Sand Chronicles 1 by Hinako Ashihara: A-

From the back cover:
After her parents get divorced, Ann Uekusa and her mother move from Tokyo to rural Shimane. Accustomed to the anonymity of city living, Ann can’t get used to the almost overbearing kindness of the people in her mother’s hometown. But when personal tragedy strikes, Ann discovers how much she needs that kindness.

This was really good, with an original structure that made the story feel special. It started with Ann around age 26, packing and getting ready to get married and move overseas. A memento from her past triggered some memories, and the rest of the volume featured Ann at age 12, then at 14. The setting was also original, taking place in rural and snowy Shimane rather than an urban environment. The essence of a small town was captured nicely, and I swear the snowy scenes really looked cold.

The first story dealt with Ann and her mother in their new surroundings, with Ann meeting some kids her age as well as an old friend of her mother’s, who provided some background information. In the second, she and her friends went on a camping trip, which might sound like a set-up for lame filler, but which actually provided many good character moments. There were some things about the stories I didn’t like, like the predictable outcome of the situation with Ann’s mom in the first story or her obnoxious romantic rival in the second, but they were greatly outnumbered by the things I did like.

I thought it was interesting that the second chapter dealt in part with Ann’s menstrual cycle. That’s a topic I’d never seen in manga before, so it was pretty cool to see a character discussing it with her good friend and just boosted the realism of the series even further. There weren’t any wacky hijinks here, just an “honest girl with a strong will” making her way through some painful times while attempting to cherish each moment of life. I’m looking forward to the next volume.

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  1. Huh, I hadn’t thought about the topic of the menstrual cycle being an unusual one, but you’re right. It’s such a big milestone for preteen girls I’m really surprised I haven’t seen it in any other series, especially given how much manga I’ve read for that demographic.

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