Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Has he come to save the world...or destroy it?

My latest review is up over at MangaLife, and it's a look at the book above, an attempt by Christian publisher Tyndale to enter the manga market. It was an odd book, so I figured I would share some thoughts that I wasn't able to squeeze into the review. Think of this as the appendix or something:
  • The book is an odd combination of Japanese and Western comics. It's not really OEL/global manga, since the creators are Japanese, but the style is more American, with color, lots of captions and exposition, and completely different pacing than most manga. It makes for a different experience.
  • Tyndale's press materials tout the book as more authentic than other Christian manga-style books, since it "features art made by some of Japan's most popular manga artists." But they don't actually mention the creators in the press materials or even on the book cover; they're relegated to the inside front cover along with the copyright information.
  • As for the creators themselves, I credited script-writer Hidenori Kumai and artist Kozumi Shinozawa in the review, but there are others listed: assistant artist Atsuko Ogawa, art director Chihaya Tsutsumi, supervisor Kenichi Nakagawa, and co-ordinator Toshikazu Iwaoka. Out of all of them, the only one I could find any information about was Shinozawa, who illustrated a shojo series called Gin No Sato.
  • Also in the press release: the announcement of Tyndale's manga line, with the next entry after Manga Messiah being Manga Bible, a full New Living Translation of the Bible with three 32-page color manga sections. Over the next few years, they plan to follow with Manga Mutiny (Fall 2008), Manga Metamorphosis (Fall 2009), Manga Malech (Fall 2010), and Manga Messengers (Fall 2011). I love the crazy titles on those (they sure love alliteration), and while they could turn out to be stodgy and boring, I'm hoping for something along the lines of the oft-celebrated (on the comics internet, anyway) Spire Christian Comics. That would be awesome.
  • I tried to keep my personal views out of the matter, but I should mention that I'm a former Christian who grew up in a pretty fundamental family, and thus I've heard and read these stories many, many times. I was struck by a weird vibe to the material, as if the creators were trying to reconcile any differences or contradictions between the four gospels. Also, they walk kind of a fine line between including some of the odder elements of the story (there's lots of demon possession, for instance) and smoothing them out to make it more acceptable in modern times (dialogue is written in a fairly contemporary style). I don't know if this sort of thing will put off anybody else (whether Christian or not), but it seemed kind of strange to me, in a way that I'm finding hard to articulate.
  • The pictures in the review came out strange; I think the guys at MangaLife resize them to a lower resolution, so they don't look very good. So, if anyone wants to see better-quality versions, I've put them up on Flickr.
  • And speaking of MangaLife, they asked me to give a letter grade to the book reflecting what the intended audience might thing. I'm not too sure of the value of such a grade (I review judge works by what I thought, not by what I imagine someone else might think), but I acquiesced and said B+. Unfortunately, they put that right at the top of the review, like that was my official score. I'm not too fond of letter grades (or stars, or numerical scores, or whatever), but that doesn't really reflect the review; by my opinion of the work, I gave it a C. So that's the real grade, for anybody who cares besides me.
And I think that's enough blabbering from me about this subject. Check out the review, if you haven't already, and I suppose you could check out the book if you want, but unless you're Christian or really curious about manga in color, it's probably not worth your while.

By the way, you might have noticed this already, but I've decided to start going by my full name in order to better distinguish myself from Newsarama's Matt Brady. So it's Matthew J. Brady from now on. Ha!


  1. Call me nitpicky, but as a Christian I had to respond to the "contradictions between the gospels" remark.

    Would you expect a doctor and a fisherman to give the same account of a traffic accident?

    The four gospels are four different accounts given by four different people from four different perspectives on one single man. Some events were recorded, some left out, according to what details each author thought most important. In some incidences, they were recording events they themselves witnessed; in others, events as they were retold to them later--- with a consequent lack of certain details. . For instance, Luke's recounting of the crucifixion is also the most detailed... unsurprising as he was a doctor. The other writers left out details he scrutinized.... and the story of the resurrection, one author recounts that the women saw two angels, while another merely annotates what was said to them by the angel that spoke, with no mention of the second. Error? No, merely omission. On the crucial details the four Gospels dovetail.

    If this were presented as a criminal case, any judge and jury would recognize that these are four corroborating accounts of events as they occurred, and that the relatively minor discrepancies were matters of the writers' stylistic quirks, limited space for recounting, and particular perspective on the issues.

    But those who would reject the bible are wont to "strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel..."

  2. Ralph,

    Coming at the Gospels as a guy who spends way too much time on line complaining about superhero comics, one could say that the Gospel of John has some continuity errors that fail to synch up with the others (mostly time line stuff).

    I agree they're mostly point-of-view differences, but John covers a three-year long career, while the other three cover a one-year long career.

    They synch up way better than John Byrne's Superman run and SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT though.

    But really I just wanted to log in to say that I don't like Jesus' manga beard. Jesus, being the son of God, should be able to have a moustache that meets in the middle.