Sand Chronicles vol. 9 - Hinaki Asihara
Twelve-year-old Ann and her divorced mother move from big city Tokyo to her mother's rural hometown. How will Ann survive her exile from civilization? Then, when her mother commits suicide, Ann has to grow up fast. As the years pass, Ann learns to trust and depend on her new friends--Daigo and aristocratic siblings Fuji and Shika. But when Ann moves back to Tokyo to be with her father, will she be able to maintain a long-distance relationship with Daigo? And do Fuji and Shika harbor romantic feelings of their own that might rip their childhood friendships apart...?
What were our parents like at our age? We'll never really know... But now you can get a glimpse into the teenage years of the mothers of Ann, Daigo, Fuji and Shika. How was their destiny shaped? Plus, Ann's little sister visits Shika--and Ann's ex-fiancé!--in New York City. (courtesy of Goodreads)
*Warning: Potential spoilers. My manga reviews tend to be more of a summary than a review. I find it hard to review manga in the same way I do regular books.
The first of two bonus volumes, Volume 9 presents two stories. The first shows Ann, Daigo, Fuji and Shika's mothers when they were young. Miwako (Ann's mother) is frightfully beautiful. She is also as nice as can be. She gives and gives but never takes. Naturally, her kindness and beauty invokes nothing but suspicion and jealousy amongst her peers. Hiroko (Daigo's mother) is one of the few who recognizes Miwa's goodness as well as her fragility. Hiroko cares for Miwa and also fears for her. Miwa wants nothing more than to escape the small town gossips. She thinks that a big city like Tokyo will solve her problems. Miwa leaves Shimane for Tokyo while Hiroko remains. Hiroko is plain both in looks and aspirations. She's happy to remain in Shimane, get married, and have babies. Soon after Miwa leaves, Shizuyo (Fuji's mother appears). She's a whirlwind. Beautiful, bold, arrogant, opinionated. Nothing misses her eye. Yet Hiroko likes her, admires her. It seems like Shizuyo knows exactly the trap she's walking into and is happy to do it anyway.
I enjoyed reading about the characters' mothers. I can see where Ann and Daigo get many parts of their personalities from. Fuji and Shika are less like their mother, but her hardness and boldness had a great impact on their childhoods.
The final story features Chi, Ann's little sister. When she's about 9, she goes to New York City by herself to visit Shika (who moved there from Canada). Chi is left alone in Shika's apartment while Shika goes to work, with strict instructions not to leave. Hardly an hour later, Chi takes off from the apartment (a misunderstanding more than pure disobedience). She gets lost and the only place in English she can remember is the company where Sakura, Ann's ex-fiance works. A taxi cab driver drops her off. Our old friend Sakura is finally getting what's coming to him. He was just placed on leave so he can learn to play well with others. He also has a horrible cold. Chi is the last person he wants to see. Blissfully unaware of Sakura's annoyance, Chi convinces him to take her to his apartment until Shika can pick her up. Then Chi and Shika drag him along sightseeing the next few days. Sakura never changes. Still sullen and hating everybody, but Chi and Shika's exuberance opened up a tiny window in his mind that might make him willing to let his guard down.
It was fun to see more of Chi. She's such a happy little girl. So different from Ann. I wonder if Ann was like that before her mother died. I also loved seeing Shika. She is confident and self-sufficient away from Japan. She blossomed.
This was a fun volume. The stories certainly aren't necessary to the main plot, but it's a joy revisiting favorite characters.