Not for the weak of heart, and I don't think I could watch more than once. I cried a lot!
It's a slower paced film, you can really tell it's an older one. But it does a beautiful job showing what it was really like when the bomb fell. Heart wrenching and reminded me of Grave of the Fireflies.
ANIME EVOLUTION SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
The second generation of animefans may have not been too fond of overblown drama and high ideals but also had a positive effect on the ones who wanted to make features such as this. Up until then the effects of the Hiroshima bombing was a sort of taboo nobody was allowed to speak about openly because it was causing them a big grief and the country was trying to recover from all that. Anime up to then where only indirectly showing the horrors through fiction in the forms of alien invasions or huge robots leveling cities. But after the country was finally restored in the 80’s and the newer generation was not so fond of taboos, movies such as these were now freely presented to the public.
Did you know that all those old series about huge monsters attacking Japan were in fact the fear of a nuclear attack, dressed in scary (and beatable) forms? Did you know that all those huge combining robots fighting the monsters were in fact the depiction of Japan’s will to survive and flourish, despite all odds? And did you know it all began with the use of the first atomic bomb? Oh, yes, anime were born out of the angst and hope of the Japanese people for a better future. They were nothing more than their idealized fears and dreams, in a childishly understood way. But what about the real story behind all that? What about the truth, without the metaphors that gave birth to Godzilla, Mazinger, Ultraman and the rest of the bunch we take for granted today in anime?
This movie is based on a very old manga, drawn by a Hiroshima survivor. It is a highly dramatic depiction of the horror of the bombing’s aftermath. If you cannot bear scenes of utter gloom, death, suffering … and complete human ignorance, please stop reading and look elsewhere. This movie exists solely to make you feel nauseated with people who are suffering, rotting and dying like dogs. It also has several messages on how will and courage overwhelm all atrocities, but they will feel pretty fake and silly before the dread of the holocaust.
The animation is very old and simple figures and objects cover the screen. Τhey will seem very crude if you haven’t been raised with old titles. And just imagine that the graphics in the original manga were twice as ugly.
Everything is supposed to depict the lives of normal and mostly poor Japanese people, living in a normal city during the Second World War. And it is depicted with essential lining and details. The bombing aftermath is equally simple in detail but the horror alone is enough to make you forget that. Who cares about the details when you have to bare the endless agony of normal people? So, don’t expect cool tattoos, weird cloths, neon glow stripes, mechanized limbs, or anything eye-catchy in general. The movie is not about trendy dressed kids, saving the world with superpowers or huge robots. It’s about everyday people suffering and suffering and suffering some more… in very disturbing ways.
So, we have simple backgrounds and character figures, as well as rather crude animation. Anything good to look for? Well, yes, the visual effects. The animators made an excellent work in making you sick and dreaded with simple optical tricks. For instance, the name of the city is presented in huge, bold letters, almost screaming that something bad will follow. The really long scene of the explosion is amongst the most nightmarish things ever made into animation. It has no realism around it but symbolically speaking, it succeeds into making you feel sick. There is no way you will find it cool, like in some cheesy shonen series. And the bleak colors following the bombing almost to the end really succeed into keeping you depressed.
Voice acting is generally terrible; it simply sounds too fake. There is no way people would talk in such a dry way, under such circumstances. I think I can put the cause of this on the original mangaka who wasn’t a professional writer but a simple survivor who wanted to tell the story. You can also say it uses the silly way characters in cartoons were using in the 60’s.
Music themes are simply there to make you feel bad. There is not a single memorable music theme and the ones heard are either of really low volume or simple and sudden drum beats.
Sound effects are as masterful as the visual effects into making you feel like life has lost its meaning with a few simple acoustic tricks. Eerie sounds, rumblings, moans and many similar creaks that give you the goose bumps.
As for the story; oh, you know already. A simple family is living a simple life until one simple day and out of the blue KABOOM! Hell breaks loose and the family must find a way to survive this nightmare.
For starters, most of the events in the movie are based on the real experiences the author and his family went through. They are depicted in an overdramatic way, but are real nonetheless. So don’t dare to think even for a second that the events in it are fake, because they are not!
Second, don’t expect the Hollywood formula of most disaster/survival movies. There are no cool characters outrunning explosion bursts, jumping around severed electric cables and saving people in distress with mambo jumbo acrobatics, before the cavalry arrives to save the day with high tech helicopters and medicine supplies. Hey, that’s not how it happens in American movies! This is terrible! This is awful! This is unbearable! … Yet it is real... There were no such things during that time. There are no such things even today! You will witness people almost waiting to die, doing stupid things, crying instead of trying to do something, dying in horrible and meaningless ways. Because this is how things really were back then.
