Manga Messiah – Japanese Anime Jesus

Posted on May 6, 2008

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Tyndale House publishers has created a series that tells Bible stories in the manga style.

Manga Bible’s website here, and Tyndale’s website here.
Manga Life’s review here.

NEXT is excited over this opportunity to present today’s young people with the biggest selling book in the history of the world, containing the greatest story ever told, about the most controversial man who ever lived, in the most popular graphic novel format on earth. [1]

And yet again, faith and popular culture come together to provide, what will most likely be, a polarizing product that has some jumping for joy, and others decrying the dumbing down of Christianity and the syncretistic “bedfellowing” that faith has with culture. This of course, leaves only a small minority of the population ambivalent. Read the review above. It’s worth catching the nuances (like using the name Yeshuah, and Miriam instead of the Anglicized equivalents). They say that it’s fairly accurate to the Gospel accounts. I’ve placed my order.

WHAT SHOULD THE POSTURE OF OUR ATTITUDE BE TOWARDS PRODUCTS SUCH AS THESE?

This reminds me of the hoopla that happened when Thomas Nelson did something similar in 2007 when they published “Revolve,” the Bible in a teen magazine format. (Baptist Press article here). The main fear? Compromise of the Gospel. And as with all cultural forms, with every new kind of fancy packaging of the Bible, there is an immediate fear that we are perpetuating a message that is inauthentic to the original.

But is not any translation automatically inauthentic to the original? Is not a distant modern ecclesial culture inauthentic to the original?

Yes. And for that, we must caution, but not condemn.

Even those who are so excited about the ESV (English Standard Version) translation must realize that any English translation is in some way, a compromise of the original, both in the attempting to maintain true to the “spirit” of the message, not to mention the “letter” of the message. That’s the nature and the essence of any culture throughout history being a carrier of a message that really, ultimately does change. We can either be honest with that, or we can be arrogant in suggesting that how we understand and see the Gospel is the Gospel. Given that I do believe in God, bigger than culture, translations, and even my understanding, I’ll maintain a healthy sense of mystery.

So, I welcome Manga. As the review mentioned, it’s probably not going to have the widespread interest that the original Manga is going to have, either as an evangelistic tool, or as an educational one. But, it’s exciting for the producers, helpful for those who are intrigued and curious, and I suggest that those who are deeply concerned would do well to believe that “whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, [we ought to] rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18)

A DISTINCT CULTURAL DIFFERENCE OF INTEREST

According to Manga Life’s review,

since there is so much information to convey, the pages are loaded with captions and dialogue, which is much more of a Western style of comics storytelling; Japanese manga more often uses quiet moments and pages of wordless or near-wordless action to tell stories.

I find this compelling and worth reflecting on as many — in all the various religious traditions — are verbose and homiletic, standing on the “spoken/preached Word” for the salvation of souls. Perhaps there are other ways to communicate that are more compelling, and one ought to think intentionally about how to leverage those mediums for the message that one wishes to convey.

[1] http://mangabible.com (cited 5/4/2008)

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Posted in: Culture, Religion