Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Hinako Ashihara
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shojo Beat Manga)
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
As long as there is life, the sands of time will continue to flow.
I should note that this is the final conclusion to the story that began in Volume 1 of Sand Chronicles as the last chapters reveal the fate of the two characters that had held our fascination from the very beginning. However, this is not the last volume as there are bonus chapters that fill up two volumes so we will reserve our final opinion of the series as a whole. In the meantime, though, Volume 8 of Sand Chronicles is nothing short of surprising and moving.
In the last chapter of Volume 7, Ann has decided to skip work and travel to the Nima Sand Museum she had visited with her mother before they moved the Shimane. The place, of course, holds a deep meaning to Ann and thinking back on it she had come to the conclusion that perhaps her mother had already decided that her only course of action was to take her own life.
Coincidentally, the train never makes it to Nima and is stranded in Okayama where Daigo happens to be teaching elementary school. Having met a nice woman on the train during the course of their travels, the woman asks Ann to come and stay with them for the night and Ann accepts the kind offer. The woman’s family actually turns out to be just as kind and one of them even offers Ann a ride to the Nima Sand Museum and while he drives they just happen to drive near the very school where Daigo works.
Making a quick stop in the schoolyard, Ann meets a little boy who is one of Daigo’s students. The boy tells her all about Daigo until he happens to mention that his teacher will be getting married soon to another fellow teacher. The news is surprising and, in a way, a disheartening at the same time. As a final gesture, Ann gives the boy her old hourglass the Daigo had given her and walks away.
Finding the museum closed, Ann decides to take a stroll on the very sands that Daigo had taken her to when he told her to find happiness on her own. I will not go into the details of what happens but Ann’s actions are dramatic and frightening. The girl that everyone thought was tough proves that she is human too and her act isn’t just a cry for help but an act of desperation.
Fortunately for Ann, she survives her encounter and finds new strength that her grandmother always knew she had possessed. Ann decides to sort her life out and continue forward as she goes back to work and ignores the gossip of her co-workers whose lives aren’t perfect either. Still, Ann has changed and even visits her mother’s grave as an act of forgiveness for having left her alone. Meanwhile, Ann’s grandmother pays Daigo a visit and thanks for her having saved Ann that frightening day. He had come to know that Ann was in town when his student showed him the hourglass she had given him. Somehow, he knew she was there on that singing sands.
Still, there is no real happiness for a girl who just can’t find the right match for her. She does decide to go with her coworkers to singles parties but none of the men really measure up to Daigo or Fuji. Meanwhile, Ann does get a surprise visit from a friend she (or us) have seen for a long time. Her visit with said friend reveals the fate of Fuji who turns down an arranged marriage meeting because he is in love with his cousin as was stated in the last volume.
The final surprise comes in the volume’s epilogue as Ann decides to take yet another trip to the Nima Sand Museum. She decides to take her half-sister, Chi, who is more than happy to go along on a trip. They stop at the museum to see the same giant hourglass and finally visit grandma’s where Ann’s life changes. This is a great final chapter and a good ending for the final part of this drama.
As I mentioned in the beginning, though, I will reserve my overall grade of the series since Hinako Ashihara has enough bonus material to fill two entire volumes. Perhaps we’ll get a look into what happened to the other characters while the main story concentrated on Ann such as what happened to Shika in America or a peek at how Fuji’s romance blossomed.
What we have in Volume 8 of Sand Chronicles is a dramatic and memorable epilogue to a shoujo manga series with a lot of heart. It’s been a real emotional rollercoaster following Ann’s life from adolescent and finally into adulthood. At times it was engrossing and other times a bit too overly dramatic but such is the way of life, right? This eight volume marks the end of the main story but the bonus chapters are sure to be interesting enough that we just can’t wait to get our hands on them already.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Life has seemed to reached a dead end for Ann who finds herself visiting Daigo’s school where he teaches and then makes a very alarming choice in the place where he had told her to find happiness. As memories of her mother come flooding into her mind, Ann finds renewed strength and the power of forgiveness. Visiting the Nima Sand Museum with her half-sister, a surprising turn of events changes Ann’s life forever as this part of the story comes to a close.
Hinako Ashihara’s art has remained consistently good throughout and that’s a very good thing since her artwork is rather lovely in the first place.
Volume 8 of Sand Chronicles is the official end to the main story as Ann – lost in her confusion – takes a most drastic measure and finally makes a surprising decision about her life. While the series continues with two more volumes, consider this a closing to a story that had captivated shoujo readers for so long. We are definitely looking forward to the bonus chapters of Volumes 9 and 10.
Review copy provided by VIZ Media