Sandland was a 14-chapters manga that was made by Akira Toriyama, the author of Dragon Ball. It was published by Shueisha in 2001 and later on license in English by Viz Media in 2003.
It was intended by Akira Toriyama to be just a short story about an old man and his tank. But it quickly evolved to be an exciting adventure set in a wonderful fantasy world that was wrapped in a very compact package.
It was said that Akira Toriyama insist on drawing all the tanks himself. Unfortunately, it soon proved to be quite a difficult task but since the plot is already there, he had no choice but to keep soldier on.
In the desert world of Sandland, water is impossible to obtain. The only way for the citizens to acquire drinking water is to buy it at a hefty price from the king.
There are multiple races and species on Sandland. One of them is the feared Demon Clan. They are a long-live race that wield tremendous power but unfortunately often misunderstood.
One day, after looting several gallons of water from some passing soldiers, Beelzebub, prince of the Demon Clan, received a request from an old human sheriff. He wants to look for a mythical lake for the sake of his village. Knowing the dangerous roads ahead, he asks for protection from the powerful demons.
And thus begins the dangerous and often hilarious journey of an unlikely trio of an old man, the prince of demons, and an old cunning demon through the barren wilderness of Sandland.
Sandland contains all the essence of a great Akira Toriyama’s story stuffed in a compact package. It is absurd, simple, lighthearted, hilarious, fast-paced, and filled with exciting action sequences.
I am honestly surprised with how many things the author managed to achieve with such a limited amount of pages. From great worldbuilding to multiple plot twists and even to decent characters developments. We can find it all in this super short manga.
Sure, things did feel a bit rushed in some parts of the story. But overall, Sandland seamlessly glides from one page to the next.
Most of it thanks to the clear objective that was established early on in the manga. With such a well-defined objective, the author could limit the amount of story that needs to be told while the readers could adjust their expectations accordingly.
But unfortunately, the limitation and simplicity that act as the pillar of the story also act as a double-edged sword.
On one hand, those things help deliver quite a well-rounded story in limited time and space. On the other hand, it severely limits the scope of the world to the point that some of the story elements seem to barely make any sense.
We could argue that such a thing was done for the sake of absurdity, which is also another brand of Akira Toriyama’s humor. But the characters themselves have provided ample comedic moments that it’s hard to understand the need to bend the rules of the world just for the sake of other potential funny situations.
That being said…
At the end of the day, Sandland still managed to beautifully achieve its goal. Delivering an exciting and entertaining story that you could finish in one sitting.
It does not take itself seriously and neither should we. Read it with a grain of salt and simply enjoy the ride.
The art of Sandland
Akira Toriyama has one of the most recognizable art styles in the world. Take the game Dragon’s Quest for example. One look into the latest Dragon’s Quest artwork and you’d instantly know that it was drawn by the same man who created Dragon Ball.
And the same thing happened in Sandland. From the character design to the environment and even to how the action sequences look, all of it screamed Akira Toriyama.
There are two notable things in his art that stood out the most this time around. The vehicle design and the panel composition.
Although it was still based on real-life tanks, the one drawn in Sandland has a comical yet still highly technical feel to it. By omitting sharp edges in the tanks, he made it less intimidating than its real-life counterpart, which is perfect for a Shounen manga such as this one.
But the fact that it still has individual parts that move and act exactly like a real thank should is what ultimately made it so believable.
At the same time, the composition of each panel is responsible for the dynamic look of the story. The use of sharp angles and extreme perspective makes the scenes feel both unique and interesting. Although Akira Toriyama is one of those artists who prefer to create details using as few lines as possible, his dynamic composition allowed him to draw something that looks both vibrant and full of life.
As stated before, Akira Toriyama has a distinct art style that you can easily spot from a mile away. If you like his art, then you can rejoice because Sandland is the example of Akira Toriyama at his prime. But if you’re not a fan of it, then I implore you to give Sandland a try as well.
It’s just one volume. What could possibly go wrong?
Where to buy
As usual, you can get Sandland from Amazon and RightStufAnime and some other online marketplace. But let’s focus on the two for now. There might be a price difference between them, so be sure to check them both beforehand.
When it comes to manga, RightStufAnime usually has a lower price than Amazon. Not only that but they usually have better packaging than Amazon as well.
But, Amazon has the digital option in the form of Kindle/Comixology while RightStufAnime only has the physical version of it. And of course, the digital version is cheaper than the physical one. So if you want to go that route, then Amazon is your best choice.
Those are affiliate links, by the way. That means I’ll get a small commission when you buy Sandland through those links, at no additional cost to you.
Similar manga to Sandland
These three manga are the ones that I think closely resemble Sandland in one form or another. Apart from Dragon Ball, all the titles in this short list are manga that only has a single volume. I’ll provide my affiliate links for each titles so you can get it with ease.
1. Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama
Dragon Ball is arguably one of the most popular manga in the world. But the main reason why I recommend this title is because it has the same author as Sandland, Akira Toriyama.
Not only that, but it is also the one that has the most similarities to Sandland. A fantasy action-adventure set in a world filled with curious species. Consider it as a miniature version of Dragon Ball.
There are lots of different versions that you could choose from when it comes to Dragon Ball. You can get the individual volumes, the oversized omnibus version, the collector’s box set, or even the digital version.
2. Giganto Maxia by Kentaro Miura
This one is also made by another renowned mangaka with a highly popular series, Kentaro Miura, the creator of Berserk. Giganto Maxia also has lots of similarities with Sandland, especially when it comes to the theme and genre of the story.
Giganto Maxia tells the journey of two characters in barren land that was filled with creatures from nightmares. This story feels like a cocktail of various shounen manga conventions, tastefully blended into one. Wrapped in one volume.
And just like Dragon ball, you can easily find Giganto Maxia on Amazon and RightStufAnime. But as usual, the digital version is only available through Kindle/Comixology on Amazon.
3. Laughter at The World’s End by Yellow Tanabe
Out of the three titles in this short list, Laughter at the end of the world is quite possibly the most obscure one. Both in terms of the overall tone of the story and the availability.
But just like the other two, it also came from the mind of the mangaka behind one of the most popular shounen manga, Kekkaishi by Yellow Tanabe.
Laughter at the world’s end is a story about a sibling who goes from one place to the next in order to vanquish the evil forces that descend into the world decades ago. The fact that one of them bears the mark of the devil makes their journey that much harder.
You can find this manga in lots of different variations of the same title. What you can’t do, however, is find this one outside the Amazon marketplace. At least that is the case when I write this post. Here’s the link to the Amazon page.