Three years have passed since little Gen and his mother lost their family to "Pika", the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. They and everyone around them are trying their best to survive and find a place in the new world, which is not easy given the scale of destruction and the fact that people are still dying from the post-effects of exposure to radiation. Gen finds new friends among the homeless kids who treasure their freedom and tries hard to help his mother and live by his father's principles.
Barefoot Gen was a masterful telling of the horrors of a family destroyed in the nuclear holocaust of Hiroshima. Its vivid scenes of destruction and the emotional drain of the survivors of the Nakaoka family as they endure the misery of rising from the ashes are compelling. Barefoot Gen 2, being a sequel, has the misfortune of trying to emulate the austerity of the original without a hope of achieving such lofty goals. The movie depicts the scenes of despair still active in the chards of the doomed city. It even begins with snippets from the first BG. The effects of the dropping of Pika (Fat Boy) and the searing blasts and chaotic slaughter were jolting reminders, and the best animation in the movie. The following shows the city in sunny blue skies, but without a steady active hum of positive economic growth. The black-market reigns supreme. Mucho yen yields skimpy acquisitions. The streets run with orphans. People are still suffering the effects of radiation sickness, including Gen’s mother Kimio. Gen and his ‘brother’ Ryuta need to come up with ingenious schemes to gather the simple things of life. The movie pivots on Gen’s relationship with the gang run by the street urchin Masa and his sister Katsuko, who was burned terribly in the bombing. His gang lives on its wits as they steal food, scrap metal, whatever to stay alive. They lose one of their number in a night raid on a potato patch. Gen becomes the spark of hope in their lives. He inspires them to build a house to shelter their group. He befriends an old man who has lost all and only wishes to die. He licks the wounds on Katsuko’s arms to show he is not repulsed at the disfigured girl. But, most of all, Gen is zealous driven to protect the life of his mother, doomed to a slow death from radiation poisoning. But it is mother Kimio who reminds Gen of his father’s analogy of wheat. Sown late, only to be trodden upon until it finally flourishes in vernal beauty and strength. This is life, to endure the tragedies and push forward to the triumphs. I looked for any scenes featuring American soldiers. My father served in the Occupational Army around Tokyo and a few northern prefectures. Gen shows his disdain for the invaders. One scene has soldiers throw candy to children from a moving jeep. Gen curses Ryuta for joining the panderers and is horrified at Ryuta’s puffing at nearly spent cigarette butt. The second scene was of a unit disposing of newly found skeletal remains in a mass burial. The boys pelt them with stones and runs from them. Odd, since mass burnings of bodies and rapid burials in pits were depicted in the original. But Gen angrily asks why the bomb was dropped. The original was fairer in giving the rationale. A stubborn, belligerent regime which rejected the demands of the Yalta Conference. Ignored threats led to dire consequence. All fair in war. The animation of the sequel was not up to the first. Dreary scenes, sections of black-white monochrome, the whimsical symbolism of the rainy portions and the trolley car entering the city and leaving … as if desertion of Hiroshima was the ultimate solution. Yet Gen stays firm on his family holdings. The movie ends with him alone, but better prepared to strive to find the better aspects of life. Better next year … and the year after … and the year after. A fine theme theme, but this movie did not push it with any emphasis.
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