In case you don’t know, manga is basically the Japanese version of comic books. Actually they’re pretty much the same except you read manga differently and most of the time it uses a specific set of Japanese art styles.
I was curious (since it sounds really cool) and wondered if it could really live up to the hype. After all, could a single manga book really summarize the overall theme and plot of the Bible story?
I was pleasantly pleased, and now the Manga Bible is on my list of the best kids Bibles. But it’s not just for kids – it’s for all ages. It’s much like the Action Bible, which is basically a graphic novel. The main difference is the art style, and that the Manga Bible is in black and white.
The Manga Bible by Siku is a relatively short and easy read. After all, it’s not just scripture with illustrations – it pretty much reads like an actual manga book, except you don’t read it from back to front.
Even though it’s sort of a quick book, though, there is lots to talk about. I’m going to give my review and then I’d really like to hear from you in the comments. So let’s get talking!
About the Creator
The Manga Bible was written and illustrated by Ajibayo Akinsiku, known as Siku. He is a freelance creator who has contributed to similar projects such as Judge Dredd and it’s greater universe, 2000AD.
Siku’s official website titles him as a “narrative designer” and sports an impressive range of big-time clients from the BBC to Marvel and Sega. He appears to mostly do illustrations and graphic art, but also offers writing and music production services.
First Off: is it Biblical?
It’s always healthy to be skeptical when you’re examining an entertaining work like this one. Even more so when it’s done by just one or a few people. The Siku Manga Bible is very well made: it has beautiful artwork, a great design, and some really fun plot settings. But is it Biblical?
I’m only a wannabe Bible scholar so I can’t give you a verse-by-verse critique. I do like to think, though, I have an above average working knowledge of scripture and can discern truth from blasphemy pretty well. Before I get into Biblical comparison, though, let’s consider the statements of Siku:
“The manga Bible is an adaptation of the Holy Bible… It does not claim to tell all the stories or cover all the teaching of the Bible… the creators and publishers hope that the Manga Bible will inspire you to read more of the full-text Bible…
“there are plenty of study Bibles and commentaries that help explain some of the more difficult passages… If you want to know more about the story you have just read, look up the reference in a full-text Bible and read the ‘official’ version there.”
I truly appreciate the honesty of the publishers here. These “references” mentioned are noticeable annotations on the sides and bottoms of pages reading “want to know more?” There is no claim here that the creators of this Manga Bible are authoritative or theologically thorough.
So right off we have a publishing note that says “read this first” noting that the team wants this book to be a creative expression of and an introduction to the real Bible and nothing more. That alone helps me to dismiss any minor issues I have with the manga itself.
Those minor issues I will explain later along with my evaluation of accuracy. But first: the pros!
I think that the Manga Bible by Siku is an excellent, underrated, and underutilized book. It’s also practically underground. I think it has a real ability to open up the character of ancient near-eastern cultures and help us to better understand them. It does this by comparing Bible passages to contemporary fantasy in a realistic and reconcilable way.
To the Bible reader who is not a beginner it relights a flame of interest and passion in the scriptures and inspires deeper study and understanding. I found myself excitedly researching and reading scripture like I had never done before, and being all the better off because of it!
The world of the Bible is truly a different one than ours, but the Manga Bible brings the people of scripture to life with real, relatable humanity. It shows that the setting is more than just desert and temples. Most importantly, it outlines the same narrative and redemptive timeline of salvation that the Bible is all about.
This book takes real historical narratives and turns them into compelling drama and thrilling action. All without compromising the message of the word or butchering historical accuracy. The supernatural miracles that occur bring mystery and wonder you would find similar to magic in a fantasy novel. And yet all of these miracles and happenings are appropriately attributed to the Lord and his power.
Not even the portrayal of Jesus was disappointing. He wasn’t white, he wasn’t arrogant, and he wasn’t too human. He remained the humble and intimate yet powerful and mysterious man we see in scripture. He was a heroic badass without being showy or flashy. He was frail and vulnerable without being whiny. He was shown truly as the perfect man, the Son of God.
