DVD Review: Arcana Famiglia – The Complete Collection

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Prepare for an italian meltdown as we take a look at MVM Entertainment’s DVD Release of Arcana Famiglia – The Complete Collection.

Synopsis:

Things are NOT going well for Felicita. For years, the island of Regalo has been protected by her father’s “organization,” the Arcana Tarocco. The organization’s success is due in no small part to the members’ unusual skills with Tarot Cards, not to mention their more usual guns and knives. But now her father has unexpectedly decided to retire and, while the fact that his position will be filled by the winner of a series of duels doesn’t worry Felicita, 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!

Our View:

By the start of the first title sequence Arcana Famiglia leaves a lot to look forward to; with its gunfights, car chases, swordfight’s and comedic teamwork based elements giving the impression that it’s a gang warfare styled series that sees good triumph over evil. In reality it’s nothing like that and instead opts for a story that doesn’t start until the very end. Confused? Yep; so were we but give it six or so episodes and then it will start to become clear.

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Arcana Famiglia, also known as La storia della Arcana Famiglia, is a 12 episode series that follows the events of Felicità as she attempts to familiarise herself with her Arcana Tarot Card styled powers while learning more about her fellow team members. You could say it’s a story of discover as each passing episode sees Felicita remembering her first encounters with the Arcana members while at the same time discovering more about her teammates, namely the strict Nova and joyful Liberta. Interestingly this “sense of discovery” is only pretence and instead acts as a build up towards the series other two main storylines.

For starters the first storyline sees Felicita’s farther, and current head of the Arcana household, pose a challenge to all active members; anyone who can defeat him during the upcoming Arcana Duel will not only become the new head of the house but will be destined to marry his daughter. This news puts everyone on edge, especially Felicita, but while this storyline element is announced on the very first episode it doesn’t actually unfold until the very last episode.

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You’d be forgiven for thinking that the ten episodes in-between are pointless fillers but in fact they provide the backbone information for the characters and their unique powers. This is where the series second main storyline element comes into play; a story which involves corruption, deceit and homunculus within the boundaries of the Arcana Famiglia; but even then this storyline doesn’t come into play until after the half-way point.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Arcana Famiglia are considered the law on the island and are respected by the towns people; so if any criminal or dangerous activities take place on the island it’s up to the Arcana Famiglia to put a stop to it, a feat which was highlighted during the opening episode. Disappointingly these ‘high class heroics’ are hardly ever repeated, that is unless you class delivering a scarf or running a day care event. What’s even more disappointing is how the Arcana Tarot Card powers are portrayed as other than Felicita, who accidentally uses it during high times of emotion, these powers are rarely ever seen or used by the remaining cast. A brief overview of the these powers is given, such as only one power per person is allowed, but we hardly ever get to see them in action; that is until towards the end of the series.

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In hindsight the series has a lot going for it; the organization, the unique powers and the strong array of characters, but unfortunately nothing is ever done with them and instead we are just left waiting for the Arcana Duel to begin; and when it does begin it’s over all too quickly.

Extras:

When it comes to DVD releases by MVM Entertainment we never expect too much bonus content and fortunately we were right to assume so as the only bonus content is a selection of trailers and the mandatory textless songs.

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While not exactly classed as an ‘extra’ there is the inclusion of a Bonus OVA Episode; an episode which sees some members of the Arcana get their personalities swapped with another team mate due to an experiment gone wrong. It’s your traditional “body-swap” cliché whereby they try to sort out the problem while maintaining their cover which ultimately does provide a few laughs, especially If you’ve become accustomed to the characters personalities. In some instances this OVA episode can be more entertaining to watch than the main series and luckily for us its available in both English and Japanese with English Subtitles.

Specs:

Media: DVD 9 x2
Region: 2
Running Time: 2:48:07 (Disc 1), 2:23:56 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-2
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Yellow)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps

Overall:

To me Arcana Famiglia was completely different to what I expected (and assumed) it to be so the series was a bit of a disappointment; instead of an organization that defeats crime within the city limits we instead see a story that further explores the characters within that organization until they have to duke it out at the end to see who can become the new head of the household. Basically everything builds up to the ending; at which point elements that have only been spoken about come to fruition, but even then it’s nothing special or spectacular.

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It’s not just the series storyline progression that left me rather disappointed either; as the strong obsession with Italian word play also left me rather flustered; especially when reading the subtitles. From an outside perspective you have to praise Sentai Filmworks for sticking to the Japanese Italian focused script but when reading the subtitles, or even listening to the English Dub, it can become difficult to follow the different terms and their meanings; especially with the characters also being named in Italian styles. For example the powers each character poccesses are called Arcana’s, the same name given to the main family, and then depending on their power it has an Italian name and an English name so the subtitles will have a ‘wealth’ of Italian styled text mixed with English. Other ‘confusions’ can also occur when a set place or objective is mistaken for a persons name; for instance the first time Piccolino was mentioned I assumed it to be a new character but instead it was an event that the Arcana hold for the children.

Of course this is all my personal experiences and opinions; but in hindsight whether you are watching the English Dub, which is actually quite good considering it’s produced by Sentai Filmworks, or the Japanese Audio you’ll not only have to be aware of whats happening but you’ll need to process it quickly so you can understand it; otherwise you’ll just find yourself confused, bored and waiting for something good to happen. In regards to the DVD then the picture, audio and subtitles are all perfectly fine with no noticable issues; however it is odd that Hanabee, the author of this DVD, made the series on two DVD Discs while the original US release (which features the same content) is spread out on three DVD Discs. I can only assume it was done to lower disc usage as all of the content, and quality, remains the same.

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For me La storia della Arcana Famiglia is a hit and miss series; it has elements that I like, such as the animation style, the characters and their unique abilities, but the progression and the lack of action makes it a rather big disappointment. In hindsight my impressions of Arcana Famiglia are similar to Karneval; it has everything needed to make it an entertaining series but instead opts to leave everything behind until the very end.

Score: review-stars-2

Arcana Famiglia – The Complete Collection will be available on DVD from the 8th September 2014.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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