Barefoot Gen, vol 5: Forever Changed, by Keiji Nakazawa

My Copy: 9780867195965 (image from bn.com)

Barefoot Gen, vol 5 has much the same as 4 did, and yet expands on the new realities of post-war Japan. Gen is getting less patient with hopeless attitudes and hypocrisy (which if you’ve been reading along, hypocrisy is the one thing he’s NEVER been okay with in others). He and some of the other kids are getting less trusting over time as well.

The family isn’t featured as much in this volume, it’s more about Gen and the people he meets, the other children, and eventually his family and doctors figure into the story when his mother, Kimie, becomes ill. She’s been working herself to the bone to provide while money is becoming more scarce. This prompts his older brother, Koji, to go and get a job in the coal mines.

What’s so different in this volume is the attitude toward the Americans from Gen and the other kids. The medical researchers in the Army have been trying to study the effects of radiation sickness on the survivors of the bomb blasts and have tested some of the kids (and not in ways the kids or adults would understand). This has created animosity and fear surrounding the Americans that are in the country and the locals want nothing to do with them if they can help it, while the doctors who refer their patients to the Army get paid in supplies.

Seeing it through Gen’s eyes, it’s mercenary and cruel, and he’s upset that his mother went to see the American army doctors for her condition on the Japanese doctor’s recommend. Let’s just say his fuse is shortened the more he sees injustice around him.

Gen has also done his best to help Ryuta and the other street kids to get out from under gangsters’ thumbs. They end up adopting (and being adopted by) a man who was cast out of his family’s home because of his grief and lethargy due to the bomb and loss of his wife and kids, and Gen helps them build a home and make some money.

Amazing how Gen is still incredibly young, yet you can see in this volume how he’s becoming old before his time. With only five more volumes to go, I wonder what else is in store for this plucky, opinionated kid and the people around him.

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