My Main Minor Bothers
That being said, there are a few things I find off-putting in some of the dialogue and story organization. There is some decent and lighthearted humor which I assume is intended to keep the reader interested, much of which is welcome due to how dry many readers find certain passages.
Some of this humor, although not necessarily crass nor sacrilegious in my eyes, sometimes seems to be uncalled for or out of place. Again, I realize and even approve of the purpose for the humor. It’s just that there are a few times I feel it could have been done in a better way. That’s all.
Another minor issue I found is the occasionally disheveled way in which some of the stories are given. Though most of the major plot points are appropriately set, there are a few which I feel could have been captured better with extra context.
Though these adaptions are highly abbreviated, sometimes it would have only required an extra bubble or two of text to give a little more background.
I think some of this is just me being picky, but I also think there were some important stories left out while others less pivotal were adapted. That’s less an issue with the publication as a whole however and more of an opinion on my part. These are just passing comments. I’m not really peeved by any of this and I don’t think the average reader would be either.
Is the Manga Bible for Kids?
Well, that’s a good question. After all, is the Bible for kids? It really depends on the age. The Manga Bible is NOT for toddlers and first-graders. Would you read the unabridged story of Samson to a kindergarten class? I certainly hope not.
I must again state this is an adaptation of the actual Bible. It’s not been changed to be child appropriate (think Veggie Tales) so much as it is a visual display of what we read in scripture (think Passion of the Christ.)
There is a good amount of blood, violence, minor sexual references, and a couple of (non-pornographic) depictions of nakedness. I would say this is okay for pre-teens and maybe middle schoolers, but whether it’s appropriate depends more on mental maturity than age.
I personally bought an extra copy and gave to my sister who was 11 years old at the time. However, her mental acuity is above average for her age and I knew it wouldn’t disturb or confuse her. Ultimately you will need to skim this book yourself (it’s a fairly quick read) and decide on your own if you are comfortable with your children reading it.
Theological and Historical Accuracy
Theologically speaking I found the Manga Bible to be free of heresy. There are spots here and there I feel missed the point, but I also don’t think it’s necessarily the responsibility of the writer or artist to preach the point. They are simply re-telling the story in a different format, and they have done it well.
As far as accuracy, well, there aren’t a lot of discrepancies that I would say cause big problems. Anything that didn’t line up or is out of place is done so likely out of the need for brevity in the single-issue manga format. There aren’t any monolithic screw ups that ruin the story. This isn’t one of those adaptations that took an arrogant amount of “artistic license.”
I’m sure any pastor or Bible teacher could go through this book with a fine-tooth comb and find errors. Again, I would refer them to the disclaimer at the front of the book I quoted above. I feel that any minor errors can be dismissed since the purpose of this publication is obviously not for teaching or study but rather for entertainment and inspiration for study.
Tip: I use my personal favorite study Bible along with tools
like the manga Bible to liven my understanding of scripture
Is it a Real Manga?
I’ve saved the least important issue for last. Some real otaku-type superfans of Japanese media might be critical or dismissive of this work because of a supposed lack of authenticity in origin and style. After all it isn’t actually Japanese in origin but English. It also doesn’t read right-to-left like a traditional manga but left-to-right like a western comic book.
If this is you then I’d ask what manga truly is. Is it defined by origin or style? If you’re concerned about it being truly Japanese, let me remind you that even the English versions of Japanese manga are republished in the US and elsewhere.
But I digress. I feel that the artist was true to the Japanese art style. He actually uses a few different styles are various places to draw emphasis on certain themes. The emulation was skillfully achieved!
Overall the Manga Bible by Siku comes highly recommended from me as a resource of engagement for kids or entertainment and inspiration and illustration for avid Bible readers. I really enjoyed reading it and I think anyone into manga, comics, or graphic novels would too.
How did you like my review of the anime Bible? I mean… manga Bible! Have you read it or a similar work? Do these types of things interest you?
Let me know in the comment section below!
Thanks for reading!