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Sand Land: The Dragon Ball Creator's New Post-Apocalyptic Anime Movie Explained

Step aside, "Dragon Ball" — 2023 is the year of celebrating legendary manga author Akira Toriyama's substantially shorter and far lesser known masterpiece "Sand Land." This post-apocalyptic story, which originally ran for just three short months all the way back in 2000, is getting a surprising new lease on life by way of both an upcoming video game and a full-length feature film. The latter project is especially notable, as "Sand Land" has never previously been adapted into an anime format, despite Toriyama's renown.

Simply titled "Sand Land," the film is already well on its way to release. Between its downright gorgeous CGI animation and its unique narrative, it's shaping to be one that both "Dragon Ball" fans and general anime fans should look out for as one of the best anime movies of 2023. Here's an overview of what to expect from the long-awaited project, along with a few key details viewers might like to know about before diving in.

What is the release date for Sand Land?

Work on the "Sand Land" movie only became public knowledge in late 2022, but the film is already fast approaching its release date — at least, it is in Japan. The movie is confirmed to be getting a theatrical release, with it premiering in Japanese theaters on August 18. Versions of the movie in both IMAX and 4XD formats will be available to watch.

Unfortunately, there has been no official confirmation regarding whether or not fans in the West can expect a localized release of "Sand Land" around that same time frame, whether it will get an English dub, or if it will see a theatrical run at all. The English release strategy for "Sand Land" is a complete mystery at the moment, so those eager to watch the adaptation can only hope that it's not too far off from its international debut.

What is the plot of Sand Land?

Based on early promotional details and pre-release trailers, it seems like the "Sand Land" movie is set to be a pretty faithful adaptation of the original manga it's based on. As such, the narrative of the film will largely be the same as that of the original work — the story of the gritty yet good-hearted Sheriff Rao and his tenuous partnership with demons Beelzebub and Thief in order to bring an end to the drought afflicting his kingdom.

VIZ Media localized the original "Sand Land" manga with the following synopsis: "In the far future, war has destroyed the entire Earth, leaving only a barren wasteland where the supply of water is controlled by the greedy king. In search of a long-lost lake, Sheriff Rao asked the king of the demons for help...and got the king's son, Beelzebub, and his assistant, Thief. Together the unlikely trio sets off across the desert, facing dragons, bandits and the deadliest foe of all... the King's army itself!"

Who is starring in Sand Land?

The Japanese voice cast for "Sand Land" boasts some impressive talent from some of the most popular anime out there. In fact, at least one particular actor even has experience with the universe of Akira Toriyama's other franchise "Dragon Ball."

Mutsumi Tamura (Kobayashi in "Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid") leads the cast as Beelzebub. She is joined by Kazuhiro Yamaji (Hit in "Dragon Ball Super") as Sheriff Rao and Chō (Victor in "Boruto: Naruto Next Generations) as Thief. Other cast members include Satoshi Tsuruoka (Muraki in "Mob Psycho 100") as General Are, Nobuo Tobita (Sitch in "One Punch Man") as General Zau, Akio Ōtsuka (All For One in "My Hero Academia") as Satan, Chafurin (Inspector Megure in "Detective Conan") as the King, Tomokazu Sugita (Marlo in "Attack on Titan") as Swimmer's Papa, Koji Yusa (Tatara in "Tokyo Ghoul) as Pike, Hiroyuki Yoshino (Franky in "SPY x FAMILY") as Shark, and Masafumi Kobatake (Kjallakr in "Vinland Saga") as Guppy.

With an English dub of "Sand Land" still unconfirmed, there has been no information on who would make up the voice cast for such a project.

Who is directing Sand Land?

The "Sand Land" movie is directed by none other than Toshihisa Yokoshima. While the creator doesn't have a massive list of credits, he does have prior directorial experience. He previously directed the 2016 film "Cocolors" and the opening sequence of the 2020 movie "Doraemon the Movie: Nobita's New Dinosaur." Yokoshima has also worked extensively as a character animator and animation director for several notable video games, such as "Mega Man X8" and "Shin Megami Tensei: Persona."

Yokoshima is joined in his duties by Hiroshi Koujina, who is serving as the direction advisor for "Sand Land." Koujina has worked on numerous anime series and films in the past, including "Cowboy Bebop," "Hunter x Hunter," and "Fist of the North Star." He also has previous experience with adaptations of Akira Toriyama's works, as he was part of the team behind the film "Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone."

Who is writing and producing Sand Land?

The screenplay for "Sand Land" is written by Hayashi Mori. Similar to director Toshihisa Yokoshima, Mori doesn't have a gigantic list of previous credits, but he has done work on several notable productions in the past. To date, Mori has contributed in various capacities to anime series like "Space Dandy," "Layton Mystery Tanteisha," and the 2022 remake of "Urusei Yatsura." He also developed the screenplay for movies like "Drifting Home" and "Saki."

In terms of production studios, "Sand Land" is co-produced by three separate animation production houses: Sunrise, Kamikaze Douga and ANIMA. Sunrise has worked on household name projects such as "Attack on Titan," "Cowboy Bebop," "Demon Slayer," and "My Hero Academia." Meanwhile, Kamikaze Douga has contributed to series like "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure" and "Star Wars: Visions." Finally, ANIMA has credits from films like "Batman Ninja," "Mass Effect: Paragon Lost," and the live-action adaptation of "Tokyo Ghoul."

Is there a trailer for Sand Land?

Ahead of the release of "Sand Land," several teasers and trailers have been released. An initial teaser from December 2022 gave audiences their first taste of the movie's unique art style and animation, while also providing a look at the main trio of Beelzebub, Sheriff Rao, and Thief. Since then, a plethora of trailers have given more sneak peeks at what the film has in store.

One of the more recent trailers for "Sand Land" shows off some of the bombastic action sequences and fight scenes from the movie. Rao and Beelzebub in particular aren't pulling any punches when it comes to combat, with the latter getting a power-up in one shot that will look eerily familiar to anyone who knows what "Super Saiyan" is. The preview also features the main trio's unique rapport with one another, as they jump from vehicle-to-vehicle in order to traverse the desert.

Which parts of the manga will Sand Land adapt?

Those that are less familiar with the original "Sand Land" manga may be wondering just how much of the source material the film will be adapting, and which particular parts or chapters will be the focus. The answer? Just about everything.

While adapting an entire manga into a single movie may sound like a recipe for rushed disaster, "Sand Land" is a unique case. As alluded to earlier, it's actually a very short story spanning just 14 chapters. Thus, the runtime of a full-length movie is more than enough to adapt the original manga in its entirety.

Getting a comprehensive adaptation of "Sand Land" all in one go is more than a welcome strategy for fans, but it's also a bit of a double-edged sword. With the entire story covered and wrapped up by the end, viewers shouldn't hold their breath for any sort of follow-up or sequel in the future.