I remember reading a TV listing for the animated film Watership Down for one sentence:
"if this film doesn't touch you, then you have no soul"
This one sentence also summarises my opinion of The Town of Evening Calm - the Country of Cherry Blossoms.
This single volume by newcomer Fumiyo Kono was released by American manga company Gasp Comics to to a storm of critical praise and controversy in Japan (and is now due to be given a movie adaptation). It spans fifty years and three generations of the same Hiroshima family as they lived, loved (and in one case, died) under the shadow of the nuclear bomb, and the after effects long after it was dropped.
the manga is separated into two stories.
The Town of Evening Calm is set in 1955 in Hiroshima and tells the story of Minami as she tries to enjoy love and life whilst living with the guilt of surviving the nuclear blast that destroyed so many lives.
The book moves on in the next story - The Country of Cherry Blossoms - a two part tale based in 1987 and 2004 respectively - as we follow Minami's niece, Manami, as she and childhood friend Toko discovers that the after-effects of the bomb live on following her father's mysterious trip to Hiroshima.
Powerful and thought provoking, the series doesn't rely on shock horror images like Barefoot Gen, allowing instead the testimonies and memories of these people to paint a bleak picture of the effects of the blast, and how it affected them both emotionally as well as physically - sometimes even just allowing the artwork to convey their stories.
If there's one manga that deserved to win the awards it received - this is it.
If theres one manga that'll you return to again and again - this is it.
If there's one manga you MUST buy this year - this is it.
- Even fifty years after the first atomic bomb was dropped many people who sirvived the blast are suffering and dying from cancers and other radiation based illnesses - and even desendents two to three generations removed are suffering illnesses, which are suspected to be linked to the bomb.
- In some cases sirvivors were shunned as Hibakusha - a title as degrading as "untouchable" - with families checking the propective brides/grooms family records.