The future of a family is at stake and everyone has a shot at achieving their dreams with it.
What They Say:
Things are NOT going well for Felicit . For years, the island of Regalo, has been protected by her father’s “organization,” the Arcana Tarocco, whose success is due in no small part to the members’ unusual skills with Tarot Cards, not to mention the more usual guns and knives. But now, unexpectedly, her father has decided to retire and, while the fact that his position will be filled by the winner of a series of duels doesn’t worry Feliciti , the fact that he’s decided to throw HER into the contest as part of the prize certainly does. Especially since some of the contestants are her cousins, which is keeping things in the family WAY too much! Fortunately, our lady shark has two aces up her sleeve: as the head of the Swords Division, she’s eligible to compete for herself; and with her favored Card, The Lovers, she can snoop into the minds of her would be suitors cum rivals. It’s just too bad they have their own card tricks! Roll the Batchelorette, the Sopranos and that crazy gypsy from the fair into an insane anime calzone, half-bake thoroughly and you’ve got a lot of spicy mayhem ahead in LA STORIA DELLA ARCANA FAMIGLIA!
The audio presentation for this release is presented with the original Japanese language in stereo and the new English language adaptation the same way, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that has a good balance of action and dialogue to keep things moving along as well as bringing in some decent bits of music throughout. It’s not a show that truly stands out with a strong audio design to it, but it’s the kind of series that hits a lot of good notes as the characters move across the forward soundstage with the dialogue, the ambient music and some of the bigger action moments. The action is where it tends to jump out a bit more, especially when weapons class, but dialogue is done well too as there are often a few characters around at any given time that moves well across the stage. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout, the opening and closing sequences use the channels the best and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series and single OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second with plenty of space to work with. The animation by JC Staff has a bright, colorful and vibrant look to it that certainly has a lot of pop. While the Italian based locales don’t get a lot of attention overall, what we do get changes things up from the norm and there’s some good detail to the backgrounds as well as the characters. The animation is smooth and solid, which works well with the blacks that are used throughout for the outfits that most of them wear, and with some very busy scenes along the way it all holds up beautifully. Detail is well handled and the visuals make it a very engaging watching just from how it comes across here with a solid bit rate transfer.
The packaging for this release works with a standard Blu-ray case and a busy piece of artwork that was expected. The front cover gives us the main cast of characters at an angle, which doesn’t quite work for me with how it’s presented, but it gives us a good look at the characters involved and the color and pop of it all. IT does make out well with the blue of the case as it blends well with some of the background colors and the logo itself, which is through part of the middle and at an angle itself. THe character artwork is decent though Felicita looks a little off and there’s just a whole lot of black outfits to be had. The back cover works with various shade of blues that works well and it plays to some mild angles that aren’t quite as steep as the front cover. We get a few shots from the show that keeps it busy and a good list of what’s included with the set for episodes and discs. The character artwork has a good sense of fun about it and the premise is covered kind of lightly but in a clear enough fashion. Production credits are clean along the bottom as is the accurate technical grid that breaks it all down in an easy to read fashion. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu navigation design for this release is pretty good overall and it keeps its focus on the men of the show rather than the two women that are in it, which is a welcome change of pace. The two discs use different artwork as it brings together three of the men in their suits as they sit around and engage in friendly activities that highlights their personalities a little bit. That takes up the bulk of the menu screen with its static image while the right has the navigation itself which doubles as the pop-up during playback. That’s done with a black and blue design that breaks out the episodes by number and title with a white highlight that makes it all easy to read and to see what you have selected. Submenus are minimal with just language and extras, of which there are little, and it’s quick and easy to access with a good flow during both the top level and during playback. It’s not a fantastic menu but it’s one that serves the material well and is easy to use while setting the right mood.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the video game of the same name that saw release in the fall of 2011, La storia della Arcana Famiglia is a twelve episode series and OVA to arrive from JC Staff and is a fun little show that works well in providing action and locale that also works better in marathon form than it did for me in simulcast form. Taking place in the Mediterranean sea on an island known as Regalo, we’re introduced to the varied group of people that protect it from all sorts of threats. That group is known as the Arcana Famiglia and it definitely has a fun bit of a mafioso feel to it as we get a group of young men and women that wear black and white suits with varied colored ties to help give it all a little bit of pop. With the region being so bright and outgoing with colors, buildings and the scenery in general, JC Staff gives it a really strong look here with the detail and the architecture.
