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Manga Bible series goes global


A Bible series in "manga", Japanese-style comic strips, has been used internationally to share the biblical story in recent years. Now, a distributor of its Japanese edition says it wishes to offer a series of the comics to Japan’s prime minister, Taro Aso, a Roman Catholic who loves manga.

Next Inc. says on it is Web site www.nextmanga.com it is a non-profit making corporation that has been "inspired by the tremendous potential for the use of manga as an evangelistic tool worldwide". The company describes its goal as being to reach the world’s youth and says it is seeking partners with organizations worldwide in this task.

"These manga books do not simply tell Bible stories but focus on the story of the Bible – God seeking to save the lost," Next explains.

Roald Lidal, general director of New Life League, a non-denominational publishing venture based in Kumai, Saitama, north of Tokyo, told Ecumenical News International, "It all started many years ago with a desire to reach out to Japanese." Lidal initiated the Manga Bible series and played a role in establishing Next in 2006, later becoming its president. "After years of planning, praying and considering many options we have ventured into undertaking the production of a five-volume, strictly Scripture-based manga Bible project," Lidal explained.

Originally published in Japanese and then translated into English, more than 1 million copies of its first volume, Manga Messiah, have now been printed in 9 languages. They include Tagalog, Indonesian, Norwegian, Danish, Portuguese, Spanish and French in addition to Japanese and English. It is planned to publish the Manga Messiah in a further 10 languages.

Lidal said that the Japanese word "manga" is used in the name of the series "to give an authentic Japanese image".

Next has contracted with professional Japanese artists who are Christians to write and draw for the project. The Manga Messiah was completed towards the end 2006, and is based on the four Gospels.

The second book, Manga Metamorphosis, which tells of the birth of the Church, based primarily on the book of Acts, was completed in Japanese in March, and in English in June. The first book from the Old Testament in the series, Manga Mutiny, inspired by the books of Genesis and Exodus, was also completed in Japanese recently.

Next says the largest distribution of "Manga Messiah" has been in Uganda where 497 000 copies have been sent. "Our partner in Uganda, the Church of Uganda, has requested 10 million copies of the 64-page evangelistic booklet," the company notes.

Lidal said, however, that the series is "not as hot an item in Japan as it is in other countries". He also said that there had been some negative reactions to the comic series from some older people who criticise manga as being "too cheap" to tell the Gospel.

(c) Ecumenical News International