With Shinozawa-sensei’s particular style of shonen artwork and her lighthearted portrayal of the disciples, Manga Messiah**spoiler alert** 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.
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.
Manga Metamorphosis is fun and lively yet stays true to the original Book of Acts text. Shinozawa-sensei’s shonen illustra**spoiler alert** In Summary
Manga Metamorphosis is fun and lively yet stays true to the original Book of Acts text. Shinozawa-sensei’s shonen illustrations and humorous storytelling style are a good complement to the wild adventures of Yeshua’s followers after his ascension. While it looks like it was written for a juvenile audience, it’s still a good resource for anyone wanting a quick overview on the history and leaders of the early church.
Chronologically speaking, Manga Metamorphosis is the last in NEXT’s Bible series, and in my opinion, it’s the best executed. This is for two reasons. First, except for a brief prologue, it sticks to a single book, the Book of Acts. Second, this particular book lends itself well to Shinozawa-sensei’s shonen style artwork. Between the actions of God, angels, demons, Yeshuah’s followers, the religious establishment, and missions trips all over the Roman world, there’s plenty of action going on.
Shinozawa-sensei does well with the dramatic parts. James’ martyrdom is especially moving. She does even better with scenes that lend themselves to humor. One of the best examples is Peter’s escape from prison, where an angel punches him awake and Rhoda’s comic excitement gets elevated by hilarious misunderstanding from the other disciples. All in all, it’s an entertaining and quick read that stays true to original and inserts just enough historical information to orient a modern audience.
While Metamorphosis is basically a manga retelling of the Book of Acts, it does include Paul’s letters to four communities (Philippians, Corinthians, Ephesians, and Romans). What the creators did was create manga mini-synopses of these letters featuring a cute chibi-Paul. These synopses are one to three pages and inserted after the communities to which they were addressed get introduced. They don’t delve into every theological detail of these letters, but they do offer the highlights in a way anyone can understand.
A map, chronology, and character profiles are included in the back as extras.
Hasekura-sensei brings the Kerube’s power struggle to its dramatic conclusion. The search for the ancient wolf bones fades**spoiler alert** In Summary
Hasekura-sensei brings the Kerube’s power struggle to its dramatic conclusion. The search for the ancient wolf bones fades to the background as Lawrence finds himself caught between the schemes of Eve and Kieman. Unfortunately, these masterminds are so crafty that their plans are difficult to follow. Spice and Wolf Volume 9 is a dense read for a light novel, but if you make it to the end, you’ll be gratified by a conclusion that sheds light on the events of three earlier volumes.
Volume 9 is billed as the second part of a two-part story, but it is actually the culmination of events laid out in Volumes 5, 6, and 8. So if you aren’t familiar with those previous three installments, you’ll get lost in Volume 9 fast. Even if you have read them, the content of this volume is rather daunting. Volume 8 laid the groundwork for a massive conflict over a rare narwhal, and in Volume 9, that battle plays out with schemers wheeling and dealing in the shadows, plotting double-, triple-, and quadruple-crossings.
While the conflict is interesting, it is so complex that it bogs the pace of the story. Hasekura-sensei sets Lawrence up as a small fry trying to maneuver among the sharks of Eve and his guild leader Kieman. The plot requires an understanding of the power struggle over the narwhal, then the backroom deal Eve and Kieman are trying to broker, then the different ways everyone’s trying to swindle one another, and finally, the great ploy that upsets everything. Because the story unfolds through Lawrence’s eyes, the information we get is limited and mixed up with Lawrence’s conjecture and confusion. There were several passages I had to reread to understand what was going on. Hasekura-sensei’s underuse of dialogue tags in group scenes didn’t help. (Interestingly, one of the color illustrations attributes a quote to Col that actually belongs to Lawrence.)
However, if you’re willing to stick through the story’s sometimes tedious twists and turns, you’ll be rewarded by a brilliant and very clearly explained conclusion that also solves the mystery of the coin puzzle introduced in Volume 6. On top of that, poor Lawrence, who’s tossed around like a pawn throughout the majority of this arc, gets his hero moment.
Though Eve, Kieman, and the narwhal dominate in the battle within Kerube, we do get a couple character building moments with Holo and Col. As it turns out, Holo’s not unfamiliar with the narwhal, and her connection to the creature reputed to bring immortality sheds light on how she regards her traveling companions. And a conversation away from Holo shows how a child raised in the pagan mountains views a journey with a wisewolf.
This light novel includes the title page, three two-page spreads, and the table of contents printed in color as well as eight black-and-white illustrations, a summary of Town of Strife I, and a world map.
The economics aspect has been lacking in this series’ last few volumes, but it returns with our trio’s journey to Winfiel,**spoiler alert** In Summary
The economics aspect has been lacking in this series’ last few volumes, but it returns with our trio’s journey to Winfiel, a kingdom whose trade policies have caused the value of its currency to plummet. Add in a medieval-type conglomerate, a couple of uncharacteristically vulnerable moments on the part of both Holo and Lawrence, and an encounter with a supernatural sheep, and we have a truly engaging installment of Spice and Wolf.
