Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball is to this day one of the biggest and most popular anime and manga franchises in existence, having multitudes of fans all over the globe. However, while his work on Dragon Ball and Square Enix's Dragon Quest put him on the map as a creator, some of his works have still fallen through the cracks.
The epitome of short and sweet, Sand Land was a brief but beloved manga about a battle over water in a dystopian desert. Involving demons, a greedy king and a tenacious older man, the series encapsulates everything people loved about Toriyama's previous work -- but done even better. As the series is currently available and being spotlighted through Viz Media's Vault, here's a look back at the somewhat overlooked early 2000s classic.
What Is Sand Land?
The Shonen Jump series was much shorter than its preceding manga, running only from May to August 2000. Sand Land was later brought to the West in the Shonen Jump magazine and subsequently compiled into a single tankobon volume. The story is set in a dystopian wasteland in which water has become an increasingly rare commodity. A king who rules the scope of the land increases his already exorbitant water prices even higher, forcing his citizens to have to beg, borrow and steal from each other for the most basic of resources.
The town's sheriff, Rao, makes a pact with the demon prince Beelzebub to take down the king, and along with his friend Thief, they steal one of the army's tanks. Facing off against the king's forces, they find the source of his private supply behind a dam. Together with the townspeople, they must work together to end the king's reign for good.
What Made Sand Land Even Better Than Dragon Ball
Sand Land had a similarly adventurous tone to the original Dragon Ball series and featured a strong-willed elderly man joining in on the fun. The role of a somewhat aloof and mighty young demon is also similar to Goku in some ways. Toriyama himself regretted choosing a tank as the theme for the series, as it grew to be incredibly repetitive and challenging to draw.
Despite that, the art and the short series were very well-received, even compared to Toriyama's previous work. The art, in particular, was found to be much more consistent and refined than in Dragon Ball, with the series succeeding for reveling in its fun and lighthearted nature. Plus, being so much shorter may have made it easier to appreciate its quality, unlike the drawn-out Dragon Ball.
While Sand Land is enjoyable, it never made much of a splash, even with its creator's reputation. Though anime and manga have been steadily growing in popularity, another factor in the series' muted success could be attributed to publication timing. The lack of an anime adaptation also may have kept it from ever becoming more than the sum of its parts, but it's certainly worth going back to read now.