Tag Archives: Sam Kusek

MMF: My Reaction to Barefoot Gen 1 & 2

This post is part of the February Manga Movable Feast on Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa, hosted by my good friend Sam Kusek at A Life In Panels. You can see more commentary on Barefoot Gen on his blog.

I feel like I had an atypical reaction to Barefoot Gen. Sure, it was a depressing read. So much so that my boyfriend noticed how down I was at our Valentine’s Day dinner. I was thinking of the way I wanted to approach Barefoot Gen and write this MMF post. (We did had a great time once I decided to banish all thought of Barefoot Gen for the evening.) Despite that, I wasn’t moved to tears by Barefoot Gen. I realized today, that’s because I’ve already seen it before.

This requires a bit of explanation:

I’ve mentioned before that members of my family are Holocaust survivors. That’s one thing, considering how one generation was too young to remember anything and the other generation was too scarred to speak about it. A lot of exactly what happened to my family is either buried along with the older generation or on a Shoah Foundation tape that my mother and I have felt too unprepared to watch yet. But I went to a private Jewish school for seven years for middle school and high school. I don’t know how the Holocaust was taught to the younger grades in my school, but they were pretty thorough with the older kids. As a result I’ve read a lot of literature on the Holocaust. All the well-known novels and some less-known ones. We were also treated to films, speakers, slide shows and extensive history lessons, especially around Yom Ha’Shoah, which is an Israeli/Jewish holiday mourning the victims.

The horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki aren’t the same as the Holocaust, but a different kind of genocide altogether. Oddly enough, I had already read John Hersey’s Hiroshima as part of a high school physics lesson that was probably supposed to teach us about how mighty nuclear power is. So the imagery of Barefoot Gen was not as surprising as it was for some. I already knew about the eyeless victims with their flesh melting right off them and the bodies floating down the river and the fires that killed thousands. That didn’t surprise me, although I was thankful for Keiji Nakazawa’s cartoon-y style of drawing. As often as his odd facial expressions bothered me (why were there so many awkward, winking faces?), I don’t think I could have stomached something more realistic and I cannot really imagine the true terrors that Keiji Nakazawa and the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saw in August, 1945. I don’t really want to because then I won’t be able to sleep well. I’ve had dreams about being in concentration camps before and they are pretty terrifying, let me tell you.

So I didn’t cry over Barefoot Gen. It’s not like I haven’t cried over manga before. The later volumes of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster made me cry. To be honest, if I were watching Keiji Nakazawa or another survivor talk about their experience, I would be crying uncontrollably. There’s something about seeing actual human emotion that definitely affects me more. I’ve cried in more movies than I can remember. I cried when Ongina revealed he had HIV on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I could see and hear those people. Much like horror manga, I guess sad manga doesn’t affect me as much as it’s moving counterparts. I should probably watch the movie versions of Barefoot Gen.

But  got me thinking that 1) large swaths of the world must have gone nuts in the 1930s and 40s to kill so many people so brutally and 2) the American government is definitely guilty of genocide, something I hadn’t really thought of before. I’m not a fan of a lot of typical American views and politics, but this goes beyond that. This country thought it was a great idea to end the war by replicating a lot of Nazi practices, everything from putting Japanese-Americans in camps to bombing Japanese civilians, then taking it to the next level with the atomic bomb. While America didn’t kill as many people through these methods as the Nazis did, they did unleash a different kind of horror upon the world as we know it. It disgusts me that this country, which has preached about peace and freedom for everyone, became so hypocritical as to copy their enemies’ techniques. I know, somewhere in my mind, that America probably didn’t make the decision to drop the bomb flippantly, but it strikes me  as odd that the American politicians involved couldn’t see this big, blinding, hypocritical mistake staring them in the face.

But I digress. What struck me throughout was that these were events that had happened to Nakazawa and other survivors. I think a fictional account of the bombings by someone who hadn’t survived it wouldn’t work at all. I’m grateful to the people who have spoken out about atrocities like this because, as heavy as the knowledge and hindsight of these events are, at least the world knows now. Barefoot Gen‘s existence in the world is only one of many survivor’s tales, but it teaches us things we never knew or realized before. It makes us think about who was killed, not just faceless bodies, but people who suffered. Even if it’s just a cartoon-y face that doesn’t quite hold the visual impact you want it to, those faces are someone’s.

To end this post, since it seems to be getting a little preachy and I didn’t really want to do that, I want to thank Sam Kusek for bringing Barefoot Gen to the Manga Movable Feast. Truly, it’s not a manga I would have gotten into easily without this reason to, mostly because it’s not widely available anymore, but also because it’s a tough read. Glancing at some of the other posts that have been written by other bloggers, Barefoot Gen has truly rocked a few people’s worlds. It’s not the best manga in a lot of senses, but it encompasses the idea often touted by Jews–“Never Forget.” People think that just applies to the Holocaust, but that’s not true. It’s important to learn about the Holocaust, the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and other atrocities so that we learn from past behavior and take to heart the goal of becoming better, less hateful people. It’s best to learn from primary sources like Keiji Nakazawa because they’ll drive that all-important message home.

Here’s a little something to cheer the MMF participants up: (Warning, link contains adorably catchy song.)

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Scanlations and the Anti-Piracy Coalition on Jammer’s Animovie Podcast

Another month, another podcast recorded!

