Sand Land

Genre: Action
Length: 1 Volume
Allegiance: Shueisha Inc. / Viz Communications
Mangaka: Toriyama Akira
Vintage: 2000
Intelligence Agency Report by: I
In a futuristic desert landscape where the local king has access to the only source remaining, water is expensive and scarce. Even Beelzebub, prince of demons, isn’t beyond robbing delivery trucks to get a fair share of the valuable liquid. One day, an old sheriff named Rao comes to the gates of the city of demons to ask for assistance from some powerful demons to search for the “Phantom Lake,” which he believes is hidden somewhere in the desert. Beelzebub and Thief agree to join Rao to search for it and they “borrow” an army tank to aid them on their perilous trek. But why is the King’s Army so frantic to keep the newfound friends away from this presumably unknown water source?

Research Agent Report by: I
Overall 8.50
(not an average)
I will admit it right now: I have never really taken a strong interest in Toriyama Akira’s works. Sure, I always knew there was more to him than the dragged-out, mediocre Dragon Ball Z TV series he’s commonly associated with, but I just didn’t care enough to bother to find out more about his work. Then, I decided to pick up Sand Land, and what a pleasant surprise! Sure, it had a few flaws here and there, but that was all clouded over by how much fun the manga was to read.

There are few one-shots that manage to have some substance without condensing the storyline the way Sand Land manages to. Quick to act, but making a point not to rush past the speed limit, there isn’t a time where the manga kills the mood by stuffing events in too quickly or giving too much information in too little time. Admittedly, a couple of scenes do suffer from the length of the book. For example, the token “final battle,” which would normally be a grand fiasco containing some killer attacks and a couple twists and turns during the progress of the fight, was a little too short and precise to be truly satisfying. Furthermore, Sand Land’s characters are remarkably complete for a one-shot. Even if not every character gets a full back story, you’re left with a definite feel for the personalities of all the characters you meet. From the brash but surprisingly pure-hearted Beelzebub to the clear-headed and honorable General Are, the characters are very likeable even without detailed backgrounds explaining their character. When background is required, like in the case of Sheriff Rao, it’s sprinkled on sufficiently without damaging the fluidity of the story. No character you meet will be easily forgettable.

Anybody familiar with Toriyama-sensei’s previous works will easily recognize his trademark art style and character designs. Full of strange and amazing demons, lots of uniquely designed machines, and caricatured human faces; his style fits the fun story very well. If you dislike his art, as some who have been scarred by bad episodes of DBZ do, beware: you may have a hard time overlooking his style, even if there is no Super Saiyajin hair shooting out in all directions. It’s also worthy to note that in a manga industry that uses a lot of tones for everything from backgrounds to blasts of energy, Toriyama-sensei does everything with line drawings. The only tones used in the entire comic are the sheets of dots used for convenient shading, which can have problems looking right unless the mangaka uses more than just pens. Granted, some manga art looks wonderful with copious amounts of tones (just look at the shoujo manga on the racks today), but it’s quite refreshing to see a manga with such a simple art style that works this well.

Sand Land is the opposite of a think piece: it’s a manga that requires only for you to sit back and relax as the events unfold at a brisk, lively pace. It’s great fun and definitely worth a read, whether you’re a fan of Toriyama-sensei’s work or not. So pick it up, find a comfortable place to read, and allow the story to take you along for the ride. If you don’t like it, it’s not a lot of time wasted anyway.