Original Story: Miri Mikawa
Artwork: Yozorano Udon
What They Say:
In a world where fairies are caught and sold to the highest bidder, humans aren’t exactly on friendly terms with the fae folk. But friendship is exactly what Anne Halford seeks with Challe, her new fairy bodyguard, though he’s not so keen on the idea. As his master, Anne tasks him with escorting her through a particularly dangerous area, but with a reluctant fairy bodyguard eager to escape a life of servitude, she’ll have to deal with a lot more than she bargained for…
In the world of Highland, a fairy is made by the power of a human’s gaze. A glance at anything, from the hardest diamond to the tiniest drop of water, can congeal into a beautiful fairy if it’s observed properly. This is pretty light-and-fluffy stuff, or it seems like it: then you learn that these fairies usually have one of their wings ripped off and are bought and sold like cattle, some for manual labor and some as “pets.” This unusual mix of the whimsical and dark-and-gritty runs throughout Sugar Apple Fairy Tale.
Our heroine, Anne Halford, is a candy crafter: she makes complex sculptures out of a special kind of sugar, as her mother did before her. Candy sculptures may not seem terribly important to us, but they are life and death for Anne. Mere weeks after her mother’s death, she’s determined to earn the title of Silver Sugar Master, like her mother, but to get to the contest in time, she must travel to another town, by a road called “The Bloody Highway.” To survive this perilous route, she must buy a fairy to protect her, even though she finds the practice abominable. What would happen to Anne if she tried to go alone is never stated, but strongly implied.
What follows is an interesting examination of how a good person tries to rationalize doing a horrible thing. Anne wants to be friends with Challe, her warrior fairy, and give him suggestions rather than orders. Challe isn’t buying this, and demands that Anne treat him like a slave, so she cannot hide from the reality of what she is doing. Even a very nice slave master is still a slave master, and it’s refreshing that Anne is smart enough to realize this. She knows Challe is right that the two cannot be friends while she owns him, but she can’t help but try.
Since Anne is only fifteen years old, in theory she has plenty of time to become a Silver Sugar Master. However, she’s convinced herself that earning the title this year will allow her mother to rest in peace, thus her urgency. As it becomes increasingly obvious to Challe that the whole trip is a young girl’s desperate, confused way of mourning her only family, the relationship between Anne and Challe becomes increasingly complex.
The art is really high-quality. Newcomer-to-manga Yozorono Udon meticulously draws every detail of Anne’s intricate dress, with all its bows and ruffles, as well as the clothes of several other human and fairy characters. The only shortcoming of the art is that Challe is supposed to be this incredibly beautiful fairy and I’m really not seeing it, but maybe I’m not the best judge of fairy charisma.
A note on translation: the manga calls Anne a “Candy Crafter,” while Crunchyroll’s translation of the anime uses “Sugar Artisan.” I think I prefer Sugar Artisan, since it sounds more refined: “Candy Crafter” makes it sound like Anne is just making lollipops or something.
Like classic fairytales, Sugar Apple Fairy Tale combines the beautiful and the grisliest horror in one sparkling confection of a manga.
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: Teen
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: April 18, 2023
MSRP: $13:00 US/$17.00 CAN