Since the atomic bomb was used for the very first time, people had no knowledge of it. They didn’t know that radiation would kill them if they stood around the bombed area. They didn’t know that drinking contaminated water was instant death. They didn’t know the reason of why their hair and teeth were falling off or what was killing their babies. Most of them didn’t even know how to read and write. Their ignorance is what makes this mess even worse. Since we viewers know of all the above, it is very heart breaking to see them dying because they didn’t know. Dreadful but true. The events in the movie are unbearably realistic.
Still, the story is not without its flaws. For starters, there is no mention of WHY the bombing took place. The people are presented like they do not care about the war, something that is a lie. The Japs were in reality quite cocky back then, since they were assured that their navy would conquer the world. The bombing is depicted like it happened without a reason when in fact it happened because the Japs “had it coming” because of their overconfidence into attacking the almighty and politically amoral America. The movie presents the Japanese people as victims in an unjust war they had no part in and the Americans in a cameo appearance of a generic villain without a reason.
Also, another mistake is how the survivors keep going through will and faith alone but the negligence of the authorities is almost not shown. In reality, the survivors received almost no treatment by the army or the neighboring areas, as they were seen as lepers and the living proof of their overconfidence that led to this tragedy.
Still, the story is far more realistic than almost any other anime title. There aren’t many titles that deal with the Hiroshima tragedy, as the Japanese people didn’t like to talk about their unconditional surrender, following the bombing. It was a lot easier for them to replace the bomb with an alien monster and Gen’s willpower with a huge robot… Almost like saying that a stork is what brings the babies. This movie is a very hard step forward into admitting what really happened, without disguising this whole mess with pretty colors, cheesy story, cardboard characters and a lame happy ending.
Unfortunately, there are no prevailing characters in the story. The dreadfulness of the events overshadows the otherwise simple characters. Gen and his family are as simple as characters can get and act quite passively and apathetically most of the time. Their terrible voice acting and their too-goody attitude make things even worse. In general, Gen is the epitome of the average Japanese male’s ideals and nothing more. “We will not give up! Keep going! We will survive! Life goes on!” Pretty cheery stuff that can only appeal to old Japanese folks. Youngsters prefer amoral, trendy dressed, longsword-carrying heavy-dudes these days and not idealistic boy scouts. You won’t remember the characters but the tragedies that befall them.
It is a very famous historical movie, based on real events, experienced first hand by real survivors. Rewatchability is too low as in no freaking way I would want to watch it again! You’ve got to be a masochist of the highest order if you want to face all this meaningless suffering and death all over again. No! Never again! But it will sure be memorable and wll be appearing in your nightmares for the rest of your life!
I DIDN’T ENJOY it one bit! It made me sick! It gave me nightmares! It caused me psychological scaring! … But for a good reason. It’s such titles that really make you think about the awfulness of war. It makes you really wonder how easy it is to press a button and kill millions of faceless people you don’t know of on the other side of the planet. It sounds cool to be able to seal the fates of so many people, doesn’t it? And what if a few millions die, there are still 6 billion of us, right? Who cares about justice if you have the power to PLAY GOD WITH PEOPLES’ LIVES?!!! MMMHAHAHAHAHA!
Well, if you think you are God, please do not watch this movie. It aims at making you compassionate and more humane. It will probably even inflict you with guilt about things you never done or haven’t done yet. Keep away!
If you so much want more of this, there is also Grave of the Fireflies and Tokyo Magnitude 8.0.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 6/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 0/2 (poorly drawn)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (poor but artsy)
SOUND SECTION: 5/10
Voice Acting 1/3 (dried up but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 2/4 (poor but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 7/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 2/2 (good)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 1/2 (so-so)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 0/2 (weak)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 8/10
Historical Value 3/3 (sall-known)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too much overblown drama)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely tragic to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 8/10
Too bent on shock factor and makes little sense but does great on the emotional level.
Story - 10/10 - A thought provoking, highly emotional tale, made all the more distressing by the fact that it's a true telling of one man's experience.
