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Manga Messiah Review

The face-consuming glistening eyes. The gravity-defying hair. The exaggerated facial expressions and overly dramatized text.

These are things that could characterize the artwork found in manga.

For those who are unfamiliar with manga, manga is the Japanese styled comics and cartoons. Think Pokemon, Sailor Moon or Dragon Ball Z. It’s quite the contrast to the Americanesque (like Marvel) comics like Spiderman, Ironman, or Superman.

I have been reading manga for the last 10 years but it never crossed my mind that I would one day find a big-eyed, big-haired Jesus smiling from the glossy cover of Manga Messiah.

Manga Messiah is the first volume of the 5-part Manga Bible series telling the story of Jesus’s life, from birth to resurrection, in roughly 300 pages. The book was originally written and drawn by Christian Japanese artists and was meant to engage the average US teen. However, the execution of the first book (I’ve yet to pick up the second of the series, Manga Metamorphosis) was done rather poorly. Though the book stays true to the gospel, the art and the narration makes it difficult to follow along and read. I found myself distracted by the stereotypical manga characterization of the subjects (did Judas step out of Final Fantasy VII?) in the book and lost in all the EXAGGERATED TEXT THAT HAS BEEN BOLDED AND PLACED POINTY SPEACH BUBBLES ALL OVER THE PLACE. Anyone picking up this book would drown in the pages which are so uncomfortably crammed with information!

Yes, its authentic manga but from someone who’s read too many comics to admit, there are other manga artists that  handle the story more appropriately. I don’t want to see the shiny purple hair, vacant “attractive” faces and the same template for faces. It does feel like the series “cheapens the gospel” but manga and graphic novels do have the potential of depicting the gospel. It just has to be done right. Art Spiegelman handles the sensitive subject of the Holocaust in his graphic novel Maus.How about the art and storytelling of Tite Kubo (Bleach) or Takashi Okazaki (Afro Samurai)? Good try Manga Messiah; the message is there, but it’s not very clear.