Sugar Sugar Rune, vol. 5

717176.jpgIt’s odd to think about how I dropped off following Sugar Sugar Rune with this volume while it was still in print, because the story takes a sharp turn that reinvigorates an already solid series into something new.

The last volume ended with Chocolat and her gang joining Vanilla on a beach getaway. A mysterious force pulls Chocolat underwater. This volume opens with Vanilla getting knocked out by some ogre cohorts, bringing with them a shocking twist: Chocolat may disappear forever if she can’t resurface before Vanilla slumbers. When Chocolat doesn’t appear, the beach setting disappears from view, as do the collective memories of Chocolat and Vanilla’s friends.

The rest of the volume follows Chocolat and Pierre on a new adventure, in the depths of a magical cave. Pierre intuits that a gateway to the magical world exists within the cave, so the two start to wander in search of it. They do eventually find it, after a run-in with a giant enemy spider, but while falling through a cosmic portal, Chocolat lets go of Pierre’s grasp and separates from him.

When Chocolat lands in the middle of a desert, she then encounters a witch named Amber, who helps her find a means to travel to the “center” of the magical world in exchange for manual labor. Chocolat struggles a bit, but she’s able to earn her reward and hitch a ride to a place that can better connect her to the magical world. In doing so, she finds Pierre, and they attempt to make their way back to the human world. They encounter a conman in a local town who forces them to perform in the street for ecure. But when they think they’re able to get home, the conman ups the price, the only concession being Pierre’s noir heart. Pierre takes him up on the offer, and Chocolat escapes on her own. That said, she uses a super-powered L’Etoile Brilliant to psyche out the conman and rescues Pierre in one fell swoop.

Talk about a shake-up! This was the best volume of Sugar Sugar Rune yet. For the entire volume, it stopped being so much about interpersonal connections and petty rivalries and became a small-scale fantasy epic. Just in seeing the new sights and changing the narrative’s routine, this one was a fun ride.

Another great thing about this volume is how it displays Chocolat’s growth as a person. She is pretty calm and collected when in the magical cave, her only emotion being the nervousness she feels being around Pierre. When she winds up in the desert, she pitches no fits to get what she wants. Amber tells her what she needs, and Chocolat commits. Even when Amber corrects Chocolat’s language for being less than polite, Chocolat responds with a level head, accepting that her way of carrying herself may need to change to benefit the situation. Lastly, her last-second decision to save Pierre with a quick spell was such a nice sight. I remember how she used to struggle with her magic usage, so this was a real treat. For all she has been through, Chocolat has displayed true maturity in these chapters.

While I have enjoyed reading this series up to now, I would hesitate to say that it’s truly special or up there with the greats. This volume, however, has moved to a new locale and hit all the right beats, so maybe the high praise this series gets will start to make sense to me with the remaining volumes. I, for one, am definitely optimistic about what comes next.

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.

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