Like, ohmygod, readers! So good to see you! This is, like, another Infernal Review.
*ahem* Anyways, I think most people can pretty much agree that, in general, adult life is full of drama. Childhood, on the other hand, is equally full of happiness. But what about adolescence?
Well, that’s just a Bittersweet Candy Bowl.
Written by Veronica Vera of Australia (previously the United States [previously Ecuador]), Bittersweet Candy Bowl features a plentiful cast of anthropomorphic characters in middle/high-school as they lead their lives and deal with the typical problems of adolescence, i.e. impending changes, burgeoning sexuality, romantic interests/rivalry, insecurity, and unexpected mishaps. What follows is a series of chapters full of equal parts laughter, happiness, romance, and sadness.
I’ve talked briefly about how anthropomorphic characters are common in media, but sometimes lead to odd questions. A common one is the Goofy/Pluto Conundrum; if Disney’s Goofy is a talking dog, then why doesn’t Pluto, Mickey Mouse’s pet dog, talk as well? This opens the door for a plethora of questions, more than a few of which concern slavery and/or mental condition. Though not, according to the creator, a “furry” comic, BCB falls into that same trap by presenting a world where people just happen to be cats and dogs… who own other, very much intelligent, talking animals as pets. Needless to say, the same questions are raised. The comic, for its part, doesn’t really answer any of them. It plays with the issue a bit in Chapter 4, but nothing is truly explained, changed, or resolved. It’s used as just another joke, which left me a tad disappointed as I feel something more could’ve been done with this.
The artwork is very hit and miss here. At the beginning, it’s hand-drawn, rough, and very sloppy. According to the writer, it started off as more of a hobby than an actual attempt to make a comic. It does improve dramatically (no pun intended) as the chapters progress, but it does take a while. On the other hand, I really like the newer art; its cleaner, crisper, and more expressive and I like how different chapters or scenes feature distinct color filters. There are a few chapters inserted into the older ones that are drawn in the newer style, which give the readers starting off from the beginning something nice to look at every so often, but, unfortunately, this also makes the sudden reversions back to the older style even more jarring. Ms. Vera readily admits that the early art is rather bad and recommends that new readers start at a more recent chapter. She accepts it. She’s moved on. We should, too.
In regards to writing, the comic is a lot like Degrassi crossed with your typical, overly silly, slice of life manga. The comic is replete with absurd moments of comedy, many of which are truly hilarious. At the same time, these silly moments are broken up by sudden bouts of angst and drama. Personally, I’ve never really cared for school drama series like Degrassi or Glee. My reasoning is, while I did have a relatively peaceful high school experience, I certainly don’t want to relive it. Despite my preferences, however, the primary characters are interesting enough to carry the drama. On that note, I have to admit that I kind of find Lucy, the main female, to be a bit of a mean, chronically unsympathetic character. We’re meant to feel for her and see this as a way of hiding her insecurities, but the few issues she has are minor to nothing compared to those of other characters, yet she constantly does awful things towards her friends. Honestly, sometimes I think she’d match her character better if she were drawn as a female dog instead of a cat (see what I did there? That’s wutchu might call a “double entendre”). Personally, the character I find most compelling is Paulo, the wannabe ladies’ man with a heart of gold and hidden depths. That’s the benefit of having a large cast, though; if you don’t care for one character, there are always others to get behind.
That said… these characters talk about and do things that are way too out there to be completely believable. Teenagers are vulgar, no doubt about that, but these ones act more like your stereotypical college students than the middle-schoolers they’re supposed to be. A lot of them also have colorful vocabularies for their age, which, coupled with the heavy sexual content, makes this comic completely inappropriate for children and young readers. Nothing ever really happens on screen, mind you, but I’d still say the comic’s geared more towards college-age and young adult readers. However, your mileage may vary on this one.
My personal tastes aside, I can honestly say that there are hidden gems in this comic (once you get past the roughage). Funny and absurd, with a side of heart-touching, I do think a lot of casual readers would find something to like about this one. If you have a taste for angst-ridden, teen soap operas, give this one a try.
Bittersweet Candy Bowl is written by Veronica Vera. This comic, including all images used here, belongs to her. An “About” page, featuring descriptions of the cast, as well as their first appearances, can be found here. Any questions for the author can be asked on her Formspring account.The comic currently updates Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.