For Mirka Andolfo, Simon Tessutio, and Fabio Amelia’s Sweet Paprika, the devil is in the details. What at first seems like another “working girl” romantic comedy story becomes a nuanced deconstruction of society’s expectations of women and how overworking one’s self can be a method to avoid facing ingrained emotional issues.
Paprika is the CCO of Infernum Press, a rising power in the publishing industry, about to start production on a film of their bestseller Spice It Up!. The titular character throws herself into her work and has extremely high expectations of her subordinates, causing many to avoid her altogether. Even the office delivery himbo, Dill, can’t seem to get her to swoon.
She justifies that she doesn’t need friends or a partner as long as she is successful, but these reassurances merely hide her inner pain. Her father, a judge held in high esteem by the community, fears her falling into the “sinful devil” stereotype and shames her throughout her life for dressing in a way he disapproves or choosing what he deems the wrong partners.
Despite her words, Paprika does desperately want a relationship and to express her sexuality. When she meets the producer of the upcoming film, a dashing devil named Za’atar, and her ex-fiancee, author of Spice It Up!, that she doesn’t know how to have fun, she decides to take action. However, her father’s voice continues to shame her at every turn.
Her inner turmoil is best summed up in this quote:
“If I behave, I don’t get what I want. If I don’t behave, I still don’t get it.”
What makes Sweet Paprika incredible is how it weaves this type of sentiment in with adorable rom-com story beats and a cartoonish sense of humor. It is thoroughly entertaining and thoughtful.
Paprika is caught in a double-standard of having her own sexual desires diminished but is expected to be available for the desires of men. She constantly seeks approval for her deeds and sacrifices her wants, making her miserable. Her psyche has been so damaged that she can’t pleasure herself in the privacy of her home without her father appearing in her fantasies to degrade her.
Andolfo’s story is even more impactful because of the use of devils and angels and the cartoon-like linework. This allows her to make a large contrast between the wacky comedy, which bends the laws of physics akin to the Animaniacs or Spongebob, and the sincere, tender moments, pulling the reader’s heartstrings like a semi.
With the assistance of Tessutio’s excellent ability to depict fire (which the story contains lots of) and Amelia’s creative lettering, which perfectly hides the identity of a certain character while flowing with the panel, Sweet Paprika has a little bit of everything for everybody.