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Everyone on board! We are going to make a detour through the printed work of one of the best anime creators and directors in history! I mean, who does not recognize Hayao Miyazaki’s name? Nevertheless, although Miyazaki even won an Oscar for best animation, few people can cite more than a couple of his manga works. That is why we decided to make this list of top manga by Hayao Miyazaki. So let’s take the Cat Bus and off we go!
10. Kuchuu de Oshokuji (Dining in the Air)
- Genres: Comedy, Historical
- Volumes: 1
- Published: Jun 1994
Have you ever wondered why meals at the airplanes usually taste bad? Or why are they packed in such small portions? Have you ever wondered how different are the airplane meals according to country or time? Well, search no more! Miyazaki did a one shot on the topic.
This full color manga explains the story of airplane meals with all the characteristic humor and curiosity of Miyazaki. After all, we know he studies the everyday life to compose his works. Kuchuu de Oshokuji was originally published in “Winds”, the inflight magazine of Japanese Airlines. However, it can also be found in Shuppatsuten (1979-1996), a compilation of essays and interviews with Miyazaki.
9. Hikoutei Jidai (The Age of the Flying Boat, Porco Rosso)
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Historical
- Volumes: 1
- Published: Mar to May 1989
This was the base material for the movie about a World War pilot who transforms into a pig… and a hero. Only that the original story was more simple and focused on the good times of Marco (Porco Rosso) and his friends. As a retired Italian Force Pilot (or pig), Porco Rosso now works as a bounty hunter in the Adriatic Sea. He just lives the good life, although sometimes he has air duels with his enemies.
Fully illustrated in color, this brief but interesting first shot of a pilot’s life gives us the impression that the only intention of Miyazaki was to have fun and draw airplanes. The story is full of them, although their designs were adapted by him. It is interesting to see how Miyazaki was capable of capturing the essence of the 20s era. He did not know at that point that the story was going to become a movie 🙂
8. Imouto he
- Genres: Fantasy
- Volumes: 1
- Published: 1982
As some of you might know, Miyazaki was an animator for Heidi, the Girl of the Alps. Something about Johanna Spyri’s novel must have enchanted him, as this one shot apparently has some of Heidi’s author influence on it. The story is told from the point of view of a little boy, who has a sister in a wheelchair. The boy dreams that he and his sister can fly and travel all through the world.
This is pretty much like Heidi using a cloud to go back to her beloved mountains in a dream she had while in Frankfurt. The key difference is that Imouto he is an illustrated poem in watercolor manga. It was published in a book with the early works of Miyazaki and Otsuka, properly titled “Miyazaki Hayao, Otsuka Yasuo no Sekai”. It is difficult to find the book, but worth the try.
7. Chuunen wa Kouya wo Mezasu zo (A Middle Aged Man Runs Toward the Wasteland)
- Genres: Adventure, Cars
- Volumes: 1
- Published: 1993
This is another one shot curiosity. We can understand Miyazaki to a certain point because his philosophy permeates his anime works. But when have we seen his life experiences or thoughts directly drawn? Well, Chuunen wa Kouya wo Mezasu zo stars none other than Miyazaki himself.
This is the story of how he rode a British three-wheeler car throughout England. We should say that the manga is full of humor. Miyazaki does not take himself seriously and just enjoys the ride and the travel. The story can be found in the Navi Magazine of Japan. Difficult to find, but totally worth it.
6. Hansu no Kikan (The Return of Hans)
- Genres: Comedy
- Volumes: 1
- Published: Mar to Sep 1994
We know that Miyazaki is fascinated with war. Thus, it is no surprise that Hansu no Kikan is set on the times of the Second World War. Our protagonist is Hans, a chief mechanic who repairs a war tank in order to escape Germany. Russians were invading the country at the moment, as the Germans kept losing more and more territory. It is under these pressuring circumstances that Hans plans to escape with Rosa, her grandmother and a dog.
This fully colored story has many of the trademarks we have come to associate with Miyazaki. We have whimsical animals with a lot of personality, a marked anti-war sentiment and credible, strong female characters. Although there is some gloomy atmosphere because of the war and the suspense of the escape, there is also a healthy dose of humor. Plus, the prevalence of pigs among the characters are some sort of rendition to Porco Rosso.
5. Westall Gensou: Tynemouth he no Tabi
- Genres: Historical
- Volumes: 1
- Published: 2006
Although Hayao Miyazaki is essentially Japanese in blood and works, he has travelled all over the world. Apparently, whenever he retires, Miyazaki goes somewhere far away to refresh his ideas. In the case of Westall Gensou, we can consider this one shot curiosity as an illustrated travel diary. Miyazaki went to a little English town called Tynemouth to study airplanes (one of his greatest passions) and to absorb the atmosphere for the Japanese adaptation of a children’s tale called Blackham’s Whimpy.
