Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp
Publisher: VIZ Media (Shojo Beat Manga)
Author: Hinako Ashihara
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $8.99 US
Release Date: Now available
Drama at its most deliciously complex.
It’s been a long time since a shojo manga actually surprised me enough that I would accidentally drop the volume I was holding, quickly pick it up and flip through the pages again just to make sure what I read wasn’t my imagination. Volume 3 of Sand Chronicles did just that and it wasn’t even towards the end of the volume when most shocking surprises came up in other shojo titles. Hinako Ashihara, you managed to hook me in with your masterful storytelling once again.
Having accepted her father’s offer of living with him and attending school in Tokyo, Ann found herself missing Daigo and somewhat taking comfort that Fuji, a close friend from Shimane, was going to a private school not far from her. Then again, late one evening when Ann was feeling vulnerable, Fuji leans close to Ann and kisses her and walks away without saying a word. This act not only surprises her but leaves her wondering what that kiss meant.
When summer break finally arrives, we find Ann happy to return to Shimane and spend every day with Daigo. When she does arrive, we also find that she is haunted by Fuji’s kiss to the point that she feels a bit awkward being around Daigo. It isn’t until the pair encounter Shika – who begs them both to come over her place – that Daigo comes to suspect something went on in Tokyo and that it might have something to do with Fuji. When Fuji does arrive home to his estate, Daigo’s suspicions become very clear.
As the Obon festivities are drawing near, Daigo and Ann find themselves working for Shika and Fuji’s family like they did when they first met. As family members arrive, it is Fuji and Shika’s Great Grandmother that the two siblings look forward to seeing. In the same evening, Fuji attempts to dig up the past again and tells her Great Grandmother that he saw his real father in Tokyo then encounters Ann who asks him what that kiss back in Tokyo meant. Let’s just say that Daigo catches wind of their conversation and handles things the only way he knows how.
Yet the real surprise comes in the middle of the volume when Great Grandmother – whose vision is not that great – mistakes Shika for Fuji and reveals the truth behind the affair their mother had with a man that worked for the family. I won’t go into what was revealed that night but, to Shika’s horror, she confirms her Great Grandmother’s claim. A child was born from their mother’s affair!
A big part of the reason I love Sand Chronicles is that it is a slice of life that is relatable and thus utterly real. Ann’s insistence that Daigo is the one she loves the most is the most heartfelt moment. In the same evening, Daigo forgives Ann for having been vulnerable enough to accept a kiss from someone else. They make up for it by taking their relationship a big step further and thus changing things between the two. Back in Tokyo, Ann sees that evening with Daigo like a vivid dream.
In the final chapter of the volume, though, a number of other revelations pop up. The same friend of her father’s shows up to the restaurant where Ann works and sees something in Fuji that will come to haunt Ann to the point that she forgives Fuji for the kiss and wants to keep him near. In Shimane, Daigo comes to Shika’s rescue when a pushy boy keeps insisting she go out with him. As Ann and Fuji enjoy a whole day together, Shika and Daigo spend more time together. Things are becoming even more complex now but that’s what we love about Sand Chronicles.
Personally speaking, so far I thought the first volume of Sand Chronicles was one of my favorite but then Volume 3 comes along and changes all of that. The series always felt like looking into somebody’s actual life, following them as life experiences unfold before their very eyes. Meanwhile, a family secret that has been hidden for so long is finally revealed. Oh yeah, this volume is not only bursting at the seams with drama that you can’t help but be swept away by it. If you can’t wait for Volume 4 then you are not the only one.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Ann’s relationship with Daigo takes a large step forward but Fuji is starting to be difficult to shake from her mind. While things on that front seem to be changing, Fuji grows ever distant. Oh but when a family secret is finally revealed, it is Shika who turns to a close friend for comfort. There’s a lot more going on in this one, believe me.
Ashihara’s art remains just as good as it did in the first two volumes but a boat load of kudos should also go to her assistants who worked on some of the backgrounds for Fuji and Shika’s family home. The architectural details are just downright eye-catching.
Sand Chronicles, Vol. 3, drops a big bomb that will leave fans of this series not only shaken but waiting to see how the aftermath unfolds. It just goes to show that when great storytelling, art and a big slice of human drama comes together as well as it does here then you have yourself a riveting title that makes this one of those Cannot Miss shojo manga you definitely do not want to live without.