Can one judge a book by its cover? An old saying and yeah we know that answer, but it’s worth stating. This time round I want to talk about not just any old book, but in fact one known as Superbook. Wait a minute I have heard of that book? It talks and tells stories and transports you into the stories like magic. And yes Superbook does have an alternate name that is more familiar to many of us, ever hear of The Bible? Many titles are often considered gateway drugs that got us into anime. For some of you, depending on your upbringing, Superbook may have been that very series. So where do we begin? Well, let’s start at the house down the street and around the corner!
Biblical tales have been represented many times in terms of presentation outside of The Bible itself. Live action movies and TV shows, books, brochures, games, various western animated titles and even… anime? Well why not, Japan has adapted almost everything into an animated product including The Bible. Now how did our example of Superbook come about? A joint production between Tatsunoko studios and the American Christian Broadcasting Network, Superbook would serve it’s function on both sides of the Pacific with respective dubs. In America, Superbook would be amongst the many other CBN programs in the lineup while in Japan it was CBN’s hope that this show would be an avenue of introducing the Christian faith towards the population.
Many of the familiar biblical names appear in Superbook: Jonah, Noah, Joshua… even Jesus. Yet I don’t recall Chris Peeper, his friend Joy and his crusader toy robot that comes to life, Gizmo (Gremlins influence?). Meet our trio of children who through the magic of Superbook get to transport back into time to actually live through The Bible. So that’s the excuse you two kids have for spending so much time in Chris’ bedroom? Hmm? Each episode introduces a new scenario and individual to highlight, mostly Old Testament stories in this batch of 26 episodes. Chris and Joy could have been ripped from one of Tatsunoko’s Time Bokan series, but the biblical characters more often than not end up looking different and often subpar. Maybe budget constraints or creative expression? I mean some of them look kind of funky. Besides that each episode is entertaining and usually has some merit of the dramatic. Just don’t forget to wind up the key in the back of Gizmo! Oh my spring.
Beyond your choice of faith, belief system, or non-belief in anything, The Bible may have something to teach you. I myself do not prescribe one particular faith, though I consult Buddhist, Native American and Ancient Greek wisdom often, I also find value in The Bible through esoteric and metaphorical meaning. After all these stories have been told numerous times under different names from various cultures in some form or another. Much like the Hero With a Thousand Faces, thank you Joseph Campbell, I find that The Bible does speak of universal and human truths that even though being thousands of years old, are still relevant in whatever fashion you deem to interpret. Superbook takes these usual narratives in a much more simplified approach as an anime for children and while there may be a little of the cheese factor, it’s kinda cute when you get into it.
Many titles are often credited as early attempts at bringing anime to the West before 1990. Speed Racer, Star Blazers, Battle of the Planets, Voltron and Robotech are a handful of usual suspects, but over there in the corner was Superbook as well. While this is “technically” a “Christian” series, it is also a fantasy story, an adventure, a fun and slightly cheesy cartoon, an anime. Why all the labels because of specific subject matter? Superbook is in my mind no different than say Ulysses 31, or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as examples in terms of adventure, fantasy and fun. Again why all the labels? All anime no matter your color, creed, belief or popularity status are welcome under this roof at my house. …which by the way is not so much down the street, or around the corner.