In the J-drama Dragon Zakura, the protagonist uses unconventional methods to help the school’s worst students get into prestigious Tokyo University. And his approach for the history portion? Historical manga! And why not? As exciting as a past event might be, if it’s presented as a lengthy wall of text, some may get intimidated and give up reading even before they start. The beauty of manga is that it can offer access to that same information in a way that’s entertaining and more likely to stick with the reader.
I have a feeling that’s why NEXT put out its five volume series. While the Bible is an amazing piece of literature with truly epic moments, it’s up there when it comes to dense text. Manga Melech is the second in NEXT’s series, and you can read on for the review. (For those interested in other volumes of the series, click here).
Back Cover Blurb
Manga Melech is a Biblically accurate Manga retelling of Bible stories beginning with entry into the Promised Land through the rule of King David. This book, fourth in the Tyndale Manga line, combines cutting-edge authentic Japanese Manga style with fast-paced storytelling to deliver Biblical truths in a compelling package to an ever changing, post-modern culture. Nearly 200,000 books sold in series!
Manga Melech is the second in NEXT’s Bible manga series. While it’s not necessary to have read the first volume (Manga Mutiny), it does help in recognizing the characters. Manga Melech picks up where Manga Mutiny left off, the aftermath of the parting of the Red Sea. There are a lot of laws and regulations in this segment of the Bible, but Manga Melech focuses mainly on people, battles, and other historical events. However, the giving of the Ten Commandments gets its own scene, and a couple other major commands get woven into the dialogue.
After the exhilaration of escaping Egypt, things quickly go south for the Israelites as hardship spurs continuous complaining, occasionally bubbling up to rebellion. Moses, Miriam, and Aaron are put to the test as the community’s leaders, and I like how Azumi-sensei shows how their resolve weakens before they fail and the way the camp’s discontent creates tension between the siblings. But while the time of Moses is marked by internal strife, his successor Joshua’s is marked by unity and obedience, which the Israelites sorely need as they fight their way into the promised land.
The adventures of Moses and Joshua comprise the first quarter of the book. The period of the Israelite judges takes up the second quarter of the book, specifically the stories of Deborah, Gideon, Samson, and Ruth. While “The Song of Deborah” is an inspirational chapter, especially with its female characters, the players are a bit two-dimensional. Gideon, however, is the consummate reluctant hero, quaking in his sandals every step of the way to heroism. Azumi-sensei seems to have a lot of fun with the Samson chapter. Everyone knows the story of him and Delilah, but this chapter also includes the details of his ill-fated first marriage, the stuff that makes you scratch your head and wonder how he could be a leader appointed by God. (The illustration of him and the foxes on fire is pretty funny.) And nestled among the tales of warriors and battles is Ruth’s story of providence, acceptance, and love.
The final half of the book goes to the establishment of the Israelite kings, starting with King Saul and ending with King David naming Solomon as his successor. David’s life was intimately connected to Saul’s family. He served Saul, was best friend to Saul’s son Jonathan, and married Saul’s daughter Michal. All the relationships get strained when Saul decides to hunt David down, and Azumi-sensei does an excellent job of showing how everyone’s choices continue to impact David (and Michal) years after Saul and Jonathan are killed. Speaking of family conflict, David had his fair share as a result of his adultery with Bathsheba, and Azumi-sensei makes clear the connection between that personal sin to the tragedy that results within his family and nation decades later.
In addition to being a warrior and king, David was a musician. In fact, our first glimpse of David is of him playing the harp while watching his father’s sheep. The harp shows up over and over again in his life, and a couple of his Psalms get woven into the narrative to reflect his mood at different points of his life. In doing so, readers get a taste of the Book of Psalms as well as an understanding of the circumstances that inspired David’s poetry.
A map and family tree/character profile are included in the back as extras.
Manga Melech includes two of the biggest names in the Bible: Moses and David. But though they and the other prophets and warriors of their time were heroes, they weren’t without their flaws. Azumi-sensei paints a very human portrait of the men and women God chose to do his work, showing their highs and inglorious lows in the early days of the nation of Israel.
First published at the Fandom Post.