More drawings for “Barefoot Gen” found at the late manga artist’s residence

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

More drawings by Keiji Nakazawa for work that remained unfinished have been found at the manga artist’s residence in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture. These 16 pages of the uncompleted second part of his signature work Barefoot Gen continue the story introduced by the first 16 pages, which Mr. Nakazawa donated to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum prior to his death. He died last December at the age of 73.

Mr. Nakazawa was forced to abandon the second part of the manga story in the middle of its first episode due to difficulties with his vision. His plan had been to describe the next phase of Gen’s life, where he would move to Tokyo to study painting. This would have followed the first part of the saga, which traced Gen’s childhood in Hiroshima during the war and through the aftermath of the atomic bombing.

The drawings for pages 17 to 32 were made on both sides of four B4-sized sheets of paper, folded into halves. Amid the drawings is penciled dialogue, mainly between Gen and a young war orphan he comes across.

Misayo Nakazawa, 70, Mr. Nakazawa’s widow, found the drawings in January while cleaning up the artist’s belongings. She intends to donate them to the museum soon. Koichiro Maeda, director of the museum, said, “These drawings are precious as they may be the last work he produced. They must be treasured.”

Barefoot Gen continues to convey anger at war

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

The second part of Barefoot Gen was left incomplete when Keiji Nakazawa died in December of last year. Newly found drawings for the manga story vividly convey what Mr. Nakazawa had wanted to express. The manga artist based the life of his protagonist, Gen, on his own experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and sought to depict the folly of war.

Mr. Nakazawa’s widow, Misayo, said that a publisher asked him to write the second part of Barefoot Gen 16 or 17 years ago. The new series was intended to be the story of Gen heading to Tokyo to study painting after enduring the chaos that marked Hiroshima after the bombing.

Before his death, Mr. Nakazawa donated the first 16 pages of the first episode to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. These pages depict scenes in which Gen, after arriving in Tokyo, catches a boy who tries to steal his bag and begins listening to the boy’s story.

The newly found drawings cover pages 17 to 32, and include dialogue between Gen and the boy. The boy, named Sabu, lost his parents in the Great Tokyo Air Raids, and his younger sister, who survived the air raids, died of malnutrition. Gen discovers that the boy’s situation is similar to his own.

Sabu: I’ve got no choice. No one helps me so I have to be a thief to survive.
Gen: I know. I was in that same position after the bombing in Hiroshima.

“I think he brought in a victim of the Great Tokyo Air Raids because he wanted to convey a broader antiwar message,” said Ms. Nakazawa, who found the drawings in his studio in their home.

According to the museum, Mr. Nakazawa talked about the contents of the second episode, and later episodes as well, even after he had to give up drawing. His ideas included having Gen, after becoming a manga artist, go to Paris, France to study painting, then travel around the world with the intention of helping abolish nuclear weapons.

This summer the museum will hold a special exhibition commemorating the 40th anniversary of Barefoot Gen’s beginning as a serial, first appearing in a Japanese magazine. Koichiro Maeda, director of the museum, said, “I’m hoping to show the newly found drawings, too.” Ms. Nakazawa said, “I hope people will hear his message. He wished for an end to war and nuclear weapons and wanted Gen to play an active role in this effort around the world.”

(Originally published on February 16, 2013)