By Hinako Ashihara
Viz, 200 pp.
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Having finally broken up with Daigo, Ann decides to give a relationship with long-suffering Fuji a try. Their physical relationship gets a slow start, but thanks to conniving friends, they are eventually thrown into a romantic situation from which even Ann cannot escape. Unfortunately, Fuji’s gentle eagerness and Ann’s indecision only serve to create a situation more painful than any of Fuji’s many years of unrequited love, and Ann only ends up accumulating further regret. Meanwhile, Daigo also attempts to move on by letting himself become involved with a former schoolmate who has harbored a longtime crush on him. This volume also contains a welcome dose of Ann’s grandmother as well as some insight into her father’s past. Shika’s story, too, becomes more poignant in this volume and it is a pleasure to watch her finally discovering how to break away from what hurts her.
This quietly nuanced series truly becomes richer with each new volume. It is genuinely heartbreaking to watch Ann and Fuji together, filled with such earnest affection for each other but unable to move beyond the weight of Ann’s lingering feelings for Daigo. It is only after having made a grand gesture symbolizing her break with Daigo that Ann truly begins to understand her own feelings, and though she strays far from doing right by Fuji (“I used the person it would hurt the most,” she thinks tearfully to herself, “but I needed someone to rescue me so badly.”) he understands her too well to hate her or even feel any real anger over her actions. It is this series’ refusal to vilify any of its characters that makes it feel so true to life, and this volume is a perfect example of that.
Ashihara’s art, always one of the series’ great strengths, is especially strong in this volume in terms of expressing the feelings of her characters. This is particularly evident in the scenes between Ann and Fuji, which are stunningly effective. Both visually and otherwise, Sand Chronicles continues to be an exceptionally rewarding read.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at PopCultureShock.