Sand Chronicles Volume One is a manga by Hinako Ashihara, and it was published by Viz Media’s Shojo Beat imprint in 2008. The series is rated “T+” for older teens; after reading this manga volume, I would agree with this rating.
The main character of Sand Chronicles is a young woman named Ann Uekusa. The manga is told as a flashback of her pre-teen and teenage years. At the beginning of the flashback, Ann is 12 years old. Her mother took her to “The World’s Biggest One-Year Hourglass” while they were on their way to Ann’s grandparents’ house after Ann’s parents’ divorce was finalized. While there, Ann buys a small hourglass from the gift shop.
Ann’s move takes her from Tokyo to a rural town called Shimane. While in Shimane, Ann meets some other kids around her age: Daigo, Shika, and Fuji. After Ann’s mother collapses while working, Ann takes on a small job over the holidays with Daigo in order to make some change. A little later that winter, Ann’s mother wanders out into the snow, and is found dead. A note is found that indicates that Ann’s mother committed suicide. Daigo comforts Ann, and promises that he’ll never leave her.
The story skips ahead to a year-and-a-half later, when Ann is 14. A potential female romantic rival is introduced to drive a wedge between Ann and Daigo, and it’s also made very clear that Fuji has feelings for Ann but he doesn’t know how to express them to her. The bulk of this section takes place at a summer camp, and the story shows all the awkward things that happen over the course of the camp.
While Ashihara’s art relies a lot on the typical shojo tropes, she is able to tell such a compelling story that it makes up for the art. Ashihara’s writing perfectly captures the character’s emotions, and she’s willing to tackle the awkwardness of adolescence in a realistic manner. As a reader, I thought the story evolved naturally, and nothing in the plot felt like it was “over the top.”
When I read the section of this volume that depicts the death of Ann’s mother, I was moved to tears. I attribute this reaction to Ashihara’s storytelling; she did such a fantastic job building up Ann and her mother that it felt like a real kick in the gut to me when I read that part of the story.
I also liked how much Ashihara utilizes the hourglass as a symbol throughout this volume of Sand Chronicles. The hourglass tends to be prominent in scenes that depict pivotal moments in Ann’s life. If I get a chance to read future volumes of Sand Chronicles, it will be interesting to see if the hourglass continues to be featured as prominently as it is in the first volume.
Sand Chronicles is one of the better shojo manga titles that I have read, and it really shows a lot of potential for future volumes in the series. Personally, I would recommend Sand Chronicles to female manga readers who are 14 or 15 years of age and older.