My Copy: 9780867196009 (image from bn.com)
This volume is a mix of juvenile hijinks done in the name of protest and Gen’s knowledge that he’s going to have to grow up and figure out what to do with his life. His family is scattered and Natsue is getting worse in her health, ready to die. Gen is still Gen, trying to figure out how to fight the powers that be and live peacefully as much as possible, trying to live beyond the bomb and it’s effects.
The stand-off at his house doesn’t go very well… for anyone. Let’s just say I get why some who’ve reviewed this one before me say Gen and Ryuta are a bit old to be peeing on people and throwing other things at them. But this isn’t a simplistic hero story where the good guy always wins, it’s based on real life. Gen and Ryuta are still trying to help their cobbled-together family and meet others in need like themselves (especially when a kid accidentally steals the box of Natsue’s ashes that the kids are trying to find a place to bury, only for them to meet his proud grandfather, who was a painter).
Gen runs afoul of other painters in this one, and after messing up one of the paintings (he was basically pushed into it), he’s trying to make amends. He goes through an ordeal of trying to be humble and take the time to learn all he can even as abuse ramps up against him. He’s working himself to the bone trying to learn his craft, and when he ends up working with the grandfather figure as an apprentice of sorts, he learns the power of art and decides to dedicate himself to the dream of making it.
Barefoot Gen, vol 9 has a Gen that’s grown up quite a bit, and is getting beaten down by the world around him a little more. He’s not giving up, but his fledgling maturity is making him think about other ways he can fight against injustice and make his voice heard.
After all, he’s still a kid, and he can’t get far beating up grown ups forever (though still quite capable in many respects).