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Shuna's Journey by Hayao Miyazaki

Shuna's Journey by Hayao Miyazaki

I first came across Shuna's Journey on Amazon. I was probably looking up Studio Ghibli or Hayao Miyazaki stuff—DVDs, graphic novels, merch—and this popped up. I wasn't sure what it was, but I recognized Miyazaki's name and art style, so I added it to my wishlist. (Also, that elk looks just like Yakul from Princess Mononoke).

Fast forward to this past weekend when my boyfriend and I were visiting our local bookstore to pick books for each other in preparation for Jolabokaflod (that's a whole other story; if you're interested in learning more, follow the link).

As we were wandering through the store, I stumbled across the physcial version of the book, so I picked it up to show my boyfriend. He had found a shopping basket at that point, and suggested I put it in the basket.

I finished another book I was reading that evening and thought it was the perfect time to crack this one open. After all, it's a graphic novel, which I can finish much more quickly than a prose novel.

A brief explanation for those who have never seen this book before: it was originally published in 1983—two years before Studio Ghibli was founded—and is based on a Tibetan folktale. The English translation was published in 2022.

What I loved about this story was how there were clear seeds sprinkled throughout that would later come to fruition in some of Miyazaki's other tales. In Shuna's Journey, the elk on the cover is part of a species called yakul, and Shuna himself is a prince in the east who leaves his village to travel to the west in search of a golden grain and the land of the god-folk. (If that doesn't make you think of Princess Mononoke, I don't know what will). There were also early glimpses of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and even a bit of Castle in the Sky.

As expected, I finished the story quickly—maybe in an hour? Two? I had intended to simply start it, maybe read one chapter and then do something else. But once I'd started, I didn't want to stop, and before I knew it I'd reached the last page.

As with all of Miyazaki's tales, it's easy to sink into the world of the story, and once there, it's difficult to make yourself leave.

Every now and then I get an itch to re-watch all of his movies. I'll sometimes re-watch one or two throughout the year, maybe re-visit one I've only seen once or twice. I love the idea of a marathon weekend, watching one movie after another. I can easily picture myself adding this book to the lineup, moving from the screen to the page.

If you're a Studio Ghibli fan or simply like graphic novels, I recommend giving it a try. I was not disappointed.

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