Manga Review: Manga Messiah

Merry Christmas to all! Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday! It just so happens my next manga review is Manga Messiah is the fourth in NEXT’s  Bible series, and I think it very appropriate to be putting it out on the day that celebrates Christ coming to Earth.

(For those interested in other volumes of the series, click here).

Back Cover Blurb

Manga Messiah tells the story of an unknown king who enters the world under the cover of night to begin a seemingly unimpressive work. He soon becomes one of the most powerful figures in the land; intensely hated by some and emphatically loved by others. His work is unlike that of any king before or after him. And his words, his strength, and his life are unlike any the world has ever known.

The Review

Manga Messiah is NEXT’s adaption of the Gospels of the New Testament. Those familiar with NEXT’s Old Testament manga adaptions will notice Manga Messiah differs somewhat. That is because an almost entirely different production team adapted the New Testament books.

The most obvious change is the artwork. Shinozawa-sensei uses more of a shonen style, with broader faces and bolder lines and colors. In addition, illustrations are geared for a younger audience. Exaggerated expressions and reactions are used for comic effect, and it’s very obvious from their ugly, menacing looks and twisted expressions who the bad guys are.

The storytelling style is also different. The script has a tendency towards info dumping, and while the dialogue does provide context for the events of the story, it frequently sounds unnatural. The translators also chose to use the names Yeshuah, Miryam, and Yosef instead of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. However, all the other characters have standard English spellings for their names (John, James, Peter, etc.), and they use “Mary” not “Miryam” for Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany so I’m baffled why they decided on Yeshuah, Miryam, and Yosef. As in Mutiny, Melech, and Messengers, references to original Bible passages are provided as footnotes on each page.

The manga is divided into three parts. The first covers Miryam’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel up to the calling of Yeshuah’s first disciples. The second part focuses on Yeshuah’s teachings and miracles up to the raising of Lazarus. The final third depicts the final days leading to Yeshuah’s betrayal and arrest, his passion, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Shinozawa-sensei provides backstory and sets the tone for scenes through Yeshuah’s disciples. There are twelve of them, but as in the original text, some get more airtime than others. The fishermen brother pairs Andrew/Peter and John/James interact the most with Yeshuah and provide the bulk of commentary. Still, Shinozawa-sensei does an excellent job of conveying all the disciples’ personalities, with the exception of Thaddaeus and James the son of Alphaeus.

The weakest parts of the manga are where there’s a lot of talking and not much action. The Sermon on the Mount reads like a bullet point list, and some of the verbal battles in Jerusalem also drag. One exception to that, however, is Yeshuah’s very moving monologue about the vine and branches against the backdrop of the Mount of Olives. Shinozawa-sensei does a better job with the parables, which are delivered in stand-alone format or inserted in the midst of a scene. The narrative is strongest when characters are interacting, whether Yeshuah’s hanging out with his disciples or performing a miracle.

Going into the final chapters, the lighthearted tone shifts to a much more serious one. While I believe Manga Messiah is appropriate for a fifth grader, crucifixion is brutal, and the images depict Yeshuah’s death as such. The book then concludes with a twelve page chapter on Yeshuah’s resurrection and ascension, which I felt was much too short. Then again, NEXT is probably counting on readers to continue the story in the following volume.

A map and character profiles are included in the back as extras.

In Summary

With Shinozawa-sensei’s particular style of shonen artwork and her lighthearted portrayal of the disciples, Manga Messiah is a bit like reading the Gospels from a children’s Bible. Still, it packs in many of the teachings and miracles of the Messiah Yeshuah. It also provides a good sense of the controversy surrounding him, why his disciples chose to follow him, and why his enemies hated him.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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