This is review number eighty one and it’s something special. It took me two days to watch this anime because it is just so…special. The anime is La storia della Arcana Famiglia. It’s s twelve episode anime about an organization of cool people and a girl in a reverse harem. Yes, sounds fun. Let’s read on.
The anime is about an organization, called Arcana Famiglia, which protect the island of Regalo from outside threats and danger. The Famiglia is made up of people who have made contracts with the Arcana cards, and have received special abilities due to this. On his birthday celebration, the “Papa” has decided it’s time for him to retire and give up his seat to a member of the Famiglia. To decide who in the “family” gets this seat, he calls for a tournament, called Arcana Duello, between Arcana-users. To the winner, he promises the “Papa” seat, a wish of the winner’s choice and his daughter’s hand in marriage. Refusing to accept this, Felicita decides to fight to choose her own path, with her friends Liberta and Nova fighting for her freedom by her side.
Taking the Pants Off
This is the one anime that really caught my attention when the lineup for Summer 2012 was released. I don’t review a lot of Shounen anime because I stick to twelve and twenty five episode anime. I’ve reviewed a lot of Ecchi, Drama and Comedy but there’s only a few Shounen. So I was giddy with excitement while waiting for this anime to end. The first episode aired and I was really at the edge of my seat. The first episode is usually the amuse bouche, a small taste of what the anime has to offer. It had some really cool looking characters, some sword swinging action and there were even some bazookas. It’s an action packed first episode that will leave you wanting more. I also fell in love with the premise almost immediately. The “Papa” of this mob family has decided to hold a contest where the winner gets one wish and the hand of his only daughter. The daughter, Felicita, looks like a touch cookie that is in a male dominant line of work so I can only imagine her disapproval of her being a trophy. She decided to join the contest and win it. Also fighting for her freedom are two guys who respects and very much like her. So there it is. An exciting set up. I bet the next episodes will be about the characters fighting in the tournament and while it’s happening, Felicita gets closer to the two boys and some romantic tension is establish that’ll lead to a climactic face off at the end of the tournament. That is where I thought the anime would go but no, it had other plans.
The rest of the anime isn’t about the tournament to find Felicita’s husband. It was actually about the members of the Arcana Famiglia and their relationship with each other. Instead of more bazookas and swords, we are treated to a normal episode where Felicita was returning a cat to its owner. Instead of an action packed anime, it was more about focusing on the characters and their personal problems. Instead of a romantic love triangle, we get a half assed story about friendly rivalry. If you’re looking for action then you won’t find it here in this anime. I was heartbroken. I wanted to find out why this anime is more character driven than action driven. I found out the horrible truth when I checked good ol’ wiki.
This anime is adapted from an Otome Game for the PSP. An otome game is a visual novel type game where you play as a girl and you try to make a guy from a group of hot guys fall in love with you by choosing to follow their “route” or story. There is one girl, Felicita and the game had seven potential guys for Felicita to conquer. I was devastated. The last anime I reviewed that was an Otome Game is Hiiro no Kakera and that anime sucked. The problem with Otome anime is that it tried to mention all the possible route of the game. By doing so, the story gets compromised. You should’ve seen the game; Felicita locks lips with a lot of guys with varying age. I was sold on an action packed anime so shifting my mind to a romantic reverse harem anime with an action facade was quite difficult. I warn people who plan to watch this anime, do not expect action, you’ll be very disappointed.
One strong element of the anime is the characters. Since ten of the twelve episode of the anime is focused on character development, it’s not hard to like or fall in love with a character. They all have their own individual personality and special quirky-ness that makes them stand out. The anime doesn’t let all the characters advance on Felicita though. The characters are divided into groups and those groups are mostly concerned with their own problems. The first group is Felicita and the two boys, Liberta and Nova. The anime did a great job of fleshing the characters out because at first, Liberta and Nova hated each other. Liberta is an idiot who speaks his mind while Nova is cold guy who cares nothing but work. They share one commonality that is helping Felicita gain her freedom back. I applaud the anime because it was able to establish conflict within the groups that sets up for remarkable growth in the characters. Both Liberta and Nova have personal problems of their own and Felicita is caught in the middle of both problems. It was thanks to the three’s bond as friends that helped them overcome those problems. So they started out as enemies and ends up close friends after wards.