Lawrence and Holo have made some detours on their journey to Yoitsu, but now they head entirely in the opposite direction, leaving the mainland to journey west across the sea to Winfiel. However, they’ve reason enough to go so far out of their way; according to Eve, the wolf bones they’ve heard rumors of are at the island kingdom’s great Abbey of Brondel. They go hoping to forge a way into the abbey using letters from Eve and Kieman. What they find is a stalemate between the local church authorities and the Ruvik Alliance, an economic force so powerful it makes the players in Kerube look like gnats.
Although the Rubik Alliance is larger than anything yet encountered in the series (with the exception of the Church), the source of tension is much easier to understand than the Kerube crisis. The root of the problem is a national trade imbalance. Simply put, the kingdom of Winfiel has been importing more than it is exporting, and Hasekura-sensei injects a bit of the economic bent that has been lacking from the series as of late. But after a brief lesson on the effects of a devalued currency, we launch into the consequences: a religious institution on the brink of financial ruin and a foreign conglomerate itching to gobble up the assets. Unlike the crises in Kerube and Lenos, this is a dilemma that truly has nothing to do with Holo and Lawrence, one they can easily walk away from. The only reason they get involved has nothing to do with money and everything to do with sentiment.
It’s been a while since Lawrence and Holo encountered another creature akin to Holo. What makes the great sheep of Brondel really interesting is that he is senior to Holo. Generally speaking, Holo’s the oldest and wisest person around, thus she always gets the last word. So it’s fun to see someone talking down to her. In addition, he is in a sense a glimpse into Holo’s future. While she is unsure whether her homeland still exists, the sheep lost his home centuries ago to the Moon-Hunting Bear and has had to create a new home and means of survival. It hasn’t been an easy path, and readers will hardly blame Holo for losing control when she learns how the sheep’s altered his diet.
The great sheep also calls out Lawrence and Holo’s relationship for what it is, which is nice because Holo is always so quick to belittle her traveling companion. Lawrence, for his part, is unusually candid about his feelings in this volume. Once it’s because of alcohol, and the second time is because conversing with the much younger Col forces him to be more direct with his speech than he normally is. In any case, these scenes are likely to delight Holo/Lawrence fans.
Sadly, there’s one moment between our odd couple that Hasekura-sensei makes as maddeningly vague as Lawrence’s parting scene with Eve in the previous volume. Perhaps he is leaving those details up to his readers’ imagination, but there are several other scenes, such as Lawrence’s conversation with Piasky, where dialogue tags and descriptions are sorely lacking. It’s unclear whether that failing is inherent in the original text or a translation shortcoming, but I also caught a number of typos including a misspelling of Lag Piasky’s name in an illustration caption.
This light novel includes the title page, three two-page spreads, and the table of contents printed in color as well as eight black-and-white illustrations, and a world map.
Although it doesn’t cover every single detail of the ancient texts, Manga Mutiny provides an excellent overview of the fir**spoiler alert** In Summary
Although it doesn’t cover every single detail of the ancient texts, Manga Mutiny provides an excellent overview of the first two books of the Bible. Azumi-sensei’s depictions of people, architecture, and clothing are probably more artistic interpretation than archaeologically/historically accurate, but her narrative makes characters relatable while sticking closely to the original story. It’s an excellent resource for teen readers who prefer graphics to text or older readers wanting a quick overview of the Bible.
To those new to manga, please note, just because Manga Mutiny contains both Bible stories and pictures doesn’t mean it’s meant for little kids. This is because the Bible is NOT rated G. It contains fratricide, incest, and assault, and that’s just the first book. While children’s Sunday school material may skip over this less savory material, Manga Mutiny does not. Azumi-sensei says she tends to be drawn more toward the weaknesses in her characters than their heroic qualities so we see a cowardly Abraham telling the Pharaoh that his wife is his (unmarried) sister and a less than heroic Lot offering to throw his two daughters to an angry mob. Azumi-sensei doesn’t glorify these aspects of the Bible, but they’re not censored out. So keep that in mind before you pass Manga Mutiny to a seven-year-old.
As mentioned before, this is the first in a five-part series, and Manga Mutiny covers the events from Genesis to Exodus. Interestingly, Azumi-sensei doesn’t begin with the creation of the universe, but with Lucifer’s rebellion against God. What that does is place the human story in the context of a greater cosmic struggle so each episode is part of an interconnected whole rather than a stand-alone story. When characters veer toward evil, Satan’s lurking in the background, and when redemption takes place, you see God’s agents at work.
Unlike most manga, this series is done entirely in color like most Western comics, but the artwork is standard shojo style. Azumi-sensei does a satisfactory job of making each member of the sizable cast distinct, but her artwork is probably not the most reliable resource if you wanted to know what the patriarchs actually looked and dressed like. Choices for hair/skin coloring and clothing seem more a function of artistic sense, and you know when you’re dealing with the divine because they have green or purple hair.
Regarding the dialogue, there’s no King James-speak here. In keeping with making this story accessible, characters use colloquial English. Children refer to parents as mom and dad, and people use terms like “okay” and “get lost.” Manga is dialogue-heavy, and there’s quite a bit of dialogue based upon but not actually in the Bible. However, each page includes a footnote referencing which books and verses each scene is drawn from. And to make clear when God is actually speaking, his speech is highlighted in color.
A map and family tree/character profile are included in the back as extras.