~by Moyoco Anno
2005 Kodansha Manga Award Winner
Sugar Sugar Rune was the third manga series by Moyoco Anno to be licenced in English. The first volume of Sugar Sugar Rune was released in Japan in 2004. The English-language edition, published by Del Rey Manga, was released only a year later in 2005. Unlike all of Anno's other manga currently available in English, Sugar Sugar Rune is a shoujo manga created for a younger audience, specifically girls between the ages of six and twelve. However, the series also appeals to adult readers. Sugar Sugar Rune is probably one one Anno's most popular and well known manga series. Anno received the 2005 Kodansha Manga Award for best children's manga for Sugar Sugar Rune. The manga was also adapted into a fifty-one episode anime series between 2005 and 2006. I thoroughly enjoyed Sugar Sugar Rune when I first read it and was happy to have the excuse of the Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast to take a another look at the series.
Chocolat Meilleure and Vanilla Mieux are two best friends whose personalities couldn't be more different. Vanilla is shy and reserved while Chocolat is brash and outgoing. Now the two of them are rivals as well as friends--both of the young witch girls have been selected as a candidate for the next Queen of the Magical World. As part of the test to determine who will become Queen, Chocolat and Vanilla are sent to the Human World to see who can capture the most hearts. Chocolat's aggressive personality, which was admired in the Magical World, seems to have put her at a disadvantage in the Human World where most boys appear to prefer the more demure Vanilla. But that's not about to stop Chocolat from doing her best to win over, and take, the hearts of those she meets.
In part, Sugar Sugar Rune is a magical girl series and so many of the tropes and conventions of that genre are present. There are strong themes of love, friendship, and staying true to yourself as well as plenty of accessories and merchandising opportunities. But underneath Sugar Sugar Rune's sugary, candy-coated exterior is a center that's bittersweet. There is fun and magic, but there's also the beginning of Chocolat's coming-of-age story. Stealing hearts and playing with the feelings of others have some very real consequences with which the girls will have to come to terms. They also have to guard their own hearts carefully: humans can have their hearts taken multiple times, but witches and wizards only have one true heart. Should a witch fall in love with another person and have her heart stolen she may even die.
Sugar Sugar Rune starts out innocently enough but there are also hints of something more ominous brewing. I think that's one of the things that makes the series so engaging. I also love Anno's characters and their designs. Chooclat really steals the show in the first volume. I wasn't as enamored with Vanilla at first, but she did grow on me. The secondary characters are great, too--everyone from the girls' guardian of sorts Robin, who makes his living in the Human World as an idol stealing the hearts of women hundreds at a time, to the neighborhood boy and classmate Akira, who is obsessed with aliens and is convinced Chocolat is from another planet. Anno's artwork is a wonderful as always although occasionally there's so much going on on a given page that it can be overwhelming. Sugar Sugar Rune is a truly delightful series; the first volume only gives a taste of what is to come.