Apart from the fact that they are signed by the same artist and coated in his very personal style, these two stories have nothing in common. They are even at odds with the author’s career, since Shuna’s Journey was published in Japan in 1983, before Miyazaki tackled his classics (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, The Journey from Spirited Away, etc.), while The Boy and the Heron is his latest animated film to date. So there are 40 years between the creation of these two works! Why are they coming out at the same time? Probably by strategy, the new translation into French of the graphic novel benefiting from the excitement created by the release of the film.

For this story, Miyazaki says he was inspired by a Tibetan folk tale, The Prince Who Was Changed into a Dog. The Japanese, however, have twisted the plot, featuring the young prince of an arid and sterile kingdom, having heard of the existence of miraculous golden seeds allowing the fields to be fertilized. Against the wishes of those around him, Shuna embarks on this perilous quest, scouring the lands of the West, mined by human and divine dangers. Happy and unhappy encounters will mark his epic journey.

No. This work, halfway between manga and comic strip, is more like a graphic novel; a monogatari, to be more precise. Medium format (approximately 23 x 16 cm), therefore larger than a usual manga and smaller than a Franco-Belgian comic book, it contains large 100% color illustrations, often occupying full pages, or even double pages. Here, no dialogue bubbles or flashy onomatopoeia, but rather minimalist captions and story lines, leaving the lion’s share to sketches. These were done in watercolor, with a sublime rendering, different from the smooth and uniform lines of animated films.

Without contest ! Although it is one of his early works, Shuna’s Journey already gives a glimpse of the threads that will connect all of the author’s creations. Whether it is the poetry of the story and the characters (the graphic novel features several fantastic creatures), the sense of adventure and action, or the themes and values ​​conveyed by the story, we immediately recognize the signature of Miyazaki.

To our knowledge, this is the only monogatari signed by Miyazaki’s hand. It was published for the first time in 1983 in Japan, two years before the founding of Studio Ghibli which made the artist known worldwide. The latter also wanted to adapt it into an animated film, but had to abandon this project due to lack of support. It thus remained in the form of an illustrated book, confined to Japan for four decades: it was only translated into a foreign language in 2022 (in English) then into French recently, which made it a project until ‘then rather unknown to miyazakiphiles. However, we find, in this story where the seeds are central, the germs of the style which will characterize the author’s subsequent works.