Upsetting the Balance of the Arcana Famiglia: Episode 1, Part 1

Over the course of centuries, the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana have come to symbolize one Helluva lot of things, both individually and as a whole. They