The group isn’t an officially sanctioned one or anything, which is why they get the vigilante tag associated with them, but the residents definitely like what they do as they’re eager to talk about the good they do as they defend them. The opening bit of action isn’t hugely strong, but it sets the tone well and gives us a first blush look at everyone and their abilities. Thankfully, we get a better look at everyone through an event wherein the head of the family, a man called Papa Mondo, is having a birthday party. They allows us to see everyone in a social situation, albeit with even more men in black suits, and to get a better feel for them, even if there are a lot of characters to take in all at once. The distinctive ones certainly stand out though, especially the lead young woman who gets addressed by many titles, including milady. princess and bambina.
Felicita has the most curious of the powers though, which are tied to the tarot deck primary cards, as she’s connected to the sixth card, The Lovers. She can sense certain things being thought about her, such as when Liberia was thinking about her in unbecoming ways, at least in the view of others, and that made for some quick violence to be doled out as the men are all quite protective of her. What sets things in motion here for the story though is that Papa Mondo has decided to retire and has set a date two months in the future where an Arcana Duello will occur and the winner will take on the title of Papa. And as an added incentive, they’ll also get Felicita’s hand in marriage, something that’s obviously a surprise to her.
There’s a lot of good foundation material revealed during this encounter as most of the primary characters make varied stands over what Papa has put forth. We get some clear ideas about who they are, their powers and the kind of allegiances they truly hold when you get down to it in a “family like this. You also get a feel for Felicita and the path that’s open to her and the others when it comes to this kind of fight that will be coming. While she may be the least defined in a way, she does become the focal point for a lot of things but is also one that does her best to hold her own. With the varied men here that operate together, she has to be her own person as well, though she’s still young enough to have some wild emotions hitting at times and a simplicity about her as well.
Though the series sets up this Arcana Duello in the first episode, it doesn’t actually get to it until the last episode. That in turn gives us the majority of the series being about the individual characters and their relationships with each other over a couple of months until the fight happens. And that means connections, pasts and problems with mastering their Arcana that comes into play. With the series being based on an Otome game, it hands this natural shift from potential action to lots of character material as we get a look at Felicita moving in with the Arcana group itself. Having seen her in action with them in the present in the first episode, the start here does a nice job of re-introducing the cast and their card bondings without it being a huge deal or taking a lot of time. With a two month window until the duel itself begins, this gives her a chance to get familiar with things herself, but there’s also some good common sense on the side of the family members themselves that are about to compete as they want to give her time to herself to think. So many changes have happened in the space of a day for her that it’s obviously pretty unnerving. Seeing how they all have varied levels of concern for her and do things for her in their own way lets them all stand out individually.
As the show goes on, we get all these different character stories and the interconnected nature of the family, which sometimes works better than others. One that I liked, mostly because I liked the character more than most of the others outside of Dante, is the piece that focuses on Liberta as it gives us some of his past and a good look at his present. He’s a character that I can easily get behind with what he’s like and does so having both past and present to look at definitely works. With Liberta spending the day with Felicita, the two end up in a few little scuffles and adventures, including a segment where they get to help run a store that sells masks. Their mere present helps to double sales, but it’s the fun of watching them together that works and the bits of dialogue that comes out as we see how Liberta thinks, especially towards the end of that part where he talks about the masks and how they’ve had an influence on him. What changes things though is coming across a mask related to his past about a man that was involved in helping orphaned children years ago.
