Sugar Sugar Rune
Young witches Chocolat and Vanilla are sent by the Queen of the witching world to earth on an important assignment: to collect as many hearts from the humans as possible. Whoever collects the most valuable of hearts will be the next queen!
Sounds really cliche, doesn't it? Don't be fooled. To combat the mundane and uninspiring Pretty Cure, Saturday morning's Sugar Sugar Rune has got to be the hippest, edgiest magical girl show I have come across in a long time.
There really is a great style to this series--looking more like designer Anna Sui's conception of a Halloween clothing line than your average shoujo series. Rather than the bright pastels we are normally accustomed to in most shoujo titles, Sugar Sugar Rune's palette is based on (first and foremost) black, orange, green, fuchsia, and purple. There is a romantic classical gothic tone to the artwork of this series, without being dark and brooding. It is obvious the girls are witches, but they are more your trick-or-treat variety than anything you will find on Charmed. Their smiles are huge (and fanged? It works.) and their fashion looks like something out of either Harajuku or The Wizard of Oz. Add pointy ears, and there's no mistaking that these cuties are a little different (read: weird).
Add in the lead characters Chocolat and Vanilla. Those two would have been just as aptly called Spice and Sugar. They are total opposites--and although their fate has pitted them against each other as rivals for queenlyhood, they vowed to each other that they will be best friends no matter what.
The soft-spoken, tender-hearted Vanilla automatically has the advantage. Not only is she more popular with boys than the impulsive and aggressive Chocolat, but her mother won the last contest--making her the obvious heir apparent should she succeed.
But Chocolat has no intention of giving up the game. Her mother--now deceased--was in her very position just a generation before her. Chocolat is determined to be queen--for her and her mother.
At first the capturing of impressionable hearts seems like harmless fun--for a cunning witch, it is business as usual, right? But as the school year progresses and the girls interact more with their classmates (like lions mingling with the antelope, sorta), they began to develop a sense of reverence and awe for the human emotion of love.
Their empathy towards their classmates is always under fire though, as several other witches nearby take part in heart-collecting as well. These witches, however, are men who are stealing the hearts of all the ladies. The girls and these male witches all live by the code "The heart is yours to take, but you must not allow yours to be taken." With a warning like that--no less in a shoujo series--that is just baiting our poor heroines, isn't it? Especially when things start getting really nasty between witchy egos...
And rather than there being any characters to temper these passions, the guardians and mascots of this show only pour fuel on the fire. The only thing the girls have to keep them sane (which, in this series, is entirely relative) is each other...in spite of their rivalry.
The quirkiness of the characters in Sugar Sugar Rune is what really sets the series apart. Vanilla and Chocolat aren't your average girls. They are witches, and they (especially Chocolat) are proud of it! The situations the two girls put themselves in (not I did not write "find themselves in") are at the very least chuckle-worthy, while some instances are knee-slapping hilarious.
Most magical girl shows of this dynamic have been a thing of the past. The very first magical girl series (and incidentally the first anime to be broadcast in color) was Mahou Tsukai Sally, or "Sally the Witch." It featured a young witch who came from a magical world to earth (much like the girls in Sugar Sugar Rune) because she loved humans so much and she wanted to study them. As the magical girl subgenre evolved to different dynamics, any magical girl who was born with magical powers (as opposed to receiving powers via a magical toy or guardian of some sort) would be referred to as "Sally-type." (For example, Nina from Ultra Maniac is a Sally-type magical girl. Sakura from Card Captor Sakura or Maron from Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne are not.)
Sugar Sugar Rune is a snazzy little throwback to the days before magical girls were moonlighting as crime-fighters, and their problems rarely went beyond their personal life. Instead of action and adventure a 'la shounen style, we return to pure, unadulterated shoujo: friendship, rivalry, angst, romance--with a healthy splash of eye-popping comedy. (Not to mention the opening theme song is INFECTIOUS.)
I have definitely found a new favorite magical girl series. This one is just zany enough to be a safe bet even for those who yawn at the magical girl subgenre. Seriously, give this one a try. I know better than to recommend a magical girl show to just anyone, but Sugar Sugar Rune is just too sassy to be passed over.
Original execution, fresher-than-fresh characters, edgy style, and incredible potential for character development. Any shoujo fan will eat this one up, and I get the feeling a lot of non-shoujo viewers will like this one, too. — Melissa Sternenberg
Recommended Audience: Appropriate for just about anyone, unless you are offended by the traditional "witch in a black hat" notion.
Version(s) Viewed: Television broadcast (Japan); prerelease fansub
Review Status: Partial (10/52)
Sugar Sugar Rune © 2005 Studio Pierrot
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