Still a better love story than Twlight. Or most Soap Operas for that matter.
The time is World War II. While the Axis and Allies’ attempts at teabagging the other into submission naturally involved the whole world, a small village in France decided to not care and continue on with their quaint and quiet lives. One day, one of the noble families of this small village gave birth to a precious little girl named Natalie. SO ecstatic with their newest addition, the family decided to adopt a young boy named Francis, who was left on their doorstep that exact day - instead of sending him off to the orphanage like the others. After all, it isn’t freeloading till you hit the tender age of 25.
Freeloaders –Drinking your beer, stealing your internet and permanently fusing to your couch since the dawn of time.
Fast forward several years where we see the budding siblings as teenagers. Living the sheltered life of lap and luxury, Natalie and Francis have grown and bonded to the point where they’ve declared their undying love for each other. It’s at this point where Fate and Real Life take up the challenge of royally screwing these two over. The first flag is their social status – Francis may be adopted to the wealthy, but it doesn’t mean he has own wealth. He counters by going to university and graduating at the top of the class. Of course, a relative starts to argue that the two shouldn’t be married anyway. Natalie promptly responds by telling her to take their riches and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. Real Life ups the ante by dropping a plane on Natalie’s parents (they were on a plane when it crashed) and having said protesting relative becoming their guardian. Not to let a family death slow them down, the two counter by eloping, which quickly becomes a suicide pact as they get spotted before leaving town.
Because plunging off a cliff is the best way to kill somebody. Just look at comic book villains!
Three days later, Natalie wakes up to discover that she epically failed at the suicide, tries again and subsequently fails, finally leaving the town that she grew up in – but not the memories. Five years later, living as a social zombie she hears of Francis, alive and well, and makes haste to his new location. Real Life hadn’t quite finished that challenge however, and delivers the one-two: her beloved has lost his memory AND has a wife and a child that looks exactly like him. Luckily enough, at the first sight of Natalie, Francis regains his memories. At that exact moment when they rush to embrace each other lovingly in the street – both get hit by a bus. And, as icing on this cake of tragedy and woe: Francis dies from his injuries while his wife commits suicide by jumping off a cliff (and succeeds!) Natalie survives with light injuries and is left with her lover’s four year old child, who she can’t bear to look at without seeing the face of Francis. Whew! And that’s it for the first three chapters.
When Fate and Real Life says “Challenge Accepted”, prepared to get screwed so hard, words fail to accurately describe the experience.
Written and drawn by Ichijo Yukari back in 1977, Suna no Shiro is the epitome of the shoujo genre, without the pre-teen angst from a girl who can’t make up her mind. You’ll find the handsome boys and beautiful girls that are the bread and butter of any shoujo story. Suna no Shiro’s main pull is that the story portrays a love so strong that it transcends time and distance. In this tale, love is depicted with such intensity and longing, you wish the characters didn’t respond to it as much as they do, just to spare them the pain. Just look at Natalie, our emotionally torn leading lady. Within the first three chapters she’s been put through so much that if it was any other woman, they probably would have become the cat lady down the street because they couldn’t deal with the world around them. Yet, as you progress through the story, her painful love for Francis leads her upon a journey of enlightenment and self-actualization that by the time you reach the halfway point, you can’t even recognize her.
It’s not just Natalie who is affected this way. Love makes each and every character in this manga undergo a degree of character development that is frankly remarkable. The love between ill-fated lovers, siblings, friends, classes – it’s as if Suna no Shiro is a study of love and its many forms and how it affects the human soul. You’ll be captivated by every high and low that these characters experience to the point where you wish that everybody just “breaks even”. Art wise, the style has your basic shoujo setup. Thin lanky bodies; angular faces full of expression (and large eyes); effeminate men and even more effeminate women; tones that are light but strong, as if the beauty depicted was fleeting – the essence of shoujo at its best. Considering the year, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.
I wholly recommend Suna no Shiro, especially since I found this manga three days ago (as of writing this) and promptly marathoned it. For me, it was worth the three rereads. Never let the good stuff fade away, like a sandcastle washed away by the tide.