How can you write about a book you can’t read? It seems like a fool’s errand, but I’m going to try anyway!
The Journey of Shuna is one of the few manga written by Ghibli film director Hayao Miyazaki. His works are in high demand, but for some reason Journey of Shuna has never been published in English, and frankly I’ve no idea why. Maybe the story’s rubbish or something, but it’s not really something I can comment on.
What I can talk about however is how beautiful this thing is. It’s around 150 pages and small in size (think Lone Wolf and Cub small) with all the hand drawn and watercoloured artwork being printed in full colour. Yes: Colour! This isn’t your average black and white manga, but more an illustrated novel with few speech bubbles with a narration running over the artwork. There’s a low panel count per page count, mostly 2 or 3 if not a full spread, so you really get to see Mayazaki in his element. Story be damned - this is top notch stuff!
Originally published in 1983, this is pre-Ghibli Miyazaki. A time when the Nausicaa manga had only been partly serialized in Animage and the movie was still in the works. The style echoes not only Nausicaa, but the later Princess Mononoke making it especially interesting to see how his recurring elements interchange between works. Everyone knows what happened once the Nausicaa movie came out and then Ghibli subsequently starting up, but much of what Miyazaki and his associates were making before then isn’t really talked about, at least not in English speaking territories. But it should be.
If you see this writing as just an elaborate way to say ‘this book has pretty pictures’… then you’d be right. Over 25 years on and the book’s still in print in Japan. It isn’t bank-breakingly expensive and is easier to find online that you’d expect. Miyazaki and Ghibli completists need this, as for anyone who appreciates a bit of honest old-school illustration.