War (the portion of World War II in which the Japanese fought the
Americans) led to a lot of major changes in Japanese culture. Everything
has changed. From the way they depict Hell (it often looks remarkably
similar to the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima) to the
common theme of "nature out of control" in their movies
(which is how they saw the bombs, not as technology out of control,
but as nature out of control), the Japanese have been deeply affected
by the events surrounding the Pacific War.
deal with ideas related to the Pacific War, but two in particular
are set during the war and deal with issues faced by real people
during the war. Barefoot
is the mostly-autobiographical work of an Hiroshima survivor. He
wrote a series of manga about his experiences and these manga were
later translated into anime form. Grave
of the Fireflies
is a semi-autobiographical story based on a book.
Gen follows a young boy, Gen, through his experiences with the
loss of most of his family in the Hiroshima bombing. He survives
with his pregnant mother, and together they face the death of Gen's
little sister by starvation. She dies while Gen and his new friend
are away buying milk for her. The movie is somewhat unique in its
take on the war. Rather than pointing the finger at the United States
for the deaths of his family members, Gen and his mother blame the
Japanese government for not surrendering earlier. When they are
told that Japan has surrendered after the bombing of Nagasaki, Gen's
mother's reaction is to scream, "Why now, why not before?"
the Fireflies begins with a young boy dying. The rest of the
movie is about the events leading up to his death. We learn that
this young boy had an even younger sister who died before him. We
watch them go from happy children with two parents to starving children
whose paternal aunt refuses to care for them. Their parents both
die in the war: their father in battle, and their mother in a bombing.
From then on, the movie is about two children trying to survive
in a world in which adults do not care about them. They are on their
own - not even the doctor to whom the young boy takes his sister
will help them.
These two movies
are very different in the way they portray life during and after
the Pacific War, but both center around the lives of children, who
serve as symbols of hope for the future. Where Grave of the Fireflies
is stark and depressing, Barefoot Gen is hopeful and endearing.
Both show the realities of surviving the war, but they see those
realities is different ways.
17, 1945, Kobe was firebombed by 306 B-29s. It was hit again
on May 7 with explosives, and again on June 6 it was firebombed
by 476 aircraft. Osaka was worse.
6 and 9, 1945, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed
by the first atomic bombs used in warfare.