Friday, June 20, 2008


I wanted to re-post this, as I've since done more research on it and I think my update may have been buried in an after-birthday post. It turns out that one of the incredibly generous gifts I received is quite a piece of manga history.

From my buddy Ryan G, I received a first printing of the original English language edition of Barefoot Gen, Volume 1.

It was published in April 1978 by a group of Japanese and Americans called Project Gen. The book was adapted into English and published as a labor of love by anti-nuclear activists with an eye on promoting international disarmament and peace. This volunteer-led effort was mentioned in my interview with esteemed manga historian/translator and author, Frederik Schodt in Electric Ant Zine #1.

So.... It turns out that this was the first manga ever published in English!

From Fred Patten's Watching Anime, Reading Manga (Page 25),
"MAY 1978: The English translation of the first volume of Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen, a semi-autobiographical manga novel of a child's personal experience of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, is published in Tokyo by Project Gen for distribution in the United States by the New York City-based War Resisters League. This is the first American edition of a translated Japanese manga."

Here is the copyright page from the book.

All of the lettering is uneven and was done by hand. In an interview for the zine, I asked Fred Schodt about the earliest manga he had worked on, and he mentioned that he and Jared Cook had worked with Project Gen on Volume 2 of Barefoot Gen, and that he believed Barefoot Gen to be the first manga translated into English.

I don't know where Ryan G. managed to track this down, but it's an exceptionally awesome find (in good condition too!) and I totally treasure it as a piece of publishing history. As most of us who've read Barefoot Gen more recently are aware, Last Gasp is the current publisher for this intense and significant series, and recently published the sixth volume, Writing The Truth.

The fine print:
by Keiji Nakazawa
Translated and Published by Project Gen
First Printing, April 1978

Project Gen Staff:
Masahiro Oshima, Noriko Nakamoto, Libby Hopkins, Hiromi Matsuoka,Yukio Aki, Toshihide Suzuki, Akiko Sugiura, Alan Gleason, Jim Morrison, Makoto Tamaki, Machiko K. Whittaker, Etsuko Takeda, Sachiko Harada, Megumi Ito, Tamio Kaneko

Excerpt from the introduction:
What is Project Gen?
We're a group of Japanese and English-speaking non-Japanese living in Tokyo and around North America, bound together by our concern about nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and by our faith that Barefoot Gen can serve the cause of peace in other nations as it has in Japan. We are all volunteers, giving what time we can to translate, proofread, answer letters, raise funds, do the lettering and the layout work. Some of us are students, some teach, some are studying Japanese culture or were just "passing through" and stayed on; some are engaged in other projects like relief of India's cyclone victims or the problems of Japan's Korean minority. Many of us went to Hiroshima on the 32nd anniversary of the bombing in August, 1977, and participated in peace walks and workshops about nuclear energy and weaponry. Barefoot Gen has been in the works since November, 1976, when some of us first talked with author Keiji Nakazawa about translating Gen into English.

The intro also features

  • a short letter by literary critic Jun Ishiko from 2/5/1978 "To the parents and children of the world" about the history of Barefoot Gen and the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

  • an in-depth short article 'On "Hadashi no Gen" by Susumu Ishitani, member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation Japan, Conscientious Objection to Military Tax about their personal experience during wartime living in Japan and being exposed to the second atomic bomb in Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.They talk also about their experience as a hibakusha and the dangers of nuclear weapons.

PS: If you can think of other contenders (floppies, promotional materials, etc) that would challenge this book's status as FIRST ENGLISH MANGA, I would love to hear about it. Leave thoughts and leads in the comments!


Aline Évora said...

Hey, nice blog!

About Suehiro Maruo: thanks a bunch! I'm doing a work about him and these informations are perfect!

here, in Brasil, we just have 3 Maruo's works =( :

'O Vampiro que ri', 'Ero-Guro' and 'O Sorriso do Vampiro'

^_^ Tchau! (Bye)

Anonymous said...

Goddamn it! And I thought I was being old-school with my 1980 Heavy Metal magazine featuring a short story by Kaze Shinobu, but you're beating me by two years?! I'm jealous.

Ryan S said...

Ooh, what is the issue and manga you're describing? Kaze Shinobu is the shit, so I'd love to hear more about the specific issue you're talking about!

Is it:
'Being a Guy Is All True Grit' (Otoko wa Dokyō)

More details plz!

Ryan S said...

Thanks for checking out Same Hat. I'm glad to hear that you found some details about Maruo... Are you writing a paper about him for school?

Anonymous said...

Can't challange you as I only have Volume one from 1987...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

@ryan: It's the March 1980 Heavy Metal issue and the short story I'm talking about is credited as 'Violence becomes tranquility' by Shinobu Kaze.

I once also expected it to be 'Being a Guy Is All True Grit' since that's what Manga Zombie stated (and 'Heart and Steel' was indeed published in the February 1982 Epic Illustrated), but after some rather extensive research I found no mention of this story. Unless 'Violence becomes tranquility' is an alternate title (the Epic story had a few), it probably means that Udagawa Takeo was wrong (would be surprising) or that I need to lurk more (meaning that Kaze Shinobu had more than two of his work published in English and French which would be great).

Unknown said...

How nice seeing again Barefoot Gen!
Since my great grandmother had something to do with some peace activist this was first "standalone" manga I have ever read (except another but shorter K. Nakazawa´s war story)...To be sincere I was not able to read even the english translation I had seen a year (I think) after the Japanese original.I was only 4 years old when this was issued and english is not my native language ;_; I was seeing pictures and the reading of dialogs was done by my great grandmother. Then there was only one difference between the japanese and the english version for me, but reversed order of action ^_^ (possible the first "reversed" comic ever?) And I think the translation was shorter than original Hadashi no Gen (or I am wrong again?) Is Keiji Nakazawa´s manga also first Japanese comic ever? Is said but there is nobody to give me a refference.
The manga was full of violence even extra of war situations and is thought this impacted my innocent wiew. Anyway, had anyone of you great grandmother telling him of war and atomic charge instead of crude tricking him with fashionable fairy tales? ^_^
Also in my opinion are the Keiji Nakazawa´s works one of the most important things to read ever. I am proud to share the "stupid", "heretic" or even "antidemocratic" ^_^ point of wiew with You.
I regret my grandmother perhaps sold the comic. She told me she´s not aware where the crap is gone. Literally;_;

Anonymous said...

Hi! I used your data to add this edition of Barefoot Gen to the Grand Comics Database (see Thanks!

Would you mind if I also used your photograph of the first volume?

Ryan S said...

@shadzane: Sure, sounds great! Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you! However, the picture was too small for GCD purposes. Oh, well...

Ryan S said...

@shadzane: Here is the bigger version, if that helps at all?

Anonymous said...

@ryan: That worked! Thanks a lot! (See