A Japanese school board has reversed its decision to restrict student access to Barefoot Gen, Keiji Nakazawa’s autobiographical story about a 6-year-old boy who survived the Hiroshima bombing.
Although the manga's removal from Matsue City elementary and middle-school library shelves had drawn widespread criticism, Reuters reports the board claims the policy change is because of procedural problems with the way the previous directive was issued.
On Dec. 17, the schools superintendent ordered Barefoot Gen pulled, with students only permitted to read it with permission from a teacher, following a complaint about the book's depiction of violence by Imperial Japanese Army troops (many Japanese nationalists deny troops committed any war crimes during World War II). However, the board insisted the decision was based strictly on the level of violence in the manga, and not on the political nature of the complaint.
Still, Reuters reports the outrage over the manga's removal echoes increasing concerns about the conservative agenda of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's to reframe the nation's wartime history "in less apologetic colors."
Nakazawa's widow Misayo told the Japanese media last week, when news of the restriction first circulated, that she was shocked by the move. "War is brutal," she said. "It expresses that in pictures, and I want people to keep reading it."
Nakazawa died in December at age 73.