Slim and gorgeous, Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms, couldn’t be more different from the 10-volume, powerfully resonating Barefoot Gen series in scope and style. But don’t let its whimsical beauty fool you for a moment … the Hiroshima tragedy looms large in this three-part manga that covers a half century of the Hirano/Ishikawa family story. A bestselling major award winner in its native Japan, the English translation from quirkily fabulous Last Gasp has found equal success Stateside, named “Top 10 Manga for 2007″ by Publishers Weekly and “Best Comics of 2007″ by New York magazine.
In “Town of Evening Calm,” 10 years after the horrific blast, Minami and her mother Fujimi have managed to create a quiet life for themselves. While she is riddled with guilt for having survived, young Minami is falling in love … but even love can’t conquer the effects of the atom bomb. In the two-part “Country of Cherry Blossoms,” Nanami, the daughter of Fujimi’s son and Minami’s younger brother who was sent away from Hiroshima before the blast and therefore survived, continues the family story. A spunky 5th grader, Nanami lives unaware of the effects of the bomb on her own family, which has made her older brother ill and claimed too many other lives. Seventeen years later, Nanami takes an unplanned trip to Hiroshima, secretly trailing her father which leads her to the family’s grave … and the stories she never knew.
Although creator Kouno was born and raised in Hiroshima, she is not herself an atom bomb survivor. When her editor suggested a Hiroshima story, “I felt reluctant,” she writes in her Afterword, “because when I was a student, there were a number of times when I nearly fainted – at the Peace Memorial Museum and when seeing footage of the bomb.” When she realized that too many people outside of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unaware of “the ravages of the atomic bomb,” she knew her manga could help educate and enlighten new generations.
“This story has no end – only the feelings that these 35 pages may evoke within you will lead to the true completion of the story,” Kouno writes. “As you go forth and lead full and abundant lives, I believe this story will reach a powerful conclusion … May you grow as strong and gentle as the sakura tree.” Like Project Gen, Kouno’s is a plea for a peaceful future … could there be a greater gift to give to our children?
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2006 (United States)