Japan and America are full of assholes.
There I offended weeaboo and patriotic groups. Good to get it out my way. At the end of this you'll say the same. Maybe. Because crying to anime is my ambition I'll be reviewing 1988's Grave of the Fireflies and 1983's Barefoot Gen. Yeah, I know their untouchable classics. But who cares. I'm just one reviewer with one blog site. The hell does my opinion mean? The answer is a little bit. Both movies contain the same subject matter, and both have heavy issues to convey. The question is which is better told. Right there is the problem. It's tough to have a negative opinion on WWII movies. IE, any involving the Japanese getting their ass handed to them by the US of A. That's just the way I see it. Who wants to be the asshole who to hate powerful scenes and humanity struggling with issues like war? The answer is plenty, ever been on reddit?
Let's start with Barefoot Gen. Hadashi no Gen as it's known in Japanese is a manga series by Keiji Nakazawa. Based loosely on his experiences as a Hiroshima survivor. It follows Gen Nakaoka...wait what. Nakaoka...Nakazawa clever. Gen a 6 year old boy living in Hiroshima. After the US bombed Hiroshima, Gen and other survivors are left to deal with the aftermath. Barefoot Gen ran in the Weekly Shōnen Jump, from 1973 to 1985. Why would you put this in a Jump comic! Way to depress the hell out of you're readers. It would go on to have three live action movies and two animated films produced by Madhouse studios. Madhouse? Madhouse?! I found my favorite of the two. And to save you the time the manga is just as good if not better but damn. The way everyone is drawn is so cartoon like. I mean big eyes, big teeth, think of the monkey in Speed Racer, like that. Kinda downplays drama.
Ah maybe, time for the story it begins on August 4, 1945. Spoiler alert, Godzilla didn't do it. Smart ass joke over. Gen loves life in Hiroshima with his younger brother Shinji, their father Daikichi, elder sister Eiko, and pregnant mother Kimie. Take you're guess now on who survives. What? We did when we all seen Titanic. That was a tragedy too. Japan sucks right now because of a shortages of food and other items. Not to mention the regular bombs from the American planes. However Hiroshima has been untouched, Gen's father Daikichi questions why so many American aircraft are constantly flying over Hiroshima without dropping any bombs. He also expresses his fear that Hiroshima has been deliberately preserved and studied for a unique and terrible purpose. Oh crazy talk. Gen and Shinji try and help their family by working in the family's wheat field. Also their pregnant mother Kimie is sick from malnutrition. All of this sucks, the only thing missing is for the wheat to scream in agony when they cut it down.
On the morning of August 6, Gen leaves for school. He and his female friend take notice of a single B-29 aircraft flying far overhead. Like other Hiroshima residents, they are not concerned, since they decide that a single aircraft cannot possibly pose any kind of threat. As this occurs, we see the last moments of everyone's life. Symbolism OVA-LOAD!!! Gen, who is tossing a pebble up and down, drops it and bends over to pick it up. Then...the nuke. This is a graphic as hell scene. It's out of a horror flick. In other words, thank you Madhouse. We see people literally evaporated. It doesn't stop there either. We see the sight of horribly burned and mutilated people wandering aimlessly through streets with missing parts and chunks of body mass missing. Gen wonders out loud if they are ghosts. But at least Gen's mother has survived. Gen's father, sister and little brother however are trapped under the ruins of the house and die in a fire. It isn't a quiet death either. This causes Gen's Mother's to check out for awhile and she begins to laugh hysterically. Then after dragging his mom around this sea of death and this scene ain't subtle either. His mother gives premature birth to a baby girl. Then you cry! You cry a lot! Later that night, Gen is unable to sleep due to the horrifying screams of burned survivors nearby. I would say the only thing missing was...no. I can't be a smart ass to this. God Elbow Dropped the shit out of Hiroshima, my jokes don't belong here!
Let me sum up a few scenes, Gen's hair falls out, a lot of people die and they name his baby sister. On August 16, they dig up the skulls of their dead family members from the ruins of the former home. As they collect the remains, a passing family informs them that the war has finally ended, but only because Japan has surrendered. Gen and his mother respond angrily. I would to, it took you 10 days to say "all right you win?". Seriously, Japan you have two big ass holes in you're country. You should've tapped out days ago! His mom goes all soapbox mode stating that peace has come too late, and that had their leaders ended the war just a few days earlier, Hiroshima would not have been destroyed. While Gen and his mom eat a small boy, Ryuta, attempts to steal the rice. Gen stops him and brings him back only to be shocked by his physical resemblance to his younger brother Shinji. After his story the orphaned boy joins them. Ryuta begins to cry as they do their best to comfort him. Then you cry! After another scene fucked up shit it gets worse. Gen's baby sister dies of malnutrition due to lack of milk. Gen, angry and frustrated, cries out to his father for guidance.
Despite hearing that no grass would grow in Hiroshima for seventy years, Gen and Ryuta find that the wheat is starting to grow, and Gen is excited to discover his hair is also growing back. Gen remembers how his Father said no matter how much wheat is beaten down, it always grows back, and that his sons should be like the wheat. ...I cried. In his newfound optimism, two weeks after the bomb, Gen takes Ryuta and his mother to the river, where they light the candle and release a wooden boat. They then watch and pray as the boat gently sails into the sunset. Gee, that was genuinely uplifting.
Now there is a sequel to this but I'm not gonna review it. It's basically Barefoot Gen 2- a.k.a Gen vs. The Yakuza. Because that's what I've been missing my WWII drama, a mafia subplot! But I have to hand it to the animators for the nuke scene. It's hard to describe how awesome and terrifying those 12 minutes were. Also the voice acting during the Zombie like march. This movie is sad and has horrific scenes, but it's the ending that makes you cry the most and it reassures you. Yes war is ugly and hurts more than it's helps but war is a flaw that man has to learn from. But then again this started the cliche of war through a child's eyes. And the movie is living proof.