Liberta, Felicita, and Nova of Arcana Famiglia
Title: La Storia della Arcana Famiglia
TV Series; Episodes 12
Genre: Shoujo Romance
Produced: J.C. Staff
The basic story revolves around Felicita, the teenaged daughter of Mondo and Sumire. Mondo is currently the “Papa” of The Family, who are the folks in charge of the island of Regalo and are basically the mafia. But they’re a nice mafia family. And to make it more interesting, the members of the family have entered into ‘contracts’ with various cards of the Tarroco. They are able to use their Arcana powers to supplement regular fighting power. Each card has some enhancement, but not everyone can use them as well as others.
It doesn’t sound like a bad story idea, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Throughout the series, it felt like there was just a lot of nothing going on. The main story is focused on Felicita as she has been declared one of the prizes of the Duello, a contest to select the replacement for Mondo as Papa, and also Felicita’s husband. Announced at the beginning of the series, the Duello would seem to be the focus of the series, since the main characters are always talking about getting stronger for it, but it only happens in the last episode, and doesn’t even take the whole episode. Most of the episodes focus on Fel, Nova, and Liberta, the two main suitors for Fel. There are various side stories, like Nova’s parents, Liberta’s origins, and Mondo’s failing health due to the burden The World Arcana is putting on him, but there isn’t a lot of progress, nor is there much romance.
I found the characters to be pretty uninteresting. Fel herself spends almost the entire time just saying one word at a time, ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and standing around while other people do stuff around her. Liberta and Nova talk almost incessantly about becoming stronger, and they do throughout the series, but it’s not really a tangible thing. We just have to take their word for it. Both of them have pledged to win the Duello, but not to accept Fel as a prize, and to ‘set her free’. Noble, but again a bit of a letdown. The story really never lets any type of romance happen, Liberta and Nova are almost always together when they’re with Fel, and even with her Arcana – The Lovers – trying to convince her to pick someone so she can get stronger, she won’t do it. It’s fine with me if she’s not in love with anyone, but it really shuts down an avenue of characterization. I never even got the impression that she loved both of them and couldn’t pick, just that she just kind of loved them as brothers.
The side characters all have potentially interesting traits, but as with the main characters, these feel mostly wasted. Noone ever seems to get enough time to become a person, rather than a crude sketch of a character.
The production for the series was ok, but it didn’t help to bring up the level of the show very much. It seemed like there were continual missteps in pacing and characterization, and the length of the stories was just too inconsistent. Some episodes have somewhat amusing omakes at the end, others just end with the ED theme. But even the omakes get a bit repetitive and silly, so when they stop appearing you don’t really miss them. The overall pacing of the series also left a lot to be desired. From starting off with what felt like filler episodes, and waiting until the very end to do anything with the Duello, it felt like they just left themselves too much time to kill. And then in the Duello itself, there was almost no fighting whatsoever. I was especially disappointed in the way Fel apparently defeated three of the higher profile side characters, without us even seeing a single blow. So again, we just have to take their word for it that she’s gotten strong. The best arc throughout the series dealt with Mondo’s illness, and the burden he shouldered. If more of the series could have been like that, it would have been a lot stronger.
Touching on the music, I said in my Summer Music post that I enjoyed the OP theme, and I do, but that was about it for notable music. The ED theme was sung by Jun Fukuyama & Tsubasa Yonaga, and their voices just didn’t really hold up, and the ‘animation’ for the ED was just zooms on still images. The animation for the OP was at least original for the OP, but it was pretty disjointed and had an overly long wait at the end for the music to end. And noting just a nitpicky thing that kind of indicates the overall quality: the title cards for the episodes were a layered image of purple pattern on black background with gray two-tone overlay graphic and words in a terrible font on top. Terrifically hard to read. Plus, the purple pattern didn’t even fill out width the screen, so it looked like they didn’t even bother to make it 16:9, like the rest of the show. It just felt sloppy.
I have to judge Arcana Famiglia as disappointing. The premise seemed interesting, but the lack of actually doing anything really sucked all of the energy out of the show. Fel could have been a much better character, especially if she’d taken charge more often, like she did in Mondo’s arc, but most of the time she was just content to hang around doing whatever minor chore that Nova and Liberta got saddled with. The series tried to pull a few good stories out, but overall they just sank under the weight of the rest of the show.