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Christian Comics Pioneers


Madoka Mako (Japan)

Madoka-San was born Misuzu Kato in the 1950s. She took the pen-name "Madoka Mako" (or "Mako Madoka" in the Japanese order) when she began her professional career in comics and illustration.

As a child she was very interested in, and influenced by, the humorous manga comics style of Osamu Tezuka (creator of Astro Boy). She believed in Jesus at the age of ten and decided then that she wanted to make comic book versions of movies such as "The Ten Commandments" and "Ben Hur." However, she knew, even as a child, that the light-hearted and gag-oriented manga style she enjoyed and practised was not adequate to illustrate such epic stories.

When she was 15 years old, Madoka-San discovered gekiga, a very realistic and serious form of Japanese comics, both artistically and in storytelling style. She has said that when she saw it she knew, "This is it!" In those days the gekiga style was not fully developed, and she dreamed about the different kinds of gekiga style that she would like to do. However by the time she started working as an assistant of an established secular gekiga artist, gekiga had established a bad reputation, known for its emphasis on themes such as sex, violence and gambling. Police departments were even checking gekiga books to stop the more extreme ones from being produced and distributed.

She felt that one of the good points about gekiga was that it influenced Japanese girl's (sho-jyo) comics, and manga, and expanded the possibilities of developing comic book styles. After a while there was no border between gekiga and manga, and Madoka-San was able to do the kind of comics she had always dreamed of doing.

However she found that many Christians were not in favour of her manga. In the early 1970s she was "chased away from a church" because of the comics she was producing. She says that a man in the church once shouted at her, "No way that you can draw Christianity with manga!" She did not have any place to work and supported herself with other part time jobs. In her spare time, Madoka-San continued to make gekiga Christian tracts of sixteen to thirty two pages. Then one day, she received a letter which reported that seven people were saved through her gekiga tracts in a single day, which greatly encouraged her.

"A comic tract is good for attracting people's interest to read," she has written. "If it is not in comic form, people would not read it and would just throw it away."

In the beginning of the 1990s, Madoka-San produced a series of 3 black & white personal testimony comics for by Sinsei Undou/New Life League. These were entitled "Heaven's Newscaster" ("Tengoku No Nyuusukyasuta" - Testimony of Yamakawa Chiaki), "A Wonderful Life" ("Subarashiki Jinsei" - Testimony of Yoneko Tahara) and "Touched by the Light" ("Hikari Nifurerarete" - Testimony of Morofuji Kenji), all shown here.

Around this same time she drew "Glory to Jesus," a rock comic about the music group EIKO-GO/Electric Church (shown below, right).

Madoka-San drew a number of manga tracts for ICM Press (International Chapel Ministries) in Ikoma, including the popular "Grandma" tract (shown here at left with the green cover), "My Life," and (in 1996) a two-color manga tract, "True Love Waits" (shown below, at right, with the red/pink cover) which was created to teach young girls about how wrong prostitution is. Madoka-San explained her reasons for producing such a tract: "There are young girls who prostitute themselves just to get expensive clothes and bags. They are not involved in prostitution to make a living, but to purchase luxury items. I drew this comic for these girls to read. The 'heroines' are two high school girls. I inserted lots of gags, but brought a very serious message at the end. In this story, there is a woman who is older than these high school kids, and who had a similar experience (of prostitution). She explained the reasons why prostitution, or sex outside marriage, is wrong. She also told them what the Bible teaches about it." Over 50,000 copies of this booklet were printed and the majority of the print-run was distributed. "There are two college students who came to the church through that tract. One missionary distributed those tracts to students in the school for stewardesses, and many responded," she added.

Madoka-San has drawn other gekiga books including "Sito no hataraki" ("Acts"), shown here, below left. "These are answers from God to my prayers," she said.

While Madoka-San has produced comics and tracts for both male and female readers, a number of them seem to have been created especially for women and girls. "Normally, these are called 'ladies comic' and 'sho-jyo (girls) comic'," she explained. "These are different from boys' comics in that the main theme is to depict the details of emotions and feelings. The artists design the layout creatively to exhibit the feelings of the characters. Some artists make effective use of blank or white space." One of these tracts was about a lady who was involved with fortune-telling, based on a true story. "She suffered with problems caused by occult activities, but she was set free by Jesus Christ," said Madoka-San. "This booklet had quite an influence on many people. Even today, there are many people, especially women, who seek fortune-tellers for guidance, who are attracted to occult. Nobody teaches them that it's dangerous, and people accept them without any question. Thus there are many problems because of the occult and fortune-telling. We need comic tracts to help people avoid these dangers. This necessity is growing more and more."

She went on to say, "Currently there are many manga about sex, violence, gambling, occult and the 'New Age.' Especially in animation and video games, the occult is a very popular theme. If children read those occult comics too much, it affects their minds. If those children grow up and become Christians, and draw Christian comics, those comics might be horrible and dangerous. In manga, the artist's thoughts and spirituality are exhibited clearly. If you are a Christian, and want to draw Christian comics, you may need to purify yourself from the influence of those evil comics before starting anything else. Anyone who is considering drawing manga, please pray to God first. That is the most important step. As you start with prayer, I believe that God will bless your work."

Among her other work, Madoka-San has painted a number of Christian children's books (one example shown at left), drawn for Word of Life Press publications, and rendered over 500 comics-style illustrations for a CD of full color, bilingual overhead projection (OHP) sermon presentations (as shown at right) produced by Kenny Joseph of R.E.A.P. Mission.

She has also illustrated kami-sibai pictures for Sunday school materials. (Madoka-San explains, "After World War II, there was not much entertainment in Japan. Children enjoyed Kami-Sibai or 'picture-story card' shows. Japanese kami-sibai were read by a storyteller. He had a series of illustrations of a story prepared as big 'flash cards,' and the cards were put in a wooden box. The storyteller was like an orator of silent films... but he is able to receive response from the children, which has different effect from TV, which is simply one way communication. Sometimes it is hard for Japanese children to understand the Bible stories that are originally published in the States. Since most of Japanese children have very little background knowledge about the Bible, extra help from the pictures is often needed.")

At one time Madoka-San was known as the most prominent Christian manga artist in Japan. Now (as happens so often with many long-established comics artists and cartoonists) publishers and readers have begun to consider her style as having gone out of fashion. In addition, her latest book "The History of Japanese Christianity" (June 2000), shown at left, has been very controversial among evangelicals in her country.

Madoka-San continues to operate her illustration studio "Madoka Creation" (her logo is shown at top by her name) in the greater Tokyo area.

(Japanese translation assistance for this biography was provided by Nanami Minami - Domo arigatou gozaimasu, Nanami-San!)

Return to the Main PIONEERS Page
Other CHRISTIAN COMICS & CARTOONING PIONEERS (Late 1800s -1950s/60s)

Other CHRISTIAN COMICS & CARTOONING PIONEERS (1960s-1990)


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