Joseph Medina of Jammer’s Animovie Blog invited me back on his podcast, making this my third podcast to date! I think I’m getting better at this!

Along with Sam Kusek of Pop Culture Shock’s Manga Recon and Doctor of the SSAA Podcast, we discussed In this podcast we talk about the problems facing the manga publishing industry, the coalition that’s been formed between U.S. and Japanese manga publishers and what we’d like to see happen with digital manga distribution.

We talked a lot about what we would like to see the coalition do or not do, why people are still turning to scanlations or fansubs when there are simultaneous releases or simulcasts widely available for free and what scanlators and aggregation sites are doing to prevent themselves from being sued.

All in all, it was a great podcast tackling the choice issues of the manga publishing industry in America. Some great suggestions were thrown out there and I’m hoping that we’ll someday get to see our suggestions come to fruition.

Thanks for listening!

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Guest Post: Sam Kusek’s V-Day Gift Guide for Comic-Loving Lovers

Whether you are in a romantic relationship or are just single and loving it, Valentines Day can be an important day for all of us. It’s good to let people know how to you feel about them, showing them that you care deeply. Heck, I still get a card from my grandma every year! For those of us who are heavily invested in comics and manga though, we’d like to add our own personal touch to our gifts and good wishes! I know that I love introducing my friends to manga & comics, helping them understand the art form and I can’t think of a better opportunity to give out some good books!

1. Red Snow by Susumu Katsumata; Published Drawn & Quarterly – This anthology of short stories about life in rural Japan and its mythical folklore is sure to impress any history buff you may have in your circle!

2. Pluto by Naoki Urasawa; Published by Viz – I can’t recommend this series enough. Not only is it a stunning reinterpretation of a great sci-fi tale, it is emotionally touching! A must read for anyone with a soft spot for robots!

3. Swallowing the Earth by Osamu Tezuka; Published by Digital Manga Publishing – Even with all the crime dramas on television, you can’t beat a classic noir story! Tezuka keeps us on our toes at every turn as he explores the complex relationships between men, money, woman and gold!

4. GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto; Published by Viz – Gogo Monster may not be the most straightforward story (it really makes you think and rethink your opinions), but its certainly got its charm! If you have any artsy friends or someone looking for a “deeper” meaning in life, pass this along to them.

5. Cyborg 009 by Shotaro Ishinomori; Published by Tokyopop – Thought hard to find, this series really is worth searching for. Starting its original run in the 60’s, Cyborg 009 deals a lot with race relations and unity, as nine strangers from around the globe have their lives changed forever as they are changed into machines of war!

6. Nana by Ai Yazawa; Published by Viz – The quintessential girls comic. The story of two utterly different girls who share the same name and pretty soon, the same apartment. It’s an amazing series and a great read for any girl who is going through some big life changes.

7. Cat Eyed Boy by Kazuo Umezu; Published by Viz – If you are a horror fan or know someone who likes a good scare, look no further. CEB is a great example of all Japanese horror, getting under and into the skin of the reader. Not only that, but the main character is cute enough to hit a warm spot with anyone.

8. Earth X by Jim Kreuger and Alex Ross; Published by Marvel – Marvel has some great characters under their belt, but how great can they be when they are put to the ultimate test of just being a face in the crowd? Check out this exciting first of 4 books that makes you question everything you thought you knew about Marvel.

9. Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez; Published by DC – In a similar vein to Earth X, this book changed the DC universe forever, giving birth to some new great heroes and eras but bringing death to some of the most beloved. It’s an essential read for understanding the DC universe today.

10. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud; Published by Harper Perennial – Finally, this is for anyone who truly wants to make comics a profession, whether as an artist, marketer or whatever. McCloud is a visionary, touching upon perception and the way the human mind works to explain everything you could ever think of (and not think of) about comics all across the world!

Thanks and I hope that you and your loved ones find some good things to read!

~Sam Kusek


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Love Via Comics

It was just a little over a year ago that my boyfriend and I started dating. The romance started off  slowly for me and we’d already gone through some tough personal issues before Valentine’s Day rolled around. Seeing as we’d only been dating for a little over a month, I didn’t get him much — just  a little toy. I gave him my gift at midnight and then he pulled out Scott Pilgrim volumes 1-5.

I was floored. Not only was it an awesome gift and something that I had wanted to read for years, but I had mentioned  wanting it once in conversation to him weeks before. So in reality, it was not just the gift of a terrific series, it was thoughtful. It was totally romantic, he earned tons of brownie points and really made me think: I sure picked The Right Guy. He clearly came out way ahead.

So guys, here’s my one and only Valentine’s Day tip:  be thoughtful and pay attention. Johanna Draper-Carlson of Comics Worth Reading shared with me that her husband drew in their first date into an issue of Legion of Superheroes and then gave her the original art on Valentine’s Day. How amazing and thoughtful is that? It really shows how much Mr. Carlson still thinks about that first date. Totally romantic! What woman wouldn’t feel happy after such a gift? It really says a lot about the strength of couples who nerd together too.

For more Valentine’s Day gift giving ideas, you can either check out my article on “What to Get Your Special Otaku” at Tokyopop.com or our VERY FIRST guest post by Sam Kusek of Manga ReCon “V-Day Gift Guide for Comic-Loving Lovers” right here on All About Manga.  A BIG thank you to Sam for that!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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