Shuna's Journey

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
How long do you think it takes to translate something into English? Is "35 years" a good answer?

These things may have happened long ago; they may be still to come. No one really knows anymore.

At the bottom of an ancient valley carved out by a glacier, there was a small kingdom which time had abandoned.
—Opening pages

Shuna's Journey (Japanese シュナの旅, Hepburn Shuna no Tabi, also known as The Journey of Shuna) is a one volume, six chapter Graphic Novel. The book was initially published in 1983, and an English translation by Alex Dudok de Wit became available--in the United States--in November 2022.

Shuna is the prince of a small village in a valley. The village isn't prosperous, the harvest isn't good, and people go hungry all the time. One day, an ill traveller, visiting the village, talks about the golden grain growing in a field to the west. Its harvests are plenty, and can feed the whole village. Despite this promise, Shuna should not travel to the field. He'll leave the safety of his village behind. In the village, he doesn't live well, but at least he still lives, and the golden grain is guarded—

Oops. Shuna left the village searching for the golden grain.

The journey isn't easy; it's the opposite of easy. Shuna stumbles across slave traders and bandits, and vast dunes of nothingness. Plus, his journey isn't quite over once he arrives at the rumoured field, for the place changes a person...

Oh, and the graphic novel was written and illustrated by a little known man called Hayao Miyazaki. You might know him from his obscure Studio Ghibli and films like Spirited Away. What is Spirited Away, you ask? It's the only Anime, foreign film, and traditionally animated film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture; all other winners are American 3D animation. The graphic novel is a precursor to Miyazaki's film works, and you can see his style develop. Parts of the book were incorporated in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, and his son's Tales From Earthsea.

Tropes used in Shuna's Journey include:
  • Author Appeal: Hints of the Arcadia lifestyle, a complex tale of man vs. nature, exploits of capitalism, strong and independent female characters, and well drawn, detailed landscapes. Almost every Miyazaki staple is in there, except the Cool Plane.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Because Shuna was nice to Thea and freed her from slavery, Thea later nursed him back to health. After taking seeds from the land where the moon sets, Shuna lost his speech and wandered aimlessly until he reached Thea's village. From there, Thea slowly nursed him back to health, until he recovered his speech and intelligence.
  • Call to Adventure: This is a man who journeys into Shuna's impoverished village, with the promise of golden grain to feed everyone in the village far in the west. Thus, Shuna's Journey begins.
  • Character Title: In Shuna's Journey, Shuna goes on a journey.
  • Crapsack World: Every human character you meet is either impoverished or a slave. The gods who live where the Moon sets cultivate vast fields of grain, but demand human sacrifices for them.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The place where the Moon deposits the human bodies. It immediately gave Shuna an uneasy feeling when he set foot inside, and he ran out.
  • Eldritch Location: The place where the moon sets would be this, with its Narnia Time, strange inhabitants, and how it takes human sacrifices dropped from a moon. In addition, it's inhibited by many strange and exotic species, some of them Shuna believed were extinct.
  • Human Resources: The gods of the golden grain farm uses captive human slaves to do something. Shuna isn't sure what that something is, whether they are turned into the green monsters that farm the grain or the water that irrigates the land.
  • Opposite Gender Protagonists: Shuna and Thea. Shuna rescues Thea from slavery. Thea repays the favour by nourishing Shuna back to health later on, because Shuna was nice to her. The two briefly interact, and don't exchange many lines, but their relationship has a huge impact on each other.
  • Time Skip: After Shuna arrive in the village Thea resides in, several of these are used as he recovers.
  • Weird Moon: The moon is flat, more like an alien spaceship than a moon. When it sets, it deposits human bodies into a living structure for them to be used as resources.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: In the land of the Gods, time passes differently, and the crops which need a year to grow are grown in a day. Plants quickly cover Shuna's gun, and he ages considerably once he leaves the place.