Sugar Sugar Rune Vol. #02 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Saturday, March 25, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2006



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Moyoco Anno
Translated by:Yayoi Ihne
Adapted by:

What They Say
Outspoken Chocolat and shy Vanilla are best friends, but only one of them can be Queen of the Magic World. To determine who deserves the title, they must go to the Human World and enter a strange competition. Whoever attracts the most human boys . . . claims victory!

Chocolat's problems in the Human World continue, as sweet and modest Vanilla wins many admirers. But there's more at stake than a contest when Chocolat learns something shocking about Pierre, the boy she's falling for. It is a secret that threatens Chocolat's life and forces her to return to the Magic World to uncover a truth no one in the Kingdom wants to discuss. Worse still, as the challenge heats up, the two best friends find themselves drifting apart and their friendship on the verge of ending!

The Review
The pace smoothes out quite nicely here with the introduction of some direction and conflict, with Moyoco Anno providing a lot of great metaphors and imagery surrounding relationships and the coming-of-age.

Packaging:
The cover is almost identical to the original Japanese tankoubon release, with bright colors and a nice back cover illustration included as well. The print reproduction continues to be a little below par for Del Rey, with the ink looking a little dark and muddy on a few pages. No color plates are included. There is a creator bio as well as a raw preview of the next volume, with a 2-page "Beauty Lesson" from Chocolat. Overall, I don't think the packaging is as solid as other Del Rey releases, and with the 'Y' rating I'm wondering if this title should have carried a lower price tag for the younger crowd.

Art:
Moyoco Anno's artwork continues to be really enjoyable, with her exaggerated style creating lively characters and the attention to detail with accessories and outfits makes for memorable and stylish characters. Anno also plays up to the fans of the genre with full page spreads of transformations and interesting panel layouts as well. Maybe a little too busy at times, but the style does go well with the magical theme and stylish imagery.

Text/SFX:
SFX are translated with small English subs placed next to the original SFX, which sometimes have questionable placement. The English script reads quite well with more of those wonderful translator notes in the back of the book. Honorifics are also used, with the standard guide included that explains their meaning.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
After setting things up with previous volume, Moyoco Anno infuses the story with more conflict here with Chocolat finding herself up against Pierre, arguing with Vanilla, and wondering if she'll ever get her mother's diary to open. In order to receive some assistance, Chocolat sneaks back to the Magical World where she reunites with friends, causes a little mischief, and learns about a clan of magicians called "Ogres" who are possibly up to some nefarious doings not only in the Magical World, but in the human one as well. Chocolat may not understand the history and severity of what she has been told, but she may unwillingly find herself in the middle of a war between clans that has been developing behind the scenes for quite some time, with Queen Candy doing her best to end the bloodshed between the clans.

So with all the introductions and rules of the magical world out of the way, the conflict is now brought to the table that will drive Chocolat to become a stronger witch living in the human world. The conflict is spread out onto a few layers, which I'm finding to be quite the pleasant surprise for a title that is aimed at a younger audience. Chocolat has to deal with her rival and potential attacker in Pierre, who shows us that he too wields a little magic himself. The Ogre clan also has members of their own in the human world, even at Chocolat's school, so the witches will have to be careful with whom they trust. There is also a developing rift between Chocolat and Vanilla, one that will test their friendship and whether or not they can still remain friends during this competition for the throne. Throw in the mini-political struggle developing behind the scenes between the ranking members of the Magical World, and there is a good amount of little subplots scattered about that make for a much more engaging read.

The dichotomy between Vanilla and Chocolat continues to be one of the more interesting aspects of the story for myself. I can't help but wonder if both characters reflect the conflicting personalities inside of Anno herself. There is a scene where the always together Vanilla gets angry at Chocolat for wasting her money rashly without properly building up her wand with accessories. Vanilla is the mature one planning for the future, while Chocolat thinks nothing of it and wants immediate satisfaction now. We all have to grow up, but some us still want to live life with caution thrown into the wind.

Comments
With this second installment of Sugar Sugar Rune the pace smoothes out a bit more with more semblance of a story and direction for our characters. There is a good amount of conflict introduced over multiple layers that allows for a really engaging experience. Moyoco Anno still throws a lot of relationship and coming-of-age metaphors at us as well that makes this a title that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Personally, even though I know I must be responsible like Vanilla, there is still a good part of me like Chocolat that just wants to do whatever the wind blows my way. Sugar Sugar Rune continues to be a very cute story for young audiences, with Anno's edginess and hidden metaphors giving us older audiences enough meat to chew on and appreciate as well.



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Released By: Del Rey
MSRP: 10.99
Pages: 224
ISBN: 0-345-48629-3
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left