The Journey of Shuna (シュナの旅 Shuna no Tabi?) is a one-volume watercolor-illustrated novelette written and illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki and published in 1983 by Animage Ju Ju Bunko (a smaller format than regular tankoubon).
The story opens with Shuna, the prince of a small valley undergoing famine. One day, an old traveler arrives carrying a bag of dead golden seeds, and tells Shuna of a magnificent golden grain said to have originated in the land of the god-like ones that would save his people from starvation. Shuna leaves, journeying to the west over harsh landscapes astride his elk-like mount, Yakkul.
He encounters a tribe of female cannibals before arriving at a slave-trading city, the “castle-town”, where he meets a girl named Tea (テア) and her sister, whom he rescues from the slave-traders. After being pursued for two nights, they come to a cliff and Tea and her sister part ways with Shuna, taking Yakkul with them. After fending off the pursuers, Shuna sees the moon sweep across the sky and knows that it is heading over the cliff in the direction of the land of the god-like ones. He descends the cliff, at the bottom of which is a turbulent ocean. Shuna sinks into a sleep of exhaustion, and upon awakening, sees that the ocean has calmed and a sandbar has appeared connecting the beach to the land of the god-like ones.
Crossing the sandbar, Shuna finds himself in a paradise full of extinct plant and animal species, along with strange green giants. In the center of an irrigated clearing, he discovers a bizarre tower that appears to be alive, and watches as the moon empties bodies of dead people into the tower during the night. In the morning, the tower irrigates the field and the green giants plant grain, which grows throughout the day into maturity. Shuna takes some of the golden grain heads, and is pursued by howling giants as he runs to the sea and jumps in to escape.
Meanwhile, the narrative cuts to Tea and her sister, who have found a home working in a remote village. One evening, Tea imagines that she hears Shuna’s voice calling out to her, and finds him on the beach, in poor health and expressionless. However, he has the pouch of the golden wheat. Tea nurses Shuna back to health, and together they plant the golden grain and harvest it as Shuna slowly recovers his memories. They live on together in the village for some time, but finally Tea, her sister, Shuna, and Yakkul leave to return to Shuna's valley with the golden wheat.
Yakkul(ヤックル): Shuna’s mount (here, Yakkul refers to the breed as well as the individual, which looks somewhat like a horse-llama-elk).
Tea(テア): A girl enslaved by the people in the “castle town” whom Shuna frees; she later finds Shuna after his journey to the land of the god-like ones and helps him plant the golden wheat.
Tea's sister: A young girl freed along with Tea by Shuna.
A dwindling population: This theme surfaces several times in Miyazaki’s more serious works, including Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke, as well as here in Journey of Shuna. The main character in all of these stories comes from a small village with few young people, a low birth rate, and a dying royal bloodline. In Journey of Shuna, Shuna leaves by choice in search of the grain, whereas in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Nausicaä is summoned to war, and in Princess Mononoke Ashitaka is banished because of a curse.
Yakkul: Shuna's mount appears in exact replication as Ashitaka’s red elk, who is named Yakkul, in Princess Mononoke. (The soft-pawed cattle that appear pulling the slaver’s wagon in Journey of Shuna also appear in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind as the Dorok Cavalry’s mounts).
Journey to the west: Both Ashitaka and Shuna go west in search of solutions to the problems in their respective villages. While Ashitaka searches for the forest of the gods, ancient giant wolves and boars ruled by the Great Forest Spirit, Shuna travels to the land of the god-like ones, the green giants and their mysterious island of long-lost species. However, in both cases the location of supernatural beings and the goal of their journeys lie to the west.
The old man and the fire: During the night after meeting Tea and her sister, but before their rescue, an old man comes across Shuna at his camp. In exchange for sharing some food with him, the old man tells Shuna more about the god-like ones and their land in the west over a campfire amongst the ruins of an old house or settlement. This exact scene is paralleled in Princess Mononoke, when Ashitaka meets Jiko the priest and consults him about the iron bullet found in Nago the boar’s demon body.
Earthsea: Hayao Miyazaki once told Producer Toshio Suzuki that if Earthsea is to be made into film, the plots ought to be like Journey of Shuna. Suzuki passes on this message to Goro Miyazaki, who was directing Tales from Earthsea (film) at the time, thus certain key features in "Shuna" also reappear in the Earthsea production.
- ↑ McCarthy, Helen (1 January 2006). 500 Manga Heroes and Villains. Barron's Educational Series. p. 70. ISBN 978-0764132018.
- The Journey of Shuna at Nausicaä.net
- (Japanese) Earthsea director's blog
- Translation of Goro Miyazaki's blog