This sets off a few things for Liberta as more flashes of his youth come back into play and we get an idea about what he went through, and a little more on the mysterious savior. It takes kind of a circular approach to things overall, but as we get Liberta remembering more and more of his childhood as he thinks and talks about it because of the mask and the way others such as Dante treats him over it, it helps to show that there is a good deal of pain and suffering underneath his happy and outgoing exterior that he shows everyone. It’s not that he’s faking the happy side, but that there is more to him than others would have expected. And while the reveal here isn’t all that much of a reveal when it comes to the masked man, as it was fairly easy to figure out early on, it works well to help reinforce some bonds and connections here in a way that works well.
When the show delves into the character of Jolly a bit, who seems to be operating with the big picture, it starts to reveal more of what’s going on and that draws in Felicita and the other younger members. Jolly’s creation of a homunculus is not something any of them expected, and certainly not as smoothly done as he did, and that knowledge is percolating heavily in their minds, especially for Felicita. Having it so that the three youngsters were keeping their distance from Jolly and had a real reason for doing so from their childhood only made him more curious for me to see what’s going on.
What complicates things now is that Felicita’s father, Mondo, is out of the picture for a bit as he’s worked himself into an exhaustion and is now asleep for awhile. And because of that, with all the work he’s got on his hand, the others have to start picking up the slack in order to make sure it’s not worse for him. Or at least that’s the picture that Mondo wants painted as he’s faking at least some of it. Felitica gets drawn into events a bit with Jolly, introducing her to Elmo, a young child tied to the sixteenth card that was given birth as a homunculus himself. This in turn goes further into the past as its revealed how Mond’s contract with the twenty-first card set the order of things when he set up the deal with the Tarocco. It relates back to the issue he’s facing now with the exhaustion as that card and his role is to unify everything within the card family.
Jolly has a plan though, a risky one since the others aren’t working out over the years, and that involves the other card that Felicita has a contract with in regards to Wheel of Fortune. Felicita has not been told what it’s capable of it by her parents but it may be the thing that saves her father now. And as we see, it’s something that was key in the family in the past when Felicita was but a child. That and Mondo’s condition now all leads back to the start of the series with the Arcana Duello and why he’s having it, along with why he had sent Felicita away when she was younger. It may be a bit circumspect in the end, but it ties things together nicely and allows the show to move forward at long last it feels like. Doing that while getting the larger past of Mondo and the family itself brings a lot of things to the forefront to really bind things, making him a more interesting character.
With so much character material, it all naturally wraps up in the big series of duels where we now know the characters far better than we did at the start. It’s not a surprise with what happens here and it keeps it fairly streamlined. The series really is all about getting us to connect with the men that surround Felicita and it does a pretty decent job of that. I was frustrated by the show in simulcast form because it starts off one way, shifts to the Arcana Duello at the end and then punts it another ten episodes down the line. I found myself frustrated during that initial run because you could see all the self contained aspects about it and how we’ll get minor growth at best and most just exploration of characters how they are. With the marathon session of the series, we get a show that comes across a bit better overall since we see the threads tie together more and I knew to pay more attention to Jolly this time around. It also helped in that when we get to the OVA here after all is said and done that we get a fun mind-swapping episode that works really well considering the way we know the characters at this point.
While I was originally a bit let down by Arcana Famiglia when I first saw it during its broadcast run, I liked aspects of it but had problems with it as a whole. Revisiting here in a marathon session over a day caused me to have a better impression about it because of how the underlying story involving Jolly and Mondo comes together, something that just didn’t get the due it needed early on in the episodes but fits better here in this larger form. JC Staff put together a pretty decent show here from its origins and it plays to the otome theme well, though Felicita isn’t the most engaging of characters for the first half. The story takes a bit to get going and to get past the basic setup of the first couple of characters it wants to deal with, but once it starts tackling the adult characters more it has some good aspects to it and all ties together in a neat and simple fashion, which one should expect. It’s all self contained and that’s a strong point in its favor right there. Sentai Filmworks has put together a good release here with how the title is put together and given it the treatment it deserves.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 26th, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.