Hiroshima Survivor Speaks Against Recent Ban on World War II Manga

Earlier this month, reports from Japan piqued curiosity as it was revealed a seminal World War II manga was ousted from schools in Hiroshima. For years, Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen has been used globally to show the horrors of the nuclear bombing in Hiroshima during the war. Not long ago, the city's education board chose to remove Barefoot Gen from its curriculum about war and peace. And now, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing is speaking against the decision.

The Mainichi shared the words of Hiroshi Sugibayashi, a 78-year-old survivor of the atomic bombing. They are just one of the many in Hiroshima City asking for the education board to rescind its ban. In fact, Sugibayashi said he first learned about Barefoot Gen when his son was tasked with reading the manga for school, and it left the survivor stunned.

"My current wish is for the manga to not be erased, as someone who lived the life of Gen," Sugibayashi shared. The man went on to say the manga seemed as if it was written about himself given how closely his own history aligned with Nakazawa's past. "I was desperate to get by, and this life of mine was also that of Gen. I feel as if our lives were rejected." Sugibayashi explained. "I can talk about episodes from that time. This is my duty as someone who is alive today."

As for why Barefoot Gen has been restricted by the education board in Hiroshima, the issue comes down to a rather unexpected scene. It seems educators submitted complaints about a moment in the manga where Gen steals a fish with his friends from a wealthy neighbor's pond. They did so to eat and feed a starving pregnant woman. However, the education board says the scene could cause a "misunderstanding" for children today. And after their meeting, the board decided to remove Barefoot Gen from the city's curriculum.

While Barefoot Gen is loosely based on Nakazawa's own life as a Hiroshima survivor, its truth far outweighs any fictionalized moment. The artwork of Barefoot Gen is unflinching as it shows the horrors of war as seen by a young boy. Its condemnation within Hiroshima is almost unthinkable, and Sugibayashi has joined together with locals to protest Barefoot Gen's controversial ban. 

What do you make of this recent manga ban? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below or hit me up on Twitter @MeganPetersCB.