If you are looking for decent Bible anime, then you are in luck. Because the 90s saw the best-animated Bible stories ever made! And below, we will dig into how this came into creation and why it is the best bible anime of all time.
In the Beginning: The Bible Stories was conceptualized by non-other than the legendary Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy) in a partnership with the Italian television network RAI. The biblical anime series was broadcast in the late 90s and to date, it remains the best anime adaptation of the bible in all creation.
In the Beginning
In 1984, the Italian government broadcast channel, Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI), reached out to Tezuka Productions on behalf of the Vatican to adapt the Bible into an animated series.
Believe it or not, this was not the first time the Bible was adapted into an anime series!
Prior to this, Tatsunoko Productions created Superbook and The Flying House. These shows aired on the Christian Broadcast Network in the United States between 1981 and 1983. They featured modern children who traveled back in time and relived the stories from the Old and New Testaments.
However, RAI and Tezuka Productions would take a much different approach to their adaptation of the Bible.
Osamu Tezuka’s Old Testament Stories
Osamu Tezuka accepted the request from RAI and worked out a deal where Tezuka Productions would adapt the stories of the Old Testament into an animated series. This adaptation would also be decidedly more mature and less kid-friendly than the two bible anime created by Tatsunoko Productions.
After securing the necessary funding, Tezuka started work on a pilot film based on the story of Noah’s Ark in 1987.
Tezuka would work on the film for two years, even animating some parts himself, before tragically succumbing to stomach cancer at the age of 60 in 1989. This left his pilot film unfinished and the future of the Bible anime in question.
Osamu Dezaki Picks up the Torch
After the passing of Tezuka, Osamu Dezaki would take over as director of the series.
Dezaki was one of the co-founders of the legendary Madhouse Studio. His other works include Tomorrow’s Joe, The Rose of Versailles, Space Adventure Cobra, Dear Brother, and Clannad.
Dezaki would continue Tezuka’s vision and complete the series.
With the intent of worldwide distribution and the partnership with RAI, this bible anime benefited from an animation budget that was 4 to 5 times the average at the time. And this generous budget explains the show’s cinematic feel. And the quality of the animation feels a step above most other offerings of the era.
Tezuka’s Bible Anime Releases Globally
It took several years to air Tezuka’s bible anime from the initial concept. This was largely due to funding and differing opinions on how the series would depict stories from the bible in a way that aligned with Catholic church doctrine.
The following is a rough timeline of the show’s international airing:
- 1992 – The show aired in Italy on the RAI network
- 1995 – The show was released on VHS in the United States with an English dub
- 1997 – A Japanese dub aired on the WOWOW Satellite Channel
- 1997 – The English dub aired on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN)
As you can imagine, the show was not exactly an international sensation. It enjoyed a quiet release with little fanfare and ultimately faded into obscurity. However, in retrospect, the show is significant as one of Osamu Tezuka’s final works, and you can count yourself lucky if you find a copy of the show in the wild.
The Anime Story of the Old Testament
In the Beginning: The Bible Stories covers the Old Testament from earth’s creation to the birth of Christ.
In between, the 26-episode animated bible series covers many of the most famous stories of the Old Testament. These stories include Noah’s Ark, The Tower of Babel, and Moses and the Pharoah.
The series has a decidedly serious tone to it with some mild comic relief in the form of a cartoonish fox who appears throughout the stories.
The show does not shy away from violence and mild nudity, which makes for a less kid-friendly bible series. However, it is still enjoyable for young adults and teens.
Where Can you Watch Tezuka’s Bible Anime?
At the time of this post, the show is only available on out-of-print VHS and DVDs. So finding the show in a physical format is not easy and may cost a pretty penny.
Fortunately, the show is available in its unedited form on the Studio 100 Junior YouTube channel. And we’ve conveniently embedded the first episode below for your viewing pleasure!