Edu-Manga: Mother Teresa

Yes, it’s true. Marvel’s not the only major comics company to make Catholic saint comics. Even more oddly, the Edu-Manga series is technically an Astroboy crossover. (Remember how they used to have educational comics introduced by Batman or Spidey? Like that, except that Astroboy and his friends are learning about Mother Teresa, Beethoven, Einstein, Helen Keller, and similar figures, from the wise old professor who built the boy robot. The same company is bringing out an adult bio-comic about the inventor of instant ramen.)

Astroboy aside, it’s a pretty straightforward biographical comic. Since it came out relatively recently, the comic is able to include some info about her mystical experiences. (Although you might want to explain to kids that the drifting angel feathers are artistic shorthand and not historically documented!) The comic also does a good job of explaining the Missionaries of Charity to kids and eliciting empathy for the poor, sick, and lonely. Dramatic moments in Mother Teresa’s story are brought out, and there’s unusual emphasis on her times of discernment. Very effective stuff, and one of the most beautiful educational comics I’ve ever seen.

However, it’s fairly obvious that either the Japanese writer or the American translator had problems explaining Catholicism accurately. There are no huge errors, but there is over- and under-explanation, as well as some oddities: St. Francis is called St. Francisco (direct translation from common Japanese usage, I think) in the explanation of his influence on her (which is practically a mini-Francis comic). It’s repeatedly said at one point that nuns can never see their families again. It’s explained that “Christians often pray and ask God which path to take.” One of the times when Teresa prays, she says to Mary, “Please grant my wish.” (I’m pretty sure that’s under-translating a formal Japanese expression.) At one point, a typo: “Let me ask pope about this matter.” The most serious translation problem: the description of the Missionaries of Charity’s training. Apparently, our American translator didn’t believe in looking up the words “novitiate” or “postulant”. Similarly, the sisters’ habit is described as including “a small cross called the rosary to wear on the left shoulder”. Heh.

One very nice thing about this manga is that it also talks about Mother Teresa’s experiences in Japan. I hadn’t heard these stories before. Another is that, at the end of the comic, there’s a fairly long prose Q&A section giving kids more info than could be included in the comic, and providing a review. There are a few illustrations included, one of which is an incredibly cute picture of a character putting up signs marked “Poverty”, “Chastity” and “Obedience”. (But the definition of Mass during this section is really unclueful, even though it starts very well.)

So basically, it’s good stuff, but Catholic kids will probably realize right away that there are some misunderstandings of Catholicism included.  I think parents could find this very valuable, as they can gently expose kids to the idea that not everybody understands this stuff without exposing the kids to anything hateful. You might ask kids to find and explain the mistakes, for instance.

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