Culture At Large

Do we need a Manga Messiah?

Ron VandenBurg

My nephews and my children have their faces plastered in books.

“Whatcha readin’?” I ask.

“The Bible,” they say.

Funny. Looks like the old Pokemon or Sailor Moon cartoons to me.

Actually, they're graphic novels “adapted from the ancient texts." The challenging headlines summarize the Biblical story in these ways:

“Angels and Mankind in Open Rebellion!”

“Is This the End of Your World - Or the Beginning?”

“Has He Come to Save the World … Or Destroy It?

“The Rise and Fall of Kings and Nations.”

This ain’t your father’s Bible. It’s not your New International Version or King James.

It's Tyndale House’s Manga series, available in four books, with another on the way. "Manga Messiah"presents the gospel stories with Jesus referred to as Yeshuah, and Joseph and Mary are Yosef and Miryam. "Manga Metamorphosis" illustrates the book of Acts. "Manga Mutiny" goes back to the Old Testament andretells the stories of Genesis. "Manga Melech" continues the Old Testament stories from the Exodus to the stories of David. "Manga Messengers," due out in September, will continue the story telling the tales of the kings and prophets of Judah and Israel.

Originating in Japan, manga is a comic-book style loved the world over. The story lines of manga comics cross the interests of all age groups. This cartoon style covers all literary and cinematic genres from romance and comedy to action, horror and gore. The subject matter and themes of many need parental guidance. The artwork follows a superhero model and features beautiful people drawn beautifully. Sometimes it’s just the hair color that distinguishes one character from another. Evil characters, like the Pharisees in "Manga Messiah," are drawn more like comic characters.

Next, the nonprofit group behind the "Manga Messiah" series, says it created the books to “reach children who might resist traditional Bible translations and never attend a church.” And via action-packed storytelling, the series does wonderfully illustrate biblical truths.

I remember as a young child enjoying the work of Hanna-Barbera, watching the likes of Huckleberry Hound and Scooby Doo. Then, when my children were younger, I would take Hanna-Barbera cartoon versions of Bible stories out of our church’s library for them to watch. Watching the story of Noah, I soon expected to see Snagglepuss yell out “exit stage right!” or Yogi Bear steal a picnic basket. The structure of the cartoon was as familiar to me as the Biblical story. Is "Manga Messiah" much different?

I wonder if Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” idea is in play here. Is the medium so distracting that it sends a different message than what the content is trying to teach? I’m all for God’s people claiming all things for God and redeeming all things, but are some means of communication too tainted? Whether it’s books, theater, movies, music, animation or television, is there a forum or genre that has too much negative stuff attached to it that makes it unusable for Christians to use to tell the Biblical story? Or is it all good?

(Image courtesy of Tyndale House.)

Topics: Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Books, Theology & The Church, The Bible, Faith, Evangelism, The Church, News & Politics, Media