The Journey of Shuna | A Miyazaki Masterclass

The Journey of Shuna 

Story and art by Hayao Miyazaki 

Published by Akita Shoten (1982)

Length: 1 Volume (6 Chapters)

The Journey of Shuna was a fun little dive into the creative beginnings of Hayao Miyazaki, the face of Japanese animation. His trademark watercolour artistry and eye for detail has led to the creation of a vibrant world, pulsating with life. Unfortunately, when paired with Miyazaki’s future works, it pales in comparison, and feels more like conceptualisation of later stories.

As the title suggests, this manga documents the adventure of a young man named Shuna, as he leaves his village in order to find resources to save it. Throughout his journey he encounters savages, slaves and incredible scenery.

Much like the Tibetan tale it was based off of, this piece is told like it’s a piece of folklore, as if it was being told at a campsite. A lone narrator describes the events of Shuna’s journey, with the protagonist rarely speaking himself. While there are no immediate references between the two, this manga felt more like a story one might hear being told in Miyazaki’s later works like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind as opposed to being its own seperate work. It also shares similar character designs, with Shuna sharing an uncanny resemblance to Ashitaka from Princes Mononoke, and another character resembling Nausicaa.

Unfortunately, its narration style only accentuates its linear qualities, as many events felt underwhelming due to how they were told. This piece’s main form of immersion comes through its art, which cannot be described as any less than phenomenal. Miyazaki’s paintings are renown for their world building, with environments feeling dense with life. Each creature Shuna encounters feels like something that is rich with history and mythology, not because of what the reader is told, but instead based on how they’re portrayed. 

A quick review for a very quick read, The Journey of Shuna serves as a behind the scenes for its creator’s illustrious career. Contained is his trademark style, artistry and world building, all wrapped up with an albeit shallow mythology. It’s worth reading based on its length and lineage, but don’t expect a tale as iconic as its brothers and sisters. 

Art – 10

Story – 7

Writing – 7

Overall – 7/10 

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