Manga Review: Manga Messengers

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 Messengers is the third 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 Messengers is a biblically accurate retelling of the prophets—the life of King David to the end of Malachi. These stories from the Bible are presented in the authentic Japanese Manga style. This 5th book of the series to release combines cutting-edge illustration with fast-paced storytelling to deliver biblical truths in a compelling package to an ever-changing, postmodern culture. Over 200,000 books sold in the series!

The Review

Manga Messengers is the third in NEXT’s Bible manga series. It picks up where Manga Melech left off, the naming of Solomon as David’s successor, and continues through to the very beginning of the New Testament. That is actually quite a bit of material, including the split of Solomon’s kingdom, the histories of Judah and Israel, their ultimate captivity by other nations, and the return of the exiles to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, it feels like Azumi-sensei bit off more than she could chew trying to cram everything into one volume.

The overarching narrative in the previous volumes was stronger because a particular family or individual provided a sense of continuity through events. The characters of Manga Messengers don’t offer that kind of continuity. It doesn’t help that the action constantly bounces between Israel and Judah in the middle third of the book. As such, the stories of the kings and prophets of the latter portion of the Old Testament come across as stand-alone anecdotes.

That’s not to say that the individual chapters aren’t well executed. Especially for the prophets, Azumi-sensei provides a sense of their backgrounds, the political climate, and the particular challenges they faced at the time of their ministries. I particularly like how she showed Hosea and Amos as contemporaries and the way she incorporated Jonah’s prayer into his chapter (the line about seaweed wrapped around his head never stood out to me before, but I won’t forget it now).

While the pacing might have been better had Manga Messengers been split into two volumes, it does wrap things up nicely in its closing chapter. It not only summarizes the Old Testament, it details major events that happened in the years between the Old and New Testament. Readers get a sense of the political and religious climate of Judea under Roman rule, which sets the stage well for the next volume of the series.

A map and simplified chronology of the age of the prophets are included in the back as extras.

In Summary

Azumi-sensei continues to offer engaging depictions of biblical events along with the historical commentary to comprehend them. However, so many individuals and stories get crammed into this volume that no one really stands out the way Moses or David do in the previous volumes. It’s a bit weak from a narrative standpoint, but the chapters still make good companion material for anyone studying the writings of the Old Testament prophets.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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