As you progress to the anime, it’s clear now that the anime is not about the characters fighting each other but a laid back look at the Arcana Famiglia. We see their roles as protector of the island of Regalo but also their cute side as they spend their time with each other. With a solid character development, it’s not that hard to laugh along with the characters. Now I appreciate that approach to the anime but the absence of action still greatly suppresses the anime’s great potential. The anime had a nice set up of the character’s possessing powers from Tarocco cards. Each characters have powers that are unique to them and you can’t help but wonder what it would be like if the anime focused more on the tournament incorporating the Tarocco cards. The characters having Italian appeal is also misused because it could’ve been used in an action setting as well. While I was watching this anime, I was being reminded of Baccano and how good it was. Baccano had action, romance and it was character driven like this anime. I think the Otome presence ruined it but who the hell cares at this point.
Wouldn’t it be great if the second episode was about the start of the tournament? We will then get the classic Shounen clichés. We introduce new powerful bad people, have the characters train and slowly build a relationship with each other while still featuring their personal problems. It’s not that hard to do. Instead the anime was more focused on episodes like herb picking, stories about a masked man and chasing down cats. If you’re wondering, the anime actually had the tournament on the final episode. It was anti-climactic and the outcome was predictable. I’m going to blame the director for this one, Chiaki Kon. Let see here, she directed Higurashi no Naku koro ni, Nodame Cantabile: Paris and Junjou Romantica. God damn, she’s amazing. It just adds more questions than answers. I’m more depressed now.
This anime has some merits to it. It is a character driven anime so the characters actually make this anime watchable but there too many negative elements to make this anime great. The lack of a solid story, the fumbled pacing and too many squandered potentials overcomes the great character build up. I am no longer enjoying Otome anime but I’m still positive one great Otome anime is out there. I just haven’t seen it yet.
Sight and Sound
The character design is certainly amazing. It’s the main reason I was drawn to this anime. The Shounen appeal is really amazing that it reminds me of D Gray Man or Bleach when I look at the characters. I love Felicita’s look. The red hair and the green eyes give me the impression she is fierce even though she lacks a definite personality in this anime. The business attire look of the characters is also unique which also give the idea of Shounen. The male characters are varying in design. There is the typical tall, dark and handsome type. There is also the typical short build normal teenager type. I am a fan of Nova with his blue hair and tsundere personality. He reminds me of a more masculine Ciel Phamtomhive from Kuroshitsuji. Liberta has a messy style but he reminds me of Oz from Pandora Hearts. I bet the female fans of this anime are all going crazy with that comparison.
JC Staff handled this anime so there is some CG in the vehicles and even in the wings of a butterfly. There are some nice shots of the island of Regalo but JC Staff isn’t really fond of scenic shots and the anime needed some of that. There are limited action scenes but the ones in the anime are nicely animated. I love the way Felicita uses her legs when she fights because it gives the idea she’s a fierce girl. The action isn’t really the focus of the anime so you won’t really need any flashy fight scenes (I wanted some though).
The OP song, “Magenta Another Sky” by Hitomi Harada, is really nice. It reflects the anime’s Shoune appeal even though isn’t really Shounen. The OP sequence introduces the characters with some impressive animation. It captured the anime’s appeal of a reverse harem Otome anime in the form of Shounen. This opening is very misleading but I actually like it more than the anime.
The ending song, “Pieces of Treasure” Jun Fukuyama & Tsubasa Yonaga, is sung by Nova and Liberta’s seiyuu. It’s not really hard to enjoy a song that had the voice of Lelouch in it. The hit some pretty impressive high notes. I love the ending sequence it featured the art of the otome game. The characters are also pretty bad ass in the pictures.
2/10 “Strong characters ruined by an overall weak anime.”
Take it for what it is. If you’re a fan of the bishounen reverse harem type of anime then you’ll enjoy this one. Sadly, this anime had nothing more to offer than handsome characters and their path to overcoming their own personal problems. It’s pretty weak.