Meru Dec 08, 2015
Sand Chronicles is a coming of age story that is beautiful and heart-breaking to read. The pages will fill you with a wide range of emotions – intense joy one chapter, deep sorrow the next. Ashihara accurately depicts characters’ deep struggles with inner turmoil. I first started reading Sand Chronicles in Shojo Beat, a few years ago. With the jumps in time, it was hard to follow month by month, and I decided to wait until the entire series had been released to do a complete read through.
The Gist: Ann reflects on her teenage memories of love and loss during her engagement. Starting with the winter her mother commits suicide, Ann, 12, is supported by her new friends in Shimane: Daigo, Fuji, and Shika. Ann eventually falls for Daigo at 14, and their relationship is intense. When Ann’s father returns to ask her to live with him in Tokyo, Ann chooses to leave Shimane and continue a long distance relationship with Daigo. Coincidentally, Fuji is also attending high school at a prestigious campus in Tokyo. While there, Fuji seeks out Ann and confesses he loves her. This causes problems between Ann and Daigo. More complications arise as the teens wade through their emotions. The story continues through high school, college, and until Ann is 26, always returning to Shimane and the friendships of her youth. When she has finally come to terms with the loss of her mother, only then can Ann forge ahead to fulfill her own happiness.
The Characters/Romance: Daigo or Fuji? That is what is asked of most readers, because there is always a favored man for Ann. I would characterize Daigo as being warm and charismatic. That is why so many chicks (story characters and real life fans) dig him. Fuji, on the other hand, is more on the quiet, intellectual side, which tends to attract another type of fan base. The relationships in this story get very complicated and at times seem contrived. At one point, Ann loves Daigo, Daigo loves Ann, Fuji loves Ann, and Shika loves Daigo. Explainable, but still contrived. I think the most difficult part of this story for me was watching Ann deal with her grief. She holds onto it for so long, it makes everyone she is close to become hurt. Especially Daigo and Fuji, who both love her and only want to make her happy. The best part is the final conclusion, which makes all the emotional upheaval of the story worth it in the end.
The Artwork: I like Ashihara’s style. The colored pieces are softly toned. The story is mostly a serious and dramatic tale, so there is not big contrast in character styles, meaning not a lot of chibi going on at any time. The panels are easy to follow. The story follows the seasons, so a lot of the colored artwork is composed with summer, winter, spring, or fall themes.
The Audience: Steamy. Older teen would be most appropriate since there are some complex relationship issues. There is no nudity, but intimacy is implied. Also the topics of depression and suicide are prevalent.
The Media: Sand Chronicles is complete from Viz media at 10 volumes.