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Manga Review: Sugar (x2) Rune V.1

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 boys heart will be hers in jewel like form. It may sound simple, but winning hearts is tricky business. While Chocolat had no problems 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?

Extras:
• Honorifics Guide
• Translation Notes
• Japanese Preview

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INTRODUCTION
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Moyoco Anno’s manga is nothing like one might expect it to be. Instead of taking a typical path of “girl and guy” love story it is a gothic and young adult vision of something almost horrific whilst always maintaining a certain level of cuteness throughout. The translation is done by Yayoi Ihne who presents the series In a good light… but is the manga really from heaven or hell?

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PRESENTATION – Rating: 9 (out of 10)
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The cover art for this introductory volume of Sugar Sugar Rune is presented in such a fashion that it makes the series seem cute and cuddly. It is not altogether eye-catching but it gives an idea of what readers should expect. It could grab the attention of gothic people everywhere. However, the actual content seems a little bizarre and out there when read from someone outside of the target audience. The author may not have intended the manga to seem the way it does yet the artwork still seems a little misleading. There seems to be something darker to the lead characters at parts. Perhaps it is reading into the series too much to say it is “Strange”. It is, however, thoroughly unusual to a large degree. The setup and structure of this volume is appropriate as Del Rey always delivers what is best when it comes to the high quality of the books they release. An Honorifics Guide is included as usual. The better the understanding is of the Japanese words the more fun this will be to read.

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TRANSLATION – Rating: 10 (out of 10)
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Yayoi Ihne has kept up to pace with Del Rey’s outstanding translations. As expected; the manga is outstandingly translated. This is one of the things this publisher does best. The characters and story seem well understood by the translator and the context of everything is well delivered for the reader.

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ARTWORK – Rating: 7 (out of 10)
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While this artwork is not altogether amazing it is far from being unpleasant to look at. The work is inventive, if a bit strange, yet that won’t stop readers from enjoying the pictures of the bizarre alternate universe of our human world. The work improved as the volume kept going. I wonder; will it be even better in time for volume two?

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STORY – Rating: 7 (out of 10)
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If there is anything worth noting about this manga it is that it works as an original conception on many levels which readers will not expect on first glance. The characters and basic plots are akin to several previous anime and manga series yet the way to which it is all approached almost seems to breathe fresh air into the type of genre that this is. It may be hard to classify it distinctly but shojo-gothic is an easy enough to understand description. The young girls that play the main characters in this series are both interesting and enjoyable to read about. As the story progresses a better image of their own separate personalities begins to grow. One of them is totally unpopular in the magical world because of her shy and good-hearted nature. The other girl was the most popular girl in the magical world with her “bad-boy” image and attitude. When she discovers that the opposite is found favorable amongst humans a strange sort of competition begins between the two girls to see who can win the most hearts of human boys. As soon as a heart is captured it takes away the affection and love they had for the girls and it can never come back the same way again. It earns them “brownie points” and they can use the hearts to purchase things that any witch will need to become successful in adulthood. The story, while not perfect, has plenty of open opportunities for further developments.

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EXTRAS – Rating: 7 (out of 10)
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This is one of the best things about Del Rey Manga. As if their releases were not good enough they include a pleasing amount of extras. Manga extras are typically uncommon. DVD’s can be found loaded to the brim with supplemental material but books are not known for this type of material. Del Rey is unlike many other publishers in this respect. Translation notes help the reader to see the different paths the translator could have taken to make certain situations seem somewhat different or more accessible for the American mainstream. It is interesting to see how often some obvious changes are left undone for the sake of maintaining the original artist’s vision. To finish it all off is a preview of the next volume (in Japanese).

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OVERALL – Rating: 7 (out of 10)
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Fans of lighthearted shojo-manga will want to look into this story and give it a try even if it’s basic plot is a little out of the ordinary. It will make for a worthwhile read and as the plot thickens it left me as a reader curious as to if the story has a deeper message behind all of its “collect-em-all” allusions. Who knows what may lie ahead in volume two.