Monday, October 04, 2010

Manga Monday: Sand Chronicles

I was originally going to talk about House of Five Leaves this week, but after reading the ninth volume of Sand Chronicles, I was reminded of its awesomeness and wanted to highlight that series again, so you'll see Natume Ono next week.

Sand Chronicles (Volume 9)
Hinako Ashihara

One of the best shojo manga on the market in the US right now, Hinako Ashihara's Sand Chronicles, takes a detour with the latest (and second-to-last) volume, focusing on several secondary characters of the series in three stories. For those who haven't followed the series, this is a very emotional series, full of characters with deep emotional scars. The main character is Ann, whose mother committed suicide when she was young and blames herself for the incident in some ways, and wonders if she is also too weak for this world. For the first time, we get the full story on Ann's mother in the first story contained in this volume, "Canary." I usually find myself crying at least once during each volume of this series (and often feel emotionally-drained by its end), and this volume is no exception. I didn't expect to get quite so drawn in to a side story as I did with "Canary," however. I was blind sided by the very relatable characters and their situations. Ashihara doesn't always lay everything out in the open, but rather trusts the audience to make the connections that really enrich this latest volume through things hinted about in previous volumes, as well as conveying a good amount of the emotional arcs of the characters through facial expressions and silent looks. It's takes a lot of craft on her part, but she has the chops to pull it off, and quite successfully, resulting in a story that feels real and is very rich and powerful.  The second story, "Summer Vacation," continues in the present day, focusing on Sakura, whom Ann was briefly engaged to, but has moved to America for work.  He encounters Ann's little sister while she's visiting New York and it's kind of a life-changing experience.  The volume rounds out with a short Christmas episode when Fuji was young.  The first story definitely overshadows the latter two, but it's all emotionally-packed.  I'm going to be sad to see this series come to an end.

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