Do we need a Manga Messiah?

Ron VandenBurg

August 15, 2011

The children are going to read Manga anyway because it is engaging and beautiful. True Japanese Manga has rules much like some forms of poetry and art that structure it to layer additional meaning. My teenager is a huge "Death Note" fan and is sure the Authors used Milton's Paradise Lost to form much of the back story. My teen has read Milton, Dante, the Bible, etc and loves Manga too. The Japanese artists are already incorporating Christian imagery like angels. I think it is entirely appropriate to place a Christian Perspective of the bible on the same shelf.

Antoine RJ Wright
August 15, 2011

To answer the title of the post, no, "we" don't need magna Bibles. The audience who usually reads magna or come from cultures where magna stories are a listened to method of writing, wouldn't have a problem with it.

I dig it personally. And if available for my mobile/tablet, I might add this to my reading queue.

Jordan Ballor
August 15, 2011

I'm not familiar with this particular manga series. But my son (6) has really enjoyed the Manga Bible series from Zondervan. But beyond the pleasure he's gained, he's really gotten a great deal of biblical knowledge from it. While he was really engaged in the series he was quizzing me on which judge came first, their names, and other very specific details. He had many of these details down pat, while I had to check the Bible or a reference to be sure. 

It's good to think critically about these questions, and thus this article fits perfectly with TC's mission. Certainly this doesn't mean that manga can't be abused or misused. And there are other "medium" and "message" connections in the Christian life that should also be critically explored (e.g. worship). But it's not clear to me why all manga should be added to an "Index Librorum Prohibitorum." 

As with all things relating to culture, discernment is critical. Is manga beyond reclaiming for Christ? I don't think so.

August 15, 2011

A good friend of mine introduced me to manga a little while back. One of the things they told me was that "two bit hacks" keep trying to take comic books and pass them off as manga. Manga Messiah on the other hand is done by an official mangaka (licensed and trained manga artist). The only difference between Manga Messiah and other manga is that 1)it's in color and 2)it reads from left to right. Other than that, it looks, feels, and acts like a manga style.

Telling the gospel message in this way, is that any different than Paul writing letters, David writing poetry? Matthew, Mark, Luke and John giving a narrative account in book format about Jesus? I have Manga Messiah on my shelf and have truly enjoyed the artwork and story telling. It is a good solid medium to reach those who enjoy reading manga and comics in general.

August 15, 2011

Action-packed, power-trip Jesus?

August 15, 2011

Ron, I think you're right to invoke McLuhan to think through this issue, but I think McLuhan's ideas provide a different question than the one you seem to ask. For McLuhan, the medium is the message because a medium, AS A FORM, contains certain values, tendencies and habits. The question isn't, then, if a form has too much negative stuff "attached to it," as you say, it's what types of experiences and characteristics the form encourages in us.

Thinking in this way, I think, doesn't preclude any particular form or style, but it does lead us to consider what it emphasizes and what it de-emphasizes. I don't know a lot about Manga in particular, but it seems to me what that form does well is emphasize the narrative (so it makes it great for stories like the Old Testament History books and the Gospels, less good for other genres in the bible like Psalms or Epistles). On the other hand, I'd be careful with any visual form because it has the potential to imply that Biblical heroes and villains might look a particular way, and that can be dangerous when we think about how we treat each other and make assumptions about other people.

August 15, 2011

In our quest to, 'go into all the nations,' I believe that a 'new nation' that is emerging is our youth.  Never before have we had the young people of this planet sharing the same culture via the Internet, cell phones, etc.  Fashions, music, etc. are now shared world-wide within a generation.  If we fail to respond using the media that they are using on a daily basis, there is a chance they'll see the Gospel as old, irrelevant, and out of date.  While reading the Bible in book form may be 'good enough' for me, our son and daughter have gained so much from these graphic novels and take them with them to school and share with friends.  If we are careful in the use of our technology, the medium can be modified and used to highlight the message.  For our children who are growing up with these things, it's placing relevancy from their spiritual lives into their daily life. That is indeed a blessing!

August 15, 2011

I have to wonder how much of this is "becoming all things to all people" versus continuing to coddle to a generation. We have already segmented these children into the "youth ministry" ghetto, where they can make professions of faith, worship, get baptized, and learn without ever seeing anyone over the age of 17 (except the teachers). And then we wonder why they renounce those professions of faith, find "adult" worship to be onerous and boring, and have no desire to integrate with old fogies.

Theoretically, I don't have a problem with a manga Bible. I think it's another way for people to use their passions and talents and interests to glorify God in their own way. Practically, though, I cannot help but wonder if this simply goes further to create an experience for children who will otherwise abandon the faith when that experience gets too dull.

August 15, 2011

People from minority culture often note that those in majority culture think they have no culture. Americans think only foreigners and southerners have accents. We cannot read or articulate anything without imposing our culture upon it yet when someone else does it we've got questions. When I say such things people think I'm a relativist. 

I watched "The Help" last weekend and pondered all of the cultural layers in that movie. How the former slaves appropriated their master's religion and changed it to make it their own. How mainstream movies can't tell stories about African Americans without the filter of a nice innocent liberal lens (Skeeter in this case) to idealize the victims and demonize the perps. 

I recommend reading Roland Allen and his missionary classics. While the North America church churns in its own cultural torment Christians in Africa and Asia are appropriating the gospel in ways that surprise and sometimes disturb us and these are the Christians that will remake the church (again) in the next century. 

As the world turns...

August 15, 2011

This is potentially awesome.  Now my students that really love the Manga style have Holy Scripture delivered in a medium that they can relate too.  This will not only capture their attention and get them to dig into Holy Scripture more, but it will also inspire them and other Christians to see how we can use this beautiful medium for God's call.

Jason Summers
August 15, 2011


My understanding of manga is that the imagery is more akin to iconography.  In the same way that icons suggest something more than representation, manga may be less susceptible to the concerns you raise.  Of course, for them to function in that way requires an educated readership familiar with the conventions of the form, which may not be the case for many who might purchase these.


Nelson Tan
August 15, 2011

Is the medium the message? No to an extent for the kids. I think we as adults can be a bit too bias towards the medium. I recall our children ministry played "The Prince Of Egypt" and invited questions from the floor to great effect with children asking intelligent questions filled with genuine curiosity. It also helps those who are visual learners too.

Children absorb things like sponge so they can't readily distinguish what is 'good' or 'bad' medium. So yes, I support any effective medium as long as the author knows how to bring across the exact impact of the message through it and also that the medium is played out under adult supervision.

August 15, 2011

In that case, Manga might be a much better visual medium than something like a movie, where a specific person must play roles like Jesus.

August 16, 2011

My son, who is a voracious reader of "real" books including the Bible, really enjoyed the Manga Messiah. In fact, it was after reading it that he chose to be baptized. It brought Jesus home to him in a new way.

Should manga ever replace the Bible? Of course not. Is there nevertheless a place for graphical representations of Bible stories? I say yes.

August 16, 2011

I appreciate your blog about Manga Bible books because I recently purchased all of them that are available both in French and in English to use with my Bible school class here in Guinea, West Africa (children ages 7-12).  All of my students find reading difficult because they have to learn to read in a language (French) that is not their mother tongue and the public school systems are of poor quality.  They love comic books and I'm hoping that looking at and reading the Manga Bible books will help their reading as well as teach them Bible stories.  By the way, it wasn't easy to order the French versions but I found them on Amazon.com for England and could use my credit card to purchase even tho' they were mailed from the UK -- to my sister's U.S. address.

Add your comment to join the discussion!