cover image Shuna’s Journey

Shuna’s Journey

Hayao Miyazaki, trans. from the Japanese by Alex Dudok de Wit. First Second, $27.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-250-84652-5

Animator Miyazaki (Spirited Away) has released only a few comics in his career; this lush fantasy, available in English for the first time, is cause for celebration. First published in Japan in 1983, it takes inspiration from a Tibetan folktale, spun into an original story with Miyazaki’s humanistic, abundantly imaginative touch. Young Prince Shuna leaves his small, struggling kingdom (“Beautiful and brutal was the nature,” intones the lyrical translation) in search of a fabled “golden grain” to feed his people. Traveling through wastelands with only a few pockets of civilization, he finds a harsh society driven by violence, slavery, and desperation. After a descent into the baffling Land of the God-Folk, he must rely on the kindness and strength of two sisters he once saved. Miyazaki is truly a master of worldbuilding, and this ecologically devastated fairy tale world feels more and more prescient of a postapocalyptic future. The format is a cross between manga and a picture book, with blocks of text describing the action in the delicate, earth-toned watercolor illustrations. The panels are packed with evocative cultural details: embroidered costumes, weathered buildings, rooms painted with murals and hung with tapestries, and towering statues from a forgotten past. Miyazaki’s art has a timeless beauty, and the theme of small human kindnesses redeeming a cruel and dehumanizing world feels more relevant than ever. Don’t miss this one. (Nov.)

Due to a production error, this review originally published without its star.