Sand Chronicles Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 8.99
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 1-4215-1477-x
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Sand Chronicles

Sand Chronicles Vol. #01

By Sakura Eries     January 21, 2008
Release Date: January 01, 2008

Sand Chronicles Vol.#01
© Viz Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hinako Ashihara
Translated by:Kinami Watabe
Adapted by:

What They Say
After her parents get divorced, Ann Uekusa and her mother move from Tokyo to rural Shimane. Accustomed to the anonymity of city living, Ann can't get used to the almost overbearing kindness of the people in her mother's hometown. But when personal tragedy strikes, Ann discovers how much she needs that kindness.

The Review
The cover design incorporates both of the splash illustrations featured in this volume. The summer camp illustration of Ann and Daigo from "Age 14, Summer: Thunder" takes up the entirety of the front cover. Daigo's squatting in a stream in shorts and a baseball cap, and Ann's sitting on a nearby rock in a T-shirt and shorts. The scene has a lighthearted mood with the two of them splashing one another. At the top left corner is the publisher's logo. The title logo, in simple purple letters surrounded by tiny wavy purple dotted lines, is centered towards the top of the cover. Author's credits are placed to the lower left in purple with a purple border below.

The splash illustration from "Age 12, Winter: Making a Wish," the group photo of Fuji, Shika, Ann, and Daigo in the snow, decorates the top half of the back cover. The Shojo Beat logo is at the very top, followed by the title logo. Below the illustration is a brief story summary in black text, and at the very bottom are printing orientation, rating, and publisher's icons.

The print quality is clean, and binding and materials are satisfactory. Extras are comprised of embedded author's remarks, a page about the world's biggest one-year hourglass, a two page glossary, profile of the mangaka, and ads for other Viz releases.

Ashihara uses fine, wispy lines for her artwork. All of her characters, even the older ones, have large expressive eyes. While her human character designs are pleasant to look at, her use of hatch marks on her characters' faces borders on excessive when they get emotional, and she has a tendency to revert to simplified and chibi designs for filler and funny scenes respectively. As for her chibi characters, they tend to be more square and flat than cute-looking. Her depictions of animals are markedly less impressive than her humans. Except for a couple of key scenes with the family cat, her animals look almost amateurish in comparison to the rest of her artwork.

Regarding the backgrounds, there are lots of nice scenes of the country and village architecture. However, in "Age 12, Winter: Making a Wish," it was difficult to differentiate between locations (i.e. characters' houses). The pacing was a bit awkward first portion of the story; the events leading up to Ann's mother's suicide seemed to drag, and then Ashihara rushes over the aftermath. However, the pacing flowed much better for the "Age 14, Summer: Thunder" portion of the book.

Viz has again done an excellent job with the text in this Shojo Beat title. All signs, books, papers etc. are replaced with overlays in lettering styles compatible with the original Japanese feel. All the original Japanese sound effects are replaced with English sound effects that capture the flavor of the original. The placement of one sound effect during a major confrontation between Ann and her rival Narasaki was rather confusing, but the rest of the overlaid sound effects are easy to follow.

Translation of the manga dialogue is satisfactory for the most part, and a nice variety of fonts are used throughout the text. Honorifics have been dropped or translated into English equivalents.

On the eve of her marriage and impending move from Japan, 26-year-old Ann Uekusa comes across a miniature hourglass among her valuables, and she finds herself reminiscing about her past. The hourglass is a souvenir from the Nima Sand Museum, which Ann visited 14 years ago with her mother, Miwako, on their way to a tiny village in Shimane that would become Ann's new home.

At the time, Ann's parents had recently divorced due to financial troubles, and Ann and Miwako have no choice but to move in with Miwako's parents. The transition to her new home is difficult for Ann who has lived in Tokyo her entire life. Aside from much slower pace of life, her grandmother is a strict woman who doesn't mince words expressing her disappointment in her daughter's failures, and Ann finds herself almost smothered by the intrusive familiarity of the local townsfolk.

However, Ann is resilient; she finds a friend in her neighbor Daigo Kitamura and gradually gets used to village life. On the other hand, Miwako, who is prone to exhaustion and depression, collapses at her job and is unable to work. Determined to ease the burden on her mother, Ann resolves to support them both. Her new friend Daigo is quick to help and finds her employment at the Tsukishima household where she meets and befriends Shika and Fuji, the Tsukishima children. With her new friends and a sense of purpose, Ann thrives in her new home, but that only seems to drive her mother further into depression. Finally, Miwako does the unthinkable and takes her own life.

Miwako's death leaves Ann distraught and angry at being abandoned. However, her grandmother and her new friends surround her with their support and help her recover from the tragedy. Daigo in particular reaches out to Ann with a promise never to leave her. His vow touches Ann on a very deep level, and as they enter into adulthood, they find their attraction to one another growing stronger. However, will this first love be able to stand the test of time?

Sand Chronicles is one of the more recent additions to Shojo Beat Magazine's lineup. I wasn't aware of this particular manga until I caught the first installment in the magazine. The story immediately had me hooked, and I was delighted to get to review the tankobon. If you enjoy slice of life stories like Honey and Clover where relationships and emotion take the spotlight, you'll want to check out this shojo coming-of-age story.

From the offhanded way the adult Ann treats her once precious miniature hourglass and the way she reminisces about her teenage years, you know that things did not work out between her and Daigo in the long run. So in a sense, the end of the story is already ruined because you know that there is no "happily ever after" ending for Ann and Daigo. However, there is something extremely sweet and poignant about first love, and the honesty and innocence of her romance with Daigo is sweetly captivating even as you anticipate the events that ultimately will pull them apart.

The title of Sand Chronicles derives from the hourglass that reawakens Ann's memories of her youth and features predominantly throughout the manga. It's not just a keepsake but a metaphor for the merciless passage of time and the transience of life as Ann reflects on her adolescence and first love. For those familiar with the Sunadokei (Japanese title of Sand Chronicles) live action drama that was based on this manga, the television show has a melancholy tone whereas the manga has a much more balanced blend of angst and comedy. The manga’s drama derives from your usual turbulence of adolescence plus Ann's added burdens from her mother's divorce and depression and eventual suicide. A few moments leave you with a lump in your throat, but they’re interspersed between funnier scenes so melancholy never weighs down the plot. In "Age 12, Winter: Making a Wish," most of the jokes are of the city girl in the country variety, and in "Age 14, Summer: Thunder," the humor stems from the physical changes of puberty and the all too common shojo problem of a rival for love. So in the opening of the second half of the book, Ann gloomily wonders whether her mother's tragedy has stunted her physical growth in between vying against Narasaki in ridiculous attempts for Daigo's attention. And later, the mangaka is quite evil to our heroine when she twists an extremely embarrassing moment into what would otherwise be a straightforward dramatic rescue.

As for our characters, they are all extremely likable. It's easy to relate with Ann on some level as she struggles with her circumstances and tries to fit in at a place where she is the obvious outsider. While her personality is generally optimistic, she does have a bit of a temper, and she is realistically vulnerable in her weak moments. Daigo's every bit "the boy next door." Although he and Ann get into fights almost constantly, he is considerate and loyal. The two of them are alternately sweet, awkward, and hilarious as they discover their feelings for one another and try to figure out what to do with them. Fuji and Shika don't get as much panel allocation in this volume as Daigo. Shika's primary purpose so far is to fill the "best friend" role. However, Ashihara allows glimpses of Fuji's complex nature, and he has the potential to come into his own as a rival for Ann's affections in future chapters.

This title is rated "older teen" for a graphic sexual situation and discussion of depression and suicide.


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