Chocolate Underground

Vol: 1; Ch: 3
3.743 out of 5 from 20 votes
Rank #14,235
Chocolate Underground

In the name of a good and healthy lifestyle, the Good For You Party has banned sweets, pastries and chocolate in favor of nutritious substitutes such as fruits and vegetables. Smudger has to watch his father's pastry shop fail under this new government rule, but when Smudger and his friend Huntly discover a secret cocoa shop in an abandoned mine, they realize that there might just be hope for sweet tooths everywhere!

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Probably the most literally revolutionary cooking manga out there. When we talk about authoritarianism being an unethical and oppressive system of government, it can often feel abstract and removed from our daily lives. Especially for children, who may not be able to relate to some of the more adult parts of life which authoritarian governments might restrict. So this manga portrays it in such a way that everybody can relate. The authoritarian government, led by the Good For You political party, takes away access to chocolate. The government uses Detector Van surveillance in the streets and random searches in schools and homes to catch anyone trying to sneak access to chocolate. The government sends offenders to re-education camps to remove their desire for chocolate. The government encourages snitching and has everyday people closeby acting as spies reporting on even potentially suspect behavior, so people don't even feel safe expressing sympathy for offenders. The government disallows any dissenting opinions or opposing political movements. The government controls all sources of information, removing any books or websites which talk about chocolate. The government has no transparency or accountability. And this authoritarian government was made possible because people got complacent and didn't show up to the voting booths on election day. The first two chapters are great, with the introduction of the authoritarian crackdown and the kids taking the initiative to start cooking their own chocolate and selling it in an underground speakeasy. My only complaint would be how they exaggerated the horrid taste of the replacement desserts. Yes, obviously not having access to refined sugars or chocolate would make sweets less mouthwatering and delicious, but it's not as though they would be gag-worthy. Like, fruits have naturally occurring sugars and are at least palatable, if I do say so myself. So all the scenes of people spitting out the desserts in disgust or taking great pains to swallow them are a bit, um...unfair. The final chapter isn't so great. It dragged this manga down from a 9/10 to a 7/10. I understand that the story needed to come to some sort of conclusion, though in this case, not concluding it and just letting it end abruptly may have been less detrimental than the conclusion they decided on. In this chapter, we see exactly how entrenched the authoritarian government has become. We realize that the country is now being ruled by a one-party dictatorship which uses military power to suppress all other voices. Now, I could be wrong, but I don't think that in such a situation a mob of (unarmed) people marching up to the dictator and saying "Is this really how you want to run your country?" would actually be very effective. And also, the dictator isn't a very believable dictator. Fe's kind of a pushover. Which then raises the question, "Is fe even a dictator?" And if fe's not a dictator, then why did the Sweet Party (the political party with a platform of letting people eat chocolate if they want to) feel that the only way to get people to recognize their existence was to hijack the TV networks? This chapter made clear how half-baked the setting was.

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