The premise is trash and the characters are dull, but I find myself laughing regardless. Mind you, I’m laughing at Arcana Famiglia. I mean, where else do you have Model T’s Tokyo-drifting all over a cobble road? I’m just waiting for Vinaru Dinseru to pump up the NOS.
And oh dear, what’s with the hats? Is this what Japan think of Italians — that they all have some weird penchants for hats and lasagna?
And right off the bat, the animation seems rife with errors. But maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe Luca really does have a lazy eye.
Anyway, for the uninitiated, Arcana Famiglia centers around a group of “vigilantes” whose job is to protect the trade island of Regalo. The subs say “vigilantes,” and that may very well be a mistranslation, but assuming that it’s not, it’d be fair to say that the group is more directly inspired by the Italian mafia. At the same time, however, certain individuals wield katanas and shit. Not only that, the inhabitants of Regalo treat these guys like heroes.
To be fair, Japanese cinema does its fair share of romanticizing the yakuza, but if you watch some Kitano or like-minded films, you’ll see that the life of a Japanese gangster isn’t all fun and games.
Anime, however, loves to distort this image into something almost cuddly. Cops are damn near nonexistent. Instead, we have the innocent brotherhood going around town doing nothing but good deeds! Aniki this and aniki that… it’s all kind of sickening. Sure, in a show like Kamisama no Memo-chou, we have the good gang fighting the bad gangs, but even this seems far-fetched to me. A bunch of wayward, muscled youths just don’t drop out of school to do community work. So where does anime’s strange love for the yakuza come from?
I’ve digressed quite a bit. The show isn’t just about glorifying some superheroes in pressed Italian suits. Rather, the plot centers on the fact that Felicita, the daughter of the infamous “Arcana Famiglia,” must be married off once the “Papa” of the gang retires. And apparently, the only way to do so is through (im)mortal combat. I would prefer a well-rounded look at gangsters, but even if this wasn’t possible, I’d just take a story about mafia badasses doing cool things. Sadly, we can’t have that either. Instead, everyone’s made a deal with tarot cards, i.e. the Hermit gives you invisibility, Lovers grant you the power to see into people’s hearts, so on and so forth. In other words, there’s going to be mystical magic nonsense all over the series. Gotta have dem power levels!
Still, the anime just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense even within the framework of its arcane mumbo jumbo. Take Pace, for instance; he has a contract with the Strength arcana. At one point in the episode, he restrains the reckless Liberta, who struggles to free himself but to seemingly no avail. The anime thus explains that Pace’s strength is “overwhelming” and that “[n]o one can oppose it.” So we’ve got our winner right here, right? Let’s just cancel the tournament and not waste time! Just seconds after this bit of narration, however, Liberta frees himself from Pace’s grasp because, uh, red light streaks across his eyes. There goes that. I’m guessing that since Liberta represents the Fool, he’ll just be full of unlimited potential ’cause that’s totally never been done before.
I guess the twist here is that the tournament’s “prize” will be joining the fray as well. We’re supposed to buy the notion that Felicita, in her twin tails and short skirt, is really some major tomboy who’s not going to take this marriage thing lying down.
The maids are quick to place the blame on Luca, Felicita’s longtime attendant. Why else would a girl disobey orders? Somewhere along the way, a man must have screwed up! Like, c’mon, girls can’t decide their personalities for themselves. Oh well, what else did we expect? After all, other than the two obvious main characters, all of Felicita’s potential suitors creepily discuss the prospects of marrying her as though she is just property.
But if you’re sitting here rolling your eyes at my oh-so-subtle sarcasm, don’t worry ’cause it doesn’t seem as though Felicita is worth crusading for. She’s no trailblazer in an anime full of Silvio Burlesconi’s. She’s really just a mega-tsundere at heart. It won’t be a matter of whether she gets her freedom or not. As long as the right boy wins, I’m sure she’ll have a change of heart about the whole arrangement!
But by all means, I’m eager for Arcana Famiglia to prove me wrong. Maybe Felicita will personally, i.e. without the help of either shounen heroes by her side, win the tournament and truly do whatever she pleases. Maybe her father just wanted to bring out her determination by putting her in such a desperate situation. The plot can go either way, but considering that this is anime, it’s just hard not to be cynical.