While not technically a WWII-movie, (but rather a movie about the aftermath of WWII) I still decided to include Barefoot Gen 2 in this mini-marathon I’m having, because I watched the original movie yesterday. At first I feared that this would be a cheap cash-in to the success of the first Barefoot Gen, but in the end there was no reason to worry about this: it’s completely different. Don’t go into this one, expecting the same.
The graphics really got a major upgrade. My big issue with the first movie was that the animation just couldn’t handle the things it wanted to portray, but the second movie suffers from none of this. The animation is very smooth, detailed and crisp. It’s amazing considering it was only made three years later. And it’s not something that you only see for these two movies: somewhere between 1983 and 1986, something happened that completely revolutionized the anime industry in the graphics department.
The tone, atmosphere and themes are also completely different. The intention of the first movie was to portray a hellhole: there was no subtlety whatsoever, instead it wanted to make very clear what happened in Hiroshima during the bombing. The second movie is much more subtle: it focuses on the characters, three years after the bombing, as they try to sustain themselves. It’s a movie that combines the dark realities of war, like the overabundance of street children, mourning the loss of loved one, and the heavy scars (the visible and invisible ones) from the bomb, along with more positive themes as hope, enjoyment, education as it portrays people who struggle to pick up their lives again.
It’s also in this movie where Gen gains his depth: you can see that he’s grown up and changed, while still remaining the playful boy he was in the first movie. The new characters are also likable and well characterized, although at times they do try a bit too much to look cool. The second movie is much more a family movie than the first one was; it’s all focused to cheer up, while not shying away from the harsher aspects of the aftermath of a nuclear impact.
I guess where this movie drops points is that it only shows one side of the argument: it only shows Gen and his friends. The Americans, working adults and other people in the neighbourhood are just a bunch of random drawings with only one or two short lines of dialogue.. The movie just assumes that we can imagine what these people are going through. While this is indeed partially true, I do think that the creators could have added an extra layer of depth if they showed a bit more of these guys.
I’m not going to say that this movie is better than the first. The first movie, while I may have given it a lower rating still deserves to be watched because of its subject matter. I have not seen any other anime with such a realistic attempt at portraying the effects of a nuclear explosion; so what if the characters lacked depth.