This story is part of a collection called Break of Dark and authored by Robert Westall. Anyway, this is a pretty dark tale, involving Second World War and a haunted airplane. Sounds cool, right? So imagine which interesting perspectives does Miyazaki offer on the English way of life by the sea on Westall Gensou. The one shot was included in the Japanese version of Blackham’s Whimpy. It is a little hard to find, but if you succeed on catching it, you will not regret it.
4. Sabaku no Tami (People of the Desert)
- Genres: Adventure, Drama
- Volumes: 1
- Published: Sep 1969 to Mar 1970
This manga was drawn for a kids periodical. The story centers on Tem, a nomad shepherd peacefully living in Central Asia. That, of course, until conflicts between tribes start to get bloody. In his quest for justice, Tem will travel to the city of Kittari with his allies, only to find out that the city has fallen into enemy hands. But, we are not going to tell you how everything ends 😉
Sabaku no Tami is pretty dark and dramatic for a children’s story. Unlike other stories about war that are more warm and friendly like Porco Rosso, here Miyazaki tends to be negative and realist. Expect some pretty impressive battle scenes, more character development and an ever haunting Nausicaa vibe. This could be considered its prototype in a way.
3. Shuna no Tabi (The Journey of Shuna)
- Genres: Adventure, Fantasy
- Volumes: 1
- Published: Jun 1983
Shuna is the prince of a tiny and poor village where people are dying of hunger. Thus, he travels to the mysterious Land of the Gods to get some of their Golden Wheat. On the way, Shuna rescues Tea, a girl who was going to be sold as slave. Unfortunately, once he arrives to the Land of the Gods, he has to steal the seeds of the Golden Wheat but is discovered. Although Shuna receives help from Tea, they still have to plant the seeds and bring them back to Shuna’s people. Will they accomplish their mission? Nope, we are not going to tell you unless you read the manga 😉
We notice a more Ghibli adventure like vibe on this story, complete with legends and the discovery of stranger truths. Also, we get a stronger heroine this time! She also makes more appearances throughout the story. Another curious point of this manga is that we get Yakkul, from Mononoke Hime! This was his first story in the Ghibli universe 🙂
2. Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa
- Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Sci-Fi
- Volumes: 2
- Published: May 31, 1985 to Jul 31, 1986
Before the successful movie, even before Studio Ghibli was properly born, there was a manga. The story follows Sheeta, a young girl who was kidnapped by agents from the government. Nevertheless, our Sheeta is not our typical damsel in distress, so she escapes from the airplane and ends up floating into Pazu’s arms. Pazu, a boy who has always dreamed to fly in the sky, helps her to find Laputa, the flying city, before ambitious people from several factions do.
Miyazaki took to go into full watercolor on this manga, but also used a lot of text outside the layout. Nevertheless, it contains some details that did not make it out into the movie. We can also see the designs of the flying devices in more details. In short, any enthusiast of Studio Ghibli might want to take a look at this manga.
1. Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Supernatural
- Volumes: 7
- Published: Oct 9, 1982 to Feb 10, 1994
When Studio Ghibli was starting, it is said that the producers wanted a manga first before risking to put any money into animation. Thus, Miyazaki complied. Before and after the movie version, Nausicaa was a publication that engaged the war between the Valley of the Wind and Torumekia. We get the chance to not only follow Nausicaa into more adventures, but also know her “enemies” better. More characters, different places and the depth of the relationship between the last of the giants and Nausicaa are seen on detail. We get not only panels full of action, but also reflective moments.
Mention apart should be to the culture, traditions and histories of the post apocalyptic world, which help to flesh the societies better. In short, Miyazaki’s best manga has to be Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa. It deserves to become an OVA at least, so that we can take a peak to the full story! It is a shame that Miyazaki does not like to do follow ups on his stories 🙁
Hayao Miyazaki, as the genius he is, has a varied work. However, his manga usually reflects his personal tastes, as his love for airplanes and everything mechanical. Also, we can notice his evolution in studying human nature. Let’s not forget that he paid close attention because he considered he could not draw humans at first. Thus, we can notice the dedication of Miyazaki and the love he has for people and the natural world on his stories. Long life to Hayao Miyazaki!
Which manga by Miyazaki is your favorite and why? Do not forget that we are open to all your comments and suggestions. See you soon!