Anno Moyoco is one of my favorite authors working in comics today, specifically for her josei works like Sakuran, Insufficient Direction, and In Clothes Called Fat. She’s really great at portraying the darkness in the world and in interpersonal relationships. Her characters have always felt real to me.
But my introduction to Anno’s work wasn’t her adult-oriented stories; it was this series right here, Sugar Sugar Rune, a magical girl series written for elementary schoolers. I picked up on this series after reading Shaenon Garrity’s writeup in her Overlooked Manga Festival from the late 2000s. I started reading this series as it came out in English back then, but dropped off after volume 5 came out. I held onto my old volumes and have since acquired the books I was missing, so I thought it might be worth it to revisit the series for the site.
Sugar Sugar Rune features Chocolat and Vanilla, two young witches who have been transported to the human world. The magical world they come from has a once-in-a-generation competition for the title of queen, and Chocolat and Vanilla are the two eligible for the throne. To do this, they must earn the affections of humans and steal their hearts, which spawn as jewels that they can collect.
Chocolat and Vanilla are best friends in the magical world, so they don’t feel a strong competitive streak, but it gets complicated once they start to collect hearts. Chocolat realizes that her boisterous, loud, defiant personality doesn’t earn her favor among her classmates; instead, they prefer the mannerisms of shy, reserved Vanilla. Chocolat is instead outcast early on, so it’s slim pickings for her when it comes to collecting hearts. Vanilla soon outpaces her in the race to become queen.
The best thing about the series so far is Anno’s art. Everything in this volume is so detailed and ornate. Anno’s SD-style contortions are also present and accounted for, too. I don’t have a lot to say about this one, other than that it’s a joy to look at.
There isn’t much else going on here so far – Chocolat and Vanilla aren’t more than the sum of their tropes. I do like that Chocolat, cocky as she’s said to have been before the beginning of the story, really struggles to win affection, and instead falls in love herself. Some aspects of the book were frustrating – Chocolat steals the heart of a boy in her school’s newspaper club. She says when she catches it that it’s pink, but later says it’s orange – essentially less valuable for the competition. I don’t know if this was an issue with the text itself or if it was just an error in editing, but it took me out of the story.
I remember really enjoying this series when I started reading it in high school, so I’m a little disappointed to see that this volume didn’t completely win me over after this reread. I remember that it gets more intense later on, so I’m going to see it through to the end. All of the Anno manga I’ve read have been worthwhile, so I’m okay if this one needs more time to get going.
Sugar Sugar Rune was written and illustrated by Anno Moyoco. It was serialized in Kodansha’s Nakayoshi magazine from 2004 to 2007, and its chapters were later collected in eight bound volumes. Del Rey Manga released all eight volumes in North America from 2005 to 2008 before they ceased operations in 2010. This review is based on that edition, which is out-of-print. The North American rights were reacquired by Udon Entertainment in 2015, though their release of the series is still forthcoming as of 2018.