence in our stories (and have for decades; this is not a new development) that it’s difficult to be shocked by it.”

    You should give Shigurui a try. I thought I’d become almost completely desensitizised to cartoon violence, but holy fucking bajeezus did that show prove me wrong.

  3. Matt Wells Says:

    The first few volumes of the manga are worth a look if you want a more in depth depiction of the bombing and the aftermath. Especially since years after the main story moves past the bombing, Nakazawa still draws these flashbacks of new characters and their experiences.

    Some of the most horrifying imagery ever commited to paper, and all of it from one man’s memory. Powerful stuff. The best possible way you can prevent stuff like this from happening again os showing it in all its unvarnished raw horror.

    Moments that stayed with me: a horse on fire running through the streets with all its skin burnt off in the blast, muscles and bones exposed. Skin sloughing from the backs of radiation burn victims like wet paper peeling from your wall. Maggots crawling from the burnt out eye-sockets of still living people. Pure nightmare fuel.

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