After the death of her mother, Anne Halford is determined to follow in her footsteps and honour her memory by becoming a Silver Sugar Master, a title bestowed upon only the finest Silver Sugar confectioners that have been approved by the King at the Royal Candy Fair. The Fair takes place in Lewiston, and the only way for her to get there is via the Bloody Highway, a road that is notorious for being filled with bandits and dangerous wild creatures that roam the night. Buying a beautiful but snarky warrior fairy called Challe Fen Challe from the slave market in the nearby town of Redington to act as her bodyguard, Anne sets off on her journey, where she will face not just rival Silver Sugar confectioners, but also the injustices and corruption that fill the world around her.
Based on the light novel series by Miri Mikawa, this is actually its second manga adaptation, with the first being short-lived, having been released during the early stages of the story. With the anime adaptation airing this year, it’s a fantastic time to get this out and it’s very interesting to compare the two as I’ll come on to later.
The story itself paints an interesting coming-of-age romantic adventure that focuses on Anne as she strives to fulfil her dreams of becoming a Silver Sugar Master, all the while trying to deny her developing feelings for Challe. These two make for fantastic main characters as they not only hit things off right from the start but are polar opposites of each other. Anne is young and naïve and is frequently taken advantage of by the various other characters she comes across, whether that be her friend and rival sugar confectioner Jonas, or some of the fairies she meets. Challe, on the other hand, is cynical and jaded, his worldview darkened by the abuse he has suffered at the hands of humans, as well as a so-far unexplored traumatic event in his past.
Even though we are right at the very start of the adventure there’s plenty of growth here for both of them as individuals and their relationship, as their opposing personalities clash continuously. Anne tries to treat Challe like everyone else due to her belief in treating fairies as equals, but it takes time for Challe to begin to trust her true intentions with this, often trying to steal his wing back from her with both humorous and moving results. The pair’s tagalong, a fairy called Mithril Lid Pod, also often gets in the way with some daft antics, which works quite well to break up the tension of some of the more serious scenes.
While the majority of these are more about trying to make both us and Anne understand just how crooked the world really is, there’s some surprisingly nice action in here too which allows Challe to shine as Anne’s protector, slicing and dicing both menacing bandits and killer crows. It’s definitely the former where it truly shines though as there’s some excellent world building throughout this volume. It always has something interesting to show us and continually dives into the fairies’ predicament in how they are forced to be slaves and how that’s very much a bad thing, a point often reinforced by most of the people that they meet being the worst of humanity. There are a few good eggs here and there though, like the innkeeper who allows Anne to take her fairies into the main pub (something that’s pretty much never done due to racial segregation).
Where things get interesting is in its pacing and structure, which is where it felt rather different to the anime adaptation, despite the two covering the same content. The anime places more information up front and immediately sets the scene, while the manga has it more interwoven throughout the story – Jonas isn’t introduced until we see him on the Bloody Highway, for example, while Anne’s motivations for becoming a Silver Sugar Master aren’t revealed until later in the volume. I think either approach works, it’s just that the abrupt start makes the first manga chapter a bit more difficult to get into as you’re thrust into this fantasy world without really knowing who or what you’re supposed to be following.
The art though is really nice and fits the shojo genre well, putting a lot of focus on the characters’ emotions, expressions and interactions. It’s great seeing Anne blush, humph, grimace and smile through her adventure as it’s her emotional range that really draws you in, often giving you a chuckle at her exaggerated reaction to something that either Challe or Mithril Lid Pod has done. Character designs can initially feel a little inconsistent but solidify over the course of the volume, although Challe really stands out in dark and mysterious pretty boy territory.
Sugar Apple Fairy Tale is brought to us by Yen Press both physically and digitally and is translated by Nicole Wilder, of which I found no issues to note.
This first volume of Sugar Apple Fairy Tale shows plenty of promise, offering a lovely adaptation of a story that really fits into any medium, complete with some cute artwork that works well in bringing out the comedic side and showing off the characters’ emotions and the chemistry between them. If you’ve been enamoured of the anime adaptation and want another perspective or are just getting into the series for the first time, then I’d highly recommend checking this one out.