Sugar Sugar Rune Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Released By: Del Rey
  • MSRP: 10.99
  • Pages: 224
  • ISBN: 0-345-48630-7
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Sugar Sugar Rune Vol. #01

By Jarred Pine     March 22, 2006
Release Date: September 27, 2005

Sugar Sugar Rune Vol.#01
© Del Rey

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

What They Say
Little witch-girls Chocolat and 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 . . . wins!

Here’s how it works: When a boy falls for a witch-girl, she utters a few mystic words and the boy’s heart will be hers in jewel-like form. It may sound simple, but winning hearts is tricky business. While Chocolat had no problem enticing witch-boys with her forthright personality, human boys seem to be drawn to shy and modest girls like Vanilla. And to make matters worse, Chocolat is finding herself increasingly drawn to the cool and mysterious Pierre–who feels nothing for her! The girls had planned to be best friends forever, but both of them want to be Queen. Will their rivalry ruin their friendship?

The Review
After getting over the initial shock of seeing Moyoco Anno’s designs applied to a mahou shoujo title, Sugar Sugar Rune proves to be a cute and sweet introduction to a magical world of witches and, well, magic!

The cover is almost identical to the original Japanese tankoubon release, definitely letting readers know that this is a shoujo title. I like the feel of the cover, with a little bit of a Tim Burton influence in it all. The print reproduction looked a little below par on what I have been used to seeing with Del Rey. The ink looks 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, but there are no significant extras in this book despite the “Includes special extras after the story!” statement on the back cover. Overall, given the ‘Y’ rating that targets a younger audience with less monetary resources, and the lack of extras and color pages, the $10.95 price tag seems a bit high for this release.

The one aspect of Moyoco Anno’s art style that I’ve always enjoyed, even though it was a bit of a shock in the beginning, are the exaggerated eyes in her character designs. It really allows her to get across a good amount of personality and emotion on her characters’ faces. There is also a good amount of detail and creativity put into outfits, accessories, and even the backgrounds are nicely filled out. Being a magical girl manga, Anno also plays up to the fans of the genre with full page spreads of their “transformations”, which is essentially chanting a spell and pointing fingers like a gun towards the heart being captured. There are some interesting panel layouts as well, that can sometimes be borderline too busy, but make for an entertaining read.

SFX are translated with small English subs placed next to the original SFX. For the most part the placement is good, although a couple times the next subs were placed over say a character’s head, when it could have easily gone in the solid tone area above. Subs are great when they aren’t covering up artwork. The English script reads quite well with more of those wonderful translator notes in the back of the book. I especially liked how they included the meanings behind Vanilla’s and Chocolat’s names, and they tried to come up with an appropriate adaptation for the Kansai dialect which was a nice touch and not overdone. 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):
Okay, I know what you are thinking, “What the hell is Jarred ‘Shounen Champion’ Pine doing reviewing a magical girl manga?”. One of the voices inside my head asked me the same question. But before you start packing your bomb shelters in preparation for the coming Apocalypse, let me assure you that cats and dogs will not be living together anytime in the near future. My interest in Sugar Sugar Rune was all due to its creator, Moyoco Anno, whose seinen (Flowers & Bees) and josei (Happy Mania) titles have been some of my favorites. How would an accomplished mature manga creator handle a shoujo, magical girl story? To me, it’s sort of akin to Quentin Tarantino making a Disney movie. I must witness this spectacle!

Vanilla Mieux and Chocolat Meilleure, two witches from Magical World, have entered the human realm in order to prepare themselves as potential heirs to the Queen’s throne, currently held by Vanilla’s mother Queen Candy. The next Queen of the Magical World will be decided by the one who can capture the most hearts, collected as crystals which are kept in ornamental heart holders. Human hearts come in a variety of colors, which reflect the emotions they are feeling at the time they were captured. For example, a violet heart represents forbidden love while a “pee” colored one does not represent love at all, but rather fear. Each different colored heart is worth different amounts of “Ecure”, a type of currency that can be used to purchase other magical accessories, like a wand--a witch’s first step into adulthood. But a witch must be careful not to allow her own heart to be taken by a human. While a witch make take a human’s heart multiple times, a witch only has one heart to give after which she will die.

As you can probably infer from their names, Vanilla and Chocolat are complete opposites. Vanilla is the shy, introverted girl who was unpopular in the Magical World, but here with humans she attracts the boys’ attention without even trying. Chocolat is the loud renegade, who instead of flirting with the boys would rather “whup their butts”--a personality that is quite popular in the Magical World, but now scares off all the boys. It is Chocolat’s personality that dominates this first volume, which is not necessarily a bad thing as her character really is quite enjoyable. Most of the story revolves completely around Chocolat trying to figure out boys and how to capture hearts that are not pee colored, the only color of heart she seems to be able to collect.

In this first volume, Anno has quite a bit of ground to cover with setting up the story and her characters. As such, the pacing can at times feel a little awkward or disjointed, with each chapter structured to introduce some new facet or rule by which the witches must play by: colors of the hearts, the value in Ecure, buying magical items, and so on. There is an odd incongruence where Chocolat finally captures a pink heart, only to be in search of one a couple chapters later, as if the first pink heart was forgotten. The pace and flow between chapters could have been better, but each chapter within itself is definitely entertaining.

Outside of Chocolat and her mentor, pop idol Rockin’ Robin, the characters seem to be standard material and find themselves overshadowed by Chocolat’s presence. That said, there are some potential dynamics that could blossom into something more interesting later on. Vanilla and Chocolat are best friends, but they are also rivals in this competition. Even though Vanilla wants to help Chocolat as much as she can, she will soon need to learn how to talk and socialize with the boys on her own. And no shoujo, fairytale type of manga would be complete without the dark, angst-ridden boy who is just out to manipulate all the girls with his cold, emotionless heart, and yet all the girls love him. Prince Pierre, as he is affectionately called, is cruel and mean, but somehow he has captivated Chocolat. She must now be careful not to let her feelings get her in trouble, as her heart is beginning to change colors!

Sugar Sugar Rune is very much a deeply-rooted magical girl, shoujo manga that plays up to a lot of the conventions and styles that most fans of the genre are used to experiencing. That said I do believe that there is a certain flavor or influence here from Moyoco Anno’s more mature titles that gives it a little edge. There’s no doubt in my mind that Vanilla and Chocolat are both parts of her own personality; one is a girl expected to be quiet and demure, with the other being loud, independent, and easily frustrated. I also enjoy the metaphors surrounding youthful naiveté in regards to relationships and a girl coming of age.

The pace in this first volume is a little rough, but it is still a fun, sweet, and cheerful manga with some good promise for developing dynamics and conflicts ahead. All in all, Sugar Sugar Rune is a good title for the younger audiences out there.


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