Seemingly cute and geared toward young girls, Sugar Sugar Rune is the story of two young witches, Chocolat and Vanilla sent to the human world. Once there, they are to compete against one another in winning more human boy hearts to win the title of Queen of the Magic World. Chocolat and Vanilla are best friends as well as rivals but where Chocolat is bold and defiant, Vanilla is shy and timid. Let the romance begin!
Sugar Sugar Rune is definitely not what it seems. On the outside it looks to be a typical magic-girl type series, falling in line with stories such as Cardcaptor Sakura or the more popular Sailor Moon, geared toward young girls. The artwork isn't groundbreaking, and tends to follow the shoujo pattern of big eyes and excessive girly screen tones, but by no means is the art bad. On the flip side, it's actually quite charming and chic in its choice of fashion and character design. At the same time, the magic girl aspects are quite standard, with spells and wands cast and bought to obtain hearts. Pretty boys with long haired fringes and mysterious love rivals a la mode.
However, I was pleasantly surprised at how much deeper Sugar Sugar Rune strikes the heart, and how much better it really this than what it seems. The main plot device, the competition to win boys' hearts, actually evolves into something quite endearing. Sugar Sugar Rune takes a simple storyline and develops it further, adding sincere scenes on the basics of love: from the painful first heartbreak to the honey sweet flavor of mutual love, and hints on to unrequited love. The girls, Chocolat and Vanilla are actually quite mature and insightful for their age, especially Chocolat. She recognizes love as fleeting, and the values of friendship early on after trying (unsuccessfully) to obtain a high leveled heart. Actually, Sugar Sugar Rune is simply so sincere in its portrayal of childhood love, that it is absolutely endearing to anybody - young or old, male or female, reminiscent of their elementary school crushes.
Sugar Sugar Rune may not be the most original or beautiful manga out there, and neither it is the most poignant, but it sets up a great start for the series and introduces a tender theme already. Too many shoujo manga stories have fallen victim to overusing love stories and romance cliches. Sugar Sugar Rune in its naive childhood look at love avoids most of these, much in the same way a series like Gakuen Alice does. From a child's view, first love is so wholesome, so sweet, how can any of us not reminisce about our first tugs at the heartstrings? Don't judge this one by its cover, from its first pages Sugar Sugar Rune will have you enchanted, and keep you reading.