Manga Monday: Shuna's Journey
This is technically not a manga and it's more of an illustrated story that's not exactly for children, but I'm going to put it under my Manga Monday category anyways. I found this book while I was wandering around Books-a-Million in Arkansas and when I saw "Miyazaki" on the book I knew I needed this so that I could read it and claim it as part of my Studhio Ghibli collection. Now, this book was made 2 years before Studhio Ghibli was founded and it came to be the only illustrated story that Miyazaki ever published. Without further-or-do, let's get into this beautifully tragic gem.
About the Author
Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese animator, director, producer, screenwriter, author, and manga artist. He is a co-founder of Studio Ghibli where he has attained international acclaim as a masterful storyteller and is widely regarded as one of the most accomplished filmmakers in the history of animation.
About the Book
Shuna's Journey is a one-volume watercolor-illustrated graphic novel written and illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki and published 15 June 1983. The story was adapted into a 60-minute radio drama which was broadcast in Japan, on NHK FM, on 2 May 1987. In February 2022, First Second Books announced that they licensed the title, and an English-language edition was released in the United States on November 1, 2022.
The story opens with Shuna, the prince of a small mountain valley undergoing famine. One day, an old dying traveler arrives carrying a bag of dead golden seeds. Before passing away, he tells Shuna how he was once a young prince in a similar position to him and how he began his quest for the living grain after encountering the previous owner of the seeds. The magnificent golden grain is said to have originated from a land in the west where the moon resides. He also explains that the grain can save his people from starvation. Shuna leaves, journeying to the west over harsh landscapes astride his elk-like mount, Yakkul.
While reading through Shuna's Journey, it definitely felt like I was reading and seeing the beginnings of Miyazaki's legacy. Not only do some of the characters/creatures go on to be part of future Ghibli movies, we see the art style and overarching tones seep through his pen onto paper before his words were put into animation. Shuna's journey honestly reminded me of some type of Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke mixture that's not exactly the same, but has the same underlying, and overlaying, messages.
Now like I said in the beginning, this isn't a traditional manga, it's more of an illustrated story, like a children's book but not quite so. This aspect helps set this story apart, espceially from other manga's on the shelf. The story in turn reads like a storyboard, with it's heavy narration lack, but not necessary dialouge. As you're reading, you can tell Miyazaki wanted to really elaborate on the story and start to show us just what he could do.
As with every other Ghibli story, this one was a dark one. I wasn't expecting how dark the story would turn out, but it's pretty sad and dreary and you kind of feel hopeless because our characters go through so much. Even with the doom and gloom, there's still some sun at the end of the story, which makes for a great balance.
As per usual Ghibli content, we do end up finding out that the story was loosely based off a traditional Tibetan tale of a prince who goes for some seeds and ends up turned into a dog for stealing them. Which I didn't happen in our story, or really anything about the tale, except for the seeds.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Shuna's Journey. It's a gem that I was happy to pay full price for and also glad that it was finally translated to English. If you're a Ghibli or Miyazaki fan, definitley pick this one up. Until next time, happy reading!
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