'Barefoot Gen' School Ban Controversy Boosts Sales in Japan

Less than a week after the classic manga title was allowed back into schools in Matsue, Japan, publishers report dramatic increases in sales.

Some things, it appears, are constant across the world: the almost instinctive desire for tales in which good and evil clash on epic scales, for example, or our weird, inexplicable love of imbuing fictional characters with emotions and histories that say more about us as an audience than the characters themselves. Another, of course, is that widespread controversy just acts as the ultimate advertisement for any particular movie, TV show or comic book.

Take, in this case, Keiji Nakazawa's famous anti-war manga Hadashi no Gen -- better known in the U.S. as Barefoot Gen -- that was temporarily banned in school libraries in the Japanese city of Matsue earlier this month despite protests from principals from 44 of the 49 schools affected. The ban, imposed by the local board of education because the series' graphic scenes of violence and language, was reversed on Monday -- and, according to publishers, sales are surprisingly high as a result.

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"The orders kept coming in after reports on the Matsue Board of Education, and ironically, interest in the series soared," Chobunsha Publishing Co. president Kazuyoshi Masakado said in a report from The Mainichi, adding: "I'm grateful for the fact that many people will read it."

A second publisher of the series, Chuokoron-Shinsha Inc., also reported enthusiasm for Barefoot Gen, announcing that sales are currently up 250 percent from previous years. Both Chuokoron-Shinsha and Chobunsha plan to put their editions of the series back to press to take advantage of the renewed interest in the classic series, which originally appeared in the pages of Shukan Shonen Jampu (Weekly Shonen Jump) in 1973.