'Manga Evangelism' Showing High Potential

Japan Christians exploring anime's potential for reaching youths worldwide
( [email protected] ) Dec 14, 2004 12:24 PM EST

Anime is now one of the hottest market items not just in Japan but also in places such as South East Asia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, North America, and Europe. Since then, popularity in anime has soared particularly amongst the youths in their respective regions.

In other words, the potential for reaching thousands if not millions of unreached youths all over the world has attracted the attention of many Christians to the possibility of extending the message of Christ through what the Harvest Time Ministry coins as “manga evangelism.” The word “manga” means Japanese comics, which has gained much popularity with the youths today. The potential in utilizing manga as an evangelism media tool has especially attracted the interests of Japanese evangelicals.

Kenichi Nakagawa, Director of Harvest Time Ministry, believes that there is indeed much untapped potential for manga evangelism that many Christian groups have yet to explore. Nonetheless, Nakagawa cited the darkness in anime particularly in mainstream manga, which is filled with adult content, violence, occult practices, New Age concepts, and even anti-Christian messages. Such a dark culture plays major influences in the minds of countless youths not only in Japan but also the world.

“From a strictly human standpoint,” he shared, “manga evangelism is very much like David going up against Goliath. Nevertheless, we just cannot afford to abandon Japan’s manga culture.” Due to the urgency of the situation, Nakagawa asked for Christians everywhere to pray for a new direction for manga culture. Only with prayers from Christians worldwide, will Christian culture change manga culture for the good.

Though manga evangelism seems like a recent concept, there have been instances where individuals have pioneered the concept since manga’s birth in 1950s Japan. Madoka Mako was one such pioneer.

Born under the name Misuzo Kato, she took up the pen name Madoko Mako to pursue a career in evangelizing through creating Christian manga. At the age of ten she had come to accept Christ as her savior and dreamed of becoming a great Christian comic-book artist. At the time, manga had been a newly pioneered comics style, and many early manga were dominated by light-hearted and slapstick content. However, Mako was seeking a more serious way to express the deep messages of the Bible through her comic strips. The opportunity present itself when manga took on a more serious tone in the 1970s. However, secularism soon dominated manga, prompting her to create her own line of Christian manga.

For all her diligence, Maduko soon encountered problems with her new line of work for God. She was “chased out of a church” when her church elders disapproved of her work. One church elder even said, “ [There is] no way you can draw Christianity with manga!” Unperturbed, Maduko left her church and her job, and began spending her time developing Christian manga while supporting herself with odd jobs on the side.

Eventually, her work became well respected within the Japanese Christian community. And Maduko quickly rose into one of the most prominent Christian manga artist in Japan, operating a studio under the name “Madoka Creation.” In recent times, however, popularity in her work has waned due to the introduction of more modern styles. Nonetheless, she still continues to do what she loves doing – spreading Christian value in the art she draws.