Sand Chronicles Vols 1 – 9
Story and art by Hinako Ashihara
Published by Viz Media
Review by Julie Opipari
Sand Chronicles is one of those series that creeps up on you, and once it’s got you hooked, it toys mercilessly with your emotions. I always make sure there is a tissue near at hand when I am reading a new volume, because I always get teary eyed. The series can be agonizingly painful, as the young protagonist, Ann, struggles to deal with the most dreaded experience a young child could ever imagine – the suicide of her emotionally fragile mother.
After divorcing her husband, Ann’s mother Miwako is forced to move back to the rural village where she was born. She moves back home with her parents, and tries to move forward building a new life for herself and her daughter. She can’t hide the fact that she hates the backwater village of Shimane, and that all of her dreams have been brutally shattered now that she’s back. Once she found the freedom of Tokyo, she wasn’t supposed to ever have to endure life in the country again. Caught in a cesspool of despair, Miwako gives up on life, and more tragically, she gives up on Ann.
What Ann’s mother leaves Ann is a lifetime of guilt and remorse. This last, achingly selfish act sends the young Ann spinning hopelessly out of control. It colors her relationships with her grandparents, her classmates, and her closest friends. Ann must grapple with her confusion and her feelings of unworthiness. If even her mother abandoned her, does she ever deserve to be loved?
I loved this series. It’s told in eight bittersweet volumes, with a ninth volume comprised of side stories that nicely compliment the main plot. Ann’s struggles to lead a normal life touched me deeply; it’s rare that book leaves me weepy after every volume, and embarrassingly, some of the tears were because I had reached the last page! Each new installment of Sand Chronicles was special, and I waited to read them until I had the time to savor every page. Though the reading material is certainly heavy and depressing at times, it also has one other element that makes it very, very special. The entire series is also full of hope, hope that Ann will one day overcome the shadow of her mother’s death and learn to live life the way she is meant to – filled with happiness and love.
When Julie Opipari isn’t mucking around the barn, she can be found trying to make a dent in the massive pile of manga that keeps following her home from the bookstore. Not wiling to admit she has a problem, she blissfully continues to anticipate the latest releases despite the cries of agony from her credit card. She cheerfully blames her addiction on the stresses of college and post traumatic work disorder, and is grateful that her family grumbles only occasionally about the amount of time she spends buried in her books. In addition to reading Your Manga Minute every Wednesday, you can read more of Julie’s work on her blog, Manga Maniac Cafe.