The fine folks at Hodder & Stoughton were kind enough to send me a copy of The Manga Bible: NT—Extreme for review. First, I’d like to apologize to them for taking so long to do this. I see now that the rest of the Bible is out. So, that’s exciting.
Essentially, the Manga Bible (see this wikipedia article for more on manga) is a graphic interpretation of the biblical text coupled with a TNIV translation, a translation that seems to be gaining in popularity. The graphic portions of the text are illustrated by Siku. You can find a short interview with him (and his brother, Akin, who wrote the script) on pages 65–74.
From the outset (p. vii) the authors make no claims to have attempted to recreate the whole of the New Testament in manga form. I must admit that this was the most disappointing aspect of the work. When I originally read Hodder & Stoughton’s ads for the book, I was hoping to get a whole book full of wonderful illustrations of the New Testament. I was hoping to find a fast-paced print version that some of my artsier friends could really dig in to. Unfortunately, the graphic novel portion of the book only lasts for about 64 pages.
In terms of the artwork, I am not at all an expert. The illustrations are lively and full of emotion, often presented in a sort of widescreen format that makes me feel like Cecile B. DeMille somehow got mixed up with a bunch of Japanese comics. Siku uses a few little devices that intrigue me. For example, when illustrating Jesus’ parables, the art moves into a very cartoonish, non-detailed style. It is almost a sketch. Some of the characters are even comic looking. I think this adds a nice personal touch, and helps to differentiate the parables from the narrative as a whole.
The comic attempts to move chronologically, which means that snippets of the letters of Paul are interspersed throughout the book of Acts. While, generally speaking, this is a feature I like, there are some issues here. First, as with anything like this, there are going to be some disagreements about dating of letters and when certain events happened. Therefore, the authors have had to interpret, for better or worse, the chronology of Acts and the life of Paul. Second, some of the scenes in the letters become, for my taste, comically dramatic. For example, Barnabas and Paul “fighting back” against those who would force Gentiles to be circumcised.
The language, written by Akin, is rough and tumble—up to date and appropriate to the artwork. It is funny how certain groups of people are characterized by certain language. To me, it feels like the religious leaders use a much higher style, while lower social classes use more street lingo (for lack of a better phrase).
Overall, I’d say The Manga Bible is worth a look if you are a fan of the genre, or if you have friends who are. As an everyday Bible, it fails—but that’s not what it’s designed to be, so I can’t fault it for that!
I would definitely be interested in getting a look at the more recent version which contains the Old Testament as well. I am willing to bet that there are some interesting illustrations of some of those good ol’ OT stories.