Facebook is seven years old. Twitter is five this year. The iPhone is four.
All are symbolic of the rapidly evolving culture we live in. With information at our fingertips and available at almost any moment in time, our society is changing very quickly – bit by bit each day, each hour, and each minute.
In this new (now old?) world, religion, too, must adapt. The Apostle Paul was a proponent of presenting his unchanging message in a way that would connect to individuals of different cultures. Christians are following in the lead of the saint – as in the use of gospel music in Japan. Here in the United States, the heyday of door to door evangelism is gone. In its stead, Christians are taking to the new media. And one way in which Christianity and the gospel are being presented is through manga.
Comix35 is a leader in this new field, providing a number of different services in using comics and manga for outreach. One manga-specific offering from the organization is a manga seminar offered as part of its RJC Conferences. Lisa Hutchinson, co-creator of Shelter of Wings (which I mention briefly later in this post), led one such seminar in April in Québec.
As manga and anime become increasingly popular in the U.S., it’s no surprise that some young Christians are pursuing a career or side profession that combines ministry with their passion. Kokoro Hane and Zeroe4, who’ve post contributed guest posts here, are counted among that group. Such individuals and others (including some non-Christians) have begun to create their products, which I’ve broken down into four rough categories:
- Presentations of the Bible in Japanese Manga and Anime
Few in number, these specifically Christian anime and manga are peculiarities in the industry. Their artistic merit has been questioned, though some older ones are remembered fondly. Some, also, are controversial.
- Presentations of the Bible in Original English Language (OEL) Manga
As most manga fans are aware of, there are a number of OEL manga focused on telling the story of Jesus and other Biblical events. Examples include The Manga Bible and Manga Messiah. The general consensus seems to be that most aren’t nearly of the quality of strong Japanese manga, but still present their stories in an effective manner.
- Christian-Themed Original English Language Manga (Print)
Other OEL manga don’t necessarily present stories straight from the Bible, but are Christian nonetheless by painting a story about Christianity. Specifically, I’m talking about Serenity, which was omnipresent in Borders just a few years ago. While some Christian reviewers enjoyed the series, it has mostly garnered very negative reviews.
- Christian-Themed Original English Language Manga (Online)
Mostly though, Christian-themed OEL manga is found online, where artists ranging from the novice to those that are very strong present their visions. Many can be accessed through the Christian Manga website. Though none can probably be compared favorably against the best of Japanese manga, some, like Shelter of Wings, have received very positive response. But as expected, they vary widely in quality, with most functioning better as an exercise for the artist than as quality material for an audience.
But despite the lukewarm reaction to Christian manga and OEL manga, this is a field that I expect to grow rapidly in the coming years. And as such, the products should continue to improve. In fact, publisher Manga Hero has released several such series which are of surprisingly high quality. Throughout the rest of the week, I’ll explore the publishing, writing, and illustrating components to the Christian OEL manga industry through interviews with employee of Manga Hero. And on Friday (July 8), I’ll present my review of one of the company’s series, Paul: Tarsus to Redemption.