• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


    Saturday, February 15, 2020

    The Japanese Anime Bible Series
    Tezuka Osamu no Kyuuyaku Seisho Monogatari
    /In the Beginning (1993)

    Despite doing this for 20 years, somehow I'd been unaware of Tezuka Productions' animated Bible series In the Beginning only recently registered with me. The series is discussed in passing in Fumi Ogura and N. Frances Hioki's chapter on "Anime and the Bible" in "The Bible in Motion". I guess this is because there are so many hand-drawn animated series and so much else to write about I've never looked that closely.

    Anyway, the series was actually commissioned by Italian TV network RAI to be primarily marketed towards children. Whilst Osamu Tezuka, the "Father of Manga", was the creative genius behind the studio,1 the company's CEO at the time was Takayuki Matsutani who later recalled RAI's producer telling them "There are a few restrictions, but you are free to do what you want".2 However, later there were disagreements with the series' biblical advisers.

    The pilot, The Story of Noah, was finished around 1986 and although Tezuka continued to work on the other episodes, he died in 1989 and the series had to be completed without him. Director Dezaki Osamu is credited with the remaining episodes. Ogura & Hioki say that the series debuted on RAI in 1993, though various online sources cite 1997, including this one which also gives airing dates and a crew list. You can read what Ogura & Hioki say about it at Google Books and view all the entries on this convenient YouTube playlist.

    The full list of titles in this series is as follows:
    1 - The Creation
    2 - Cain and Abel
    3 - The Story of Noah
    4 - The Tower of Babel
    5 - Abraham, the Forefather
    6 - Sodom and Gomorrah
    7 - Isaac and Ishmael
    8 - Isaac's Destiny
    9 - Jacob's Children
    10 - Joseph's Triumph
    11 - Moses, The Egyptian
    12 - The Fire in the Desert
    13 - Moses and the Pharaoh
    14 - The Exodus
    15 - Laws Carved in Stone
    16 - Israel's Treachery
    17 - New Alliance
    18 - Jericho
    19 - One king for Israel
    20 - King Saul
    21 - King David
    22 - King Solomon
    23 - The Exile of Israel
    24 - Release from Bondage
    25 - Prophets in the Desert
    26 - The Birth of Jesus
    I'm going to watch some of these episodes and report back. Judging by the comments on YouTube they inspired a strong connection in some of those who watched them when they were young.

    Incidentally this webpage also mentions a Brasilian anime series called "Superbook".
    1 - Osamu Tezuka is perhaps best known for his 1965-66 anime Kimba the White Lion which seems to have formed some of the inspiration behind The Lion King (1995).
    2 - Ogura and Hioki give the following citation for this, but I've been unable to locate it - perhaps due to the anglicisation of the original Japanese title and my lack of Japanese:
    Matsutani, Takayuki. 1994. "Seisho terebi shirizu-ka ni atatte." in Tenchi Sōzō. Ed Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka Osamu no Kyūyaku Seisho Monogatari Series 1. Tokyo: Shūeisha. Pp 284-286.

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    • At 12:29 pm, February 18, 2020, Blogger angmc43@hotmail.com said…

      You may find difficulty in getting an uncut version. The Eden and Cain/Abel episodes were combined, and the US versions eventually deleted all subplot involving a fox named Loko (the edits are pretty awkward).

    • At 8:25 am, February 19, 2020, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Yes I suspected the versions on YouTube might be cut down somewhat. I've not had a chance to check my hunch, but I used to have a 45ish minute nativity "cartoon" which was done in an anime style and told the story from the perspective of the animals, so I suspect this was the full/a fuller version of "The Birth of Jesus" episode. Sadly the tape died...

    • At 5:07 am, February 27, 2020, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Great opening credits.

    • At 5:50 pm, February 28, 2020, Blogger Matt Page said…

      I've kind of seen them, but not properly watched them yet, if you know what I mean!


    • At 5:41 am, March 01, 2020, Blogger angmc43@hotmail.com said…

      There are two opening credits to my knowledge. The original intro was the creation sequence with credits to the tune of variation of the series' Flood Theme. The English Dub then changed the intro into this montage of series clips from Creation to Nativity to the tune of the Ending Song "Rainbow Blue" by Reimy Horikawa.

    • At 3:56 pm, April 11, 2020, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Thanks for that extra detail. Much appreciated.


    • At 9:30 am, July 09, 2020, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      The youtuber kid tv English has an uncensored English version with a different opening and ending, that keeps Loko the fox, and doesnt combine the Adam and Eve episode. I discovered it a few weeks ago. Check it out


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