Arcana Famiglia Ep. 1: Is this real life or is it fantasy?

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.

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13 thoughts on “Arcana Famiglia Ep. 1: Is this real life or is it fantasy?

  1. Fadeway

    I haven’t watched (m)any reverse harems, but since this is one such, I believe that Felicita, being the character female viewers are supposed to project onto, is almost guaranteed to win the tournament. And then choose a suitor anyway, Or not, and retain the harem. Those two potential outcomes that the formula permits equally.

    I’m not sure if it would be a positive thing to watch her stomp everyone with the most useless of all abilities that could’ve been chosen for her (and the occasional selfless sacrifice by a bishie whose life is centered on her), but I’m pretty sure she will win.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I have a tough time seeing this as a straight (reverse) harem. Typically, the love interests (LIs) in harems are created somewhat equal. Usually, the harem lead spends time with each LI, a sympathetic backstory is unveiled, so on and so forth. Besides Nova and Liberta, the rest of the guys are kind of scummy. I guess you could throw Pace into the lot, but he’s been Felicita’s attendant since she was a child and that’s just creepy. Then again, I suppose I wouldn’t put it past anyone if he emerged as a legitimate candidate.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Vigilante is a very incorrect translation for anything but the original Italian meaning which hasn’t been correct in English for 200 years now. 自警団員 means a member of a vigilance group.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      The point being is that anime glorifies these gangs as well-natured do-gooders when this has rarely ever been the case in any culture where such “fraternization” exists.

      Reply
  3. ndtry

    Funny how Japan can’t stand foreigners who make movies/animations/books about japanese culture, but don’t seem to mind completely messing up foreigners’ culture.

    Reply
  4. KizukuKanshi

    As I said on the other post I made, I just really don’t like the genre. What I’m really hoping happens is that something happens early on to get in the way of the tournament thing altogether. Maybe some rival family kills the mob boss or something. I dunno. Then maybe we could have our mobsters doing mobster things with special arcane mobster powers show without the rigid structure of a boring tournament? Doubt it.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      What I’m really hoping happens is that something happens early on to get in the way of the tournament thing altogether.

      For them to ditch the entire premise of the show would be bizarre and unlikely.

      Reply
      1. Justin

        Would you say that would be bizarre in a good way? Because you know what? I think I wouldn’t mind it. But someone will have to tell me if that happens, because I’m pretty sure I won’t be watching episode 2.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Would you say that would be bizarre in a good way?

          Being surprised is always nice.

          But someone will have to tell me if that happens, because I’m pretty sure I won’t be watching episode 2.

          Arcana Famiglia doesn’t seem like the worst thing this season so I’ll probably gut it out for the time being.

  5. Mira

    I want to like this show, it’s not everyday a reverse harem actually bothers to give the main girl a *gasp* personality. Admittedly, it ain’t much but it automatically makes it better than most. But the pacing is strange and the shoehorned exposition is a turn off but…

    Maybe her father just wanted to bring out her determination by putting her in such a desperate situation

    …this gives me hope. I want to see Felicita kick ass and subvert tropes!

    So we’ve got our winner right here, right? Let’s just cancel the tournament and not waste time!
    Same. I wouldn’t mind this guy winning.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      it’s not everyday a reverse harem actually bothers to give the main girl a *gasp* personality.

      Felicita had a personality? Wha?

      I wouldn’t mind this guy winning.

      He’s gonna get fat on lasagna and lose.

      Reply
      1. Mira

        Felicita had a personality? Wha?
        Uh…I guess stubborn counts as a personality trait. It’s not much but it does set her apart from most leads in this kind of series.

        He’s gonna get fat on lasagna and lose.
        I’m going to love this show if this is how it turns out or if Pace ends up being bribed by lasagna.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Uh…I guess stubborn counts as a personality trait.

          Man, you’re stubborn if you don’t agree to a forced marriage? We’re all in trouble!

          I’m just joshin’ ya.

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