After years of having the book on my shelf (and having a scanlation on my hard-drive), I finally read Hayao Miyazaki’s Shuna no tabi (Shuna’s Journey).
It is the tale of a the prince of a small impoverished country. One day a traveller appears, and, dying, tells the story of a rich grain that grows in a land far to the West. In the weeks that follow, Shuna can think of nothing else but finding this grain and returning with it to benefit his people.
As Shuna travels west, he encounters different people in a desperate world — full of slave-traders and cannibals.
Shuna encounters a proud slave-girl, and cannot bear to see her enslaved. He frees her and her sister, they flee, parting company at the border to the land of the gods, with a promise to meet again in the North.
Shuna climbs down into the “land of the gods”, and steals the grain, fleeing in desperation, forced to abandon both his gun and his knife. He wanders in the wilderness, until Yakkul catches his scent on the wind, and rushes off with Thea to find him, mute, and mad.
It is a fine, melancholy story, inspired by a Tibetan folk-tale. This picture-book format is a good one for Miyazaki. It’s something of a shame that he hasn’t used it more.
The book was written in the early 80s — around the same time as Miyazaki was starting work on Nausicaa. You can see echoes of Nausicaa in the landscapes and costumes, but you’ll also see echos of Shuna in many of Studio Ghibli’s works — images from this book could have been used to storyboard bits of both Princess Mononoke and Wizard of Earthsea.
With ISBN-10: 4196695108 or ISBN-13: 978-4196695103, it’s available from
from Amazon.co.jp, and is well worth adding to your collection, especially since it costs a mere 470 Yen. The images reproduced here are taken from the “Scum Scans” scanlation. This, and other scanlations are readily found using a search engine.