So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Barefoot Gen, Volume 8: Merchants of Death

Barefoot Gen, Volume 8: Merchants of Death by Keiji Nakazawa
The Barefoot Gen series of 10 graphic novels tells the story of the World War II atomic bombing of Hiroshima Japan through the eyes of a young boy Gen Nakaoka who relates the events lived through by the author Keiji Nakazawa. Gen's father, sister and brother were killed during the blast; his mother died several years later from radiation sickness. Gen is in Middle School and living with his older brother Koji and his younger brother Akira in the shack his family built from the ruins of the blast.
Book 8, Merchants of Death begins in June of 1950 with the beginning of the Korean War. Hiroshima has been rebuilding from the ruins of the blast and the war brings business to local merchants willing to supply materials for the war. With the war comes a crackdown on Communists and their sympathizers. Many in Hiroshima, remembering the horror of the atomic blast, are strongly pacifist. Anti-war feelings are looked on with suspicion by the occupying Americans and the Japanese government. It is from the war profiteering that the book draws its title.
In the first book Gen's father was constantly in trouble for speaking out against Japanese involvement in World War II. Here we see a similar current of suppression of those who speak out against war and militarism as Japan serves as a home base for American soldiers fighting the Korean War. This is an eloquent plea for cooperative action over militarism in a quest for world peace.


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