At first I was wondering why I was even bothering with writing a review. If you're a Miyazaki fan you probably already bought this and/or saw reviews elsewhere. Then again, I mentioned this to a room full of Miyazaki fans the other day and none of them had any friggin' idea this was a thing, so I guess that's why it's always worth taking the time to just mention a thing is out.
This has been in print internationally and is still considered a solid seller in Japan. Of course us being us, we barely knew of its existence until this past year. Enter FirstSecond Books, one of the best publishers on the market for YA/All Ages material. With a brand new English translation from Alex Dudok De Wit, we finally get a chance to enjoy this beautiful illustrated story. And to be clear, it is an illustrated story and not really a manga.
Miyazaki was working on this concurrently with Nausicaa, finishing Shuna's Journey in May of '83. There's a lot of similarities in style, themes, and motifs, plus lots of things you'll see that started to pop up in his other works down the line. For that reason alone it's worth adding this to your collection, but there are a lot of unique elements to it as well. The story is essentially a loose adaptation of a Tibetan folktale (The Prince Who Turned Into A Dog), and as it progresses it absorbs and mutates a lot of other themes and imagery along the way. There's a heavy focus on slavery throughout, and then there's some really odd and purposefully ambiguous nature/supernatural/alien stuff tossed in. It somehow manages to be one of the simplest Miyazaki stories and oddest at the same time.
Price wise they knew they had a captive audience, so the $27.99 price point does feel a little harsh for a 160 page story that reads fairly quickly. As it is FirstSecond though they do a nice job with the printing and overall package, so you can kind of look at this as a sort of mini art book. And hey, it makes a nice companion piece to the Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: Watercolor Impressions art book. Which is....much larger in scale (9x11.88 vs 6.4x8.75).....and 48 pages longer...for just $5 more.......hurm.
Just look at the pretty pictures, ok?