Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Hinako Ashihara
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Now available
The snow of a bitter winter.
It’s funny how one similar incident can bring warmth and happiness one year and then despair and uneasiness the following year. This is what happens to Ann and Daigo in the fourth volume of Sand Chronicles as they view the cherry blossoms. Last year the cherry blossom viewing brought with it an affectionate yet playful kiss and this year a sense of uneasiness has made it a bitter memory.
Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself here but there’s a lot of ground to cover in Volume 4 and, as you can see, things can go from wonderful to I-can’t-believe-things-can-fall-apart-like-this. Then again, this happens in life and Hinako Ashihara has given us a story that feels true to life and identifiable and we love Sand Chronicles because of it.
Volume 3 has taken Ann and Daigo away from each another but their relationship has withstood the long-distance thing and has even progressed to another level when the young pair become intimate during one of Ann’s visits to Shimane. Aside from that fact, however, a scandal in the house of Fuji and Shika has led Shika to seek comfort with Daigo and Fuji to act strange enough that Ann worries he might take his own life much like Ann’s mother had taken her own a few years back. Instead, Fuji disappears and so begins the events of Volume 4.
With Fuji missing, Ann arrives to Shimane for the New Years with news that the village is in an uproar over the young man’s disappearance to the point that even Fuji and Shika’s father has come to Shimane as well. Ann senses a change in Shika, not knowing the truth about the scandal until the young cousin Fuji has been staying with in Tokyo appears to confront the Tsukishima family about it. Blaming herself for not trying harder to keep Fuji with her, Ann tells Daigo about their evening together.
In the midst of all the holiday fun, however, it becomes clear to Ann that Shika is seeing Daigo differently. Even their friends are quick to point out that it’s clear the Shika is in love with a very clueless Daigo and the thought of it is ridiculous to Ann until she hears it from Shika herself. Even when Daigo tries to ease Ann’s guilt over not doing everything in her power to keep Fuji from fleeing, it is Ann the lashes out. It isn’t until Ann leaves for Tokyo that she realizes that Daigo isn’t going to be calling her anytime soon.
Still, Fuji does show up and once again Ann finds some comfort with the young man who has grown from his experience on his own. Living with a single mom that works in a host club, Fuji has found strength and confidence he didn’t think he had. Keeping a close eye on Fuji, Ann even goes to work at the same host club (it’s funny to see Ann trying hard to keep smiling when she’s being ogled by dirty old men). Meanwhile, in Shimane, it is Shika that is keeping Daigo company.
Ann does come back home to see Daigo during the cherry blossom viewing season and as I mentioned above it just doesn’t have the same sweetness of the time the young couple spent together in Tokyo. Things certainly do look bleak for them and, in the end, their goodbye on the train station contains two startling surprises that you really have to read.
Sand Chronicles doesn’t fail to surprise its readers and I’m a sucker for storytelling that’s not afraid to feel real even though certain chapters come off a tad too dramatic at times. Volume 4 certainly does leave things open for anything and that’s just one of the many reasons we love this manga so much. In fact, I still recommend this title to those interested in a manga with a lot of heart.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In the wake of Fuji’s sudden disappearance, Ann and Daigo experience a number of setbacks in their relationship that slowly begins to go sour. Meanwhile, Shika admits to Ann that she has strong feelings for Daigo and thus complicates matters further. Then Fuji shows up and unexpected events unravel because of it.
I said it once and I’ll say it again … Ashihara’s art is as beautiful as her expressive writing. It’s great work from beginning to end.
Volume 4 of Sand Chronicles once again makes us feel like an unseen observer peering deeply into the life of a real person. Relationships have their highs and certainly their lows and we see this in Ann and Daigo’s case in this volume. Oh but Ashihara does love making us wish the next volume would come soon and it works every time.