“Bible Manga,” a series of five books by Japanese artists, is reaching an international audience. Published by New Life League, Japan (NLLJ) the English version of "The Manga Messiah" is available now. The Japanese version will be published sometime in 2008.
BIBLE MANGA SITE
An interview with Roald Lidal, General Director of New Life League, Japan (NLLJ)
By Paul Nethercott
PN: Why "Bible Manga" and why now?
RL: The original vision for our manga project was to reach Japanese youth for Christ. This has since been expanded. Our goal now is to use the extremely popular Japanese manga genre to reach youth worldwide with the Gospel. Our plan is to publish five books in the Manga Bible series – three from the OT and two from the NT. We wanted to start with what we consider the most important part – the Gospel story so “Manga Messiah” is our first publication in the series. We believe young people today are open to questions about why they are here, what is the meaning of it all, and where they are going. The manga books give them the answers in a form they will read and understand.
PN: What do you mean by “youth?”
RL: The target audience is middle and high school students. However, we believe our manga books will be read by university students, by younger kids, and by their parents.
PN: How long have you been working on this project?
RL: We started working on this project over two years ago, and the English version of (the first book) “Manga Messiah” was completed a few months ago. The first 100,000 have been distributed in the Philippines. Translation is going on in at least 15 languages and more are being added. We are very excited over the tremendous response we are receiving and we are looking forward with great anticipation as to how the Lord will use this unique tool of evangelism.
PN: Is it correct that the original language is Japanese?
Yes, everything was first written in Japanese and then translated into English, which then became the base for all other languages.
PN: When will the Japanese version be published?
RL: The Japanese version of Manga Messiah will be out by late summer of 2007, and the next book from the NT as well as the first book from the OT by the beginning of 2008.
PN: Who are the artists, how did you find them?
RL: God led us to the artists through a series of events. Shinozawa San (main artist) became a Christian while attending art school in New York. She returned to Japan and didn’t want to continue drawing the kind of materials she had worked on as a non-Christian. That is when we heard of her and she was delighted to start working with us. In fact, she said it was an answer to prayer. Kumai San is a professional scriptwriter with whom we got in contact through a friend of a friend. Likewise, God really led us to the OT artist, Azumi San.
PN: What challenges are you facing?
RL: We face the issue of financial support for substantial development cost. Next, we have the challenge of biblical and historical accuracy, avoiding religiosity, and centering on THE STORY of the Bible. We desire to make an evangelistic tool, not simply to tell Bible stories. Since we are talking of worldwide distribution, we are facing numerous challenges, like which publishers to choose, translator issues, and cultural differences. Finally, we have the question of marketing to publishers, organizations, and readers.
PN: How do you plan to market/distribute NEXT in Japan?
RL: The marketing plan in Japan is still in the development stage. While we naturally want to sell the books through both Christian and mainstream channels, we are also working with mission and outreach organizations with the goal of them using the Bible-based manga books in their programs. In addition, we want to make use of the Internet and any possible channels (it provides) to get these books into the hands of young people.
PN: How about the response of mainstream Japanese youth, do you have any indication of how they receive Manga Messiah?
RL: We really don’t know at this stage what the response will be like in Japan. Japanese youth are naturally somewhat spoiled when it comes to manga, but we believe these books have great potential.
The English edition of “Manga Messiah” (retail price: ¥850) can be ordered directly from NLLJ. The price of the Japanese version is undecided, but NLLJ will be selling it in bulk for very close to the production cost.
New Life League, Japan
170 Kumai, Hatoyama Machi,
Saitama Ken 350-0397 Japan
Tel.: 049 296 0727
Fax: 049 296 6515
Web: New Life League Japan Home Page