Barefoot Gen is a 1983 anime based on the manga of the same name by Keiji Nakazawa. It is set in WWII Hiroshima, Japan and tells the true story of Nakazawa's experience of the bomb which hit Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. Gen and his pregnant mother survive the bombing by sheer fluke; unfortunately their family aren't as lucky. Now Gen must brave the eradiated landscape of Hiroshima and find a way for him, his mother and his newborn sibling to survive. The plot is very typical of the Japanese style of war movie, focusing on the suffering of the one character, a civilian who has done nothing to deserve what they get. It is well scripted, with a lot of the most important things being shown rather than said, creating a much more provocative film. The fact that this is a true to life telling of the Nakazawa family's experience, released to the public by Nakazawa only after his mother's death, only makes it more harrowing to watch. It's an informative and satisfying plot which will move even the toughest anime fans to tears effortlessly.
Animation - 7/10 - A style indicative of the 80's. Good for its time but could do with a re-master.
Barefoot Gen came out in the 80's and that is evident in the animation style. By modern standards, it's clunky and rough with an acceptably bleak palette of mostly blacks and browns (for obvious reasons). Though the film may sound badly animated, it is far from it. The animation is great for the time in which it was released but it is no secret that this film would greatly benefit from a visual re-master.
Sound - 7/10 - A little on the rough side. Voice acting not always as solid as it could be.
The sound, very much like the animation, may sound a little rough but that is purely down to the age of the film. It would, again, benefit from a re-mastered edition. In terms of voice actors, the Japanese voice cast make a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life, though there are occasions when the voice of Gen's younger brother, Shinji, can grate on you.
Characters - 9/10 - Very real characters. Maybe a little too real.
The characters in Barefoot Gen are all based on real people and this really shines in the dialogue and the general depth of the characters. While a large portion of the film is Gen on his own, the earlier scenes give the viewer an opportunity to peer into the normalities of the lives of a struggling family in WWII Japan. The sequences with Gen on his own or with his mother still show a fantastic diversity in the characters and a level of humanity that is unsurpassed by more recent anime titles.
Overall - 9/10 - Informative, emotional, the most bittersweet movie you will ever see.
Barefoot Gen is depressing. It's meant to be depressing, but with an uplifting message of hope and the indomitable power of the human spirit. It's a not so subtle reminder of the evils that we inflict upon each other and the pain that war brings to the most unassuming of lives. A heart wrenching tale that sneakily teaches you about the 2nd world war, whilst reducing you to a blubbering mess. It's a real challenge to watch this film without crying, and if you can manage that much - then you have to try not to feel guilty for not crying.
This is a very depressing story. It is a story about a boy who lived in Hiroshima in 1945, so we know from the lessons of history that this is not going to be a happy story. When the atomic bomb is dropped, Gen experiences the untimely deaths of his father and brother and sister, leaving him and his mother to try and survive the living hell that is post atom bomb Hiroshima. This is a very deep story, and it really makes one think. It makes one wonder "Why did the United States drop the atom bomb?" and "Was it really worth all the suffering that was caused by it?". Another thing that makes this a very deep story is that it shows all the graphic and gorey aftermath of the bomb and makes this a prime example of why nuclear weapons should not be used. The emotion that is portrayed in this film is very touching, and I even cried at some points in the story. But it also teaches a lesson that we can all learn from. It teaches us not to give up hope when everything around us is going to hell. If there is anything that I didn't like about the story was that there where a few parts that where slightly too predictable, but overall the story is quite touching.
This movie is very graphic and as a result small children should not watch it, but for the children that are old enough it really is a work of art, albeit very creepy. Some of the survivors of the bomb looked like zombies at first glance, and the scene of the impact of the bomb rushing through the city is very graphic but it is very detailed and very artistic.
The characters where lovable and they where easy to connect to if you put yourself in their shoes. They are all in great despair but they never lose faith that they can pull out of this tragedy. Gen is an excellent character that properly displays the determination and energy of the little boy he is when he is trying to help out his mother and his baby sister.
This is a movie that should be seen by anybody who has any interest in WWII whatsoever, for it provides a bit of the Japanese perspective of the atomic bomb dropping on Hiroshima.
It is sad and I mean "Grave of the fireflies"-like sad and beautiful at the same time. There is nothing more you might want from an anti-war movie, sweet child caught amids the terrors of human stupidity.
Barefoot Gen takes us on a tour through devastated Hiroshima, making a clear point of Japan unnecessarily prolonging the war and USA being to much eager to show off their power. I know we are unable to question decisions made in a time we did not live in, but still it is good to know what should not be repeated. And such things are best shown through the eyes of a child, which is exactly what Barefoot Gen does.
Considering the age of this movie, visuals are still good enough to send the message they were supposed to, creating a pretty strong experience through some quite explicit content.
Watch it, remember it and be prepared to shed a tear.