Title: Shuna’s Journey
Mangaka: Hayao Miyazaki
US Publisher: First Second
Status: Complete (Single Volume)
Age Relevance: Elementary and Up
How Essential Is It?: Must Have
Curricular Connections?: Folk Tales, Independent Reading
Reader’s Advisory Tags: Folk tale, Tibet, Studio Ghibli
Content Warnings: Slavery, some thematic violence.
From legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki comes Shuna’s Journey, a new manga classic about a prince on a quest for a golden grain that would save his land, never before published in English!
Shuna, the prince of a poor land, watches in despair as his people work themselves to death harvesting the little grain that grows there. And so, when a traveler presents him with a sample of seeds from a mysterious western land, he sets out to find the source of the golden grain, dreaming of a better life for his subjects.
It is not long before he meets a proud girl named Thea. After freeing her from captivity, he is pursued by her enemies, and while Thea escapes north, Shuna continues toward the west, finally reaching the Land of the God-Folk.
Will Shuna ever see Thea again? And will he make it back home from his quest for the golden grain?
Quite simply, Shuna’s Journey is a masterpiece by one of Japan’s greatest animators. This is a single volume manga illustrated with gorgeous watercolors, originally released in 1983. The story was eventually adapted into a radio drama in 1987. You can see the seeds of what would be Studio Ghibli’s great works, particularly Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind which would release in 1984 (the manga for Nausicaä ran from 1982 to 1994). There’s a fine connective thread here, and there’s a rich cinematic quality to this book.
The story is of a prince from a poor kingdom in search of a golden grain to save his people from starvation. Along the way, he meets and frees two girls from captivity, the elder of which will ultimately be his salvation.
This is a truly all-ages story- if you’ve seen a Ghibli film, you have a sense of the feel this book gives. It’s truly gorgeous, and will entice any anime lover to read, but also ultimately works as a picture book on its own.
As First Second’s break into manga, this is a way to come in with a bang- to enter the format with the work of one of the most famous names in Japanese animation is one of the most astonishing moves we’ve seen from a Western publisher. I’m curious to see what sort of relationships this opens up- Miyazaki is not the only animator to have made a book like this, and there are Ghibli adjacent books which have not been translated. If they stick this landing, things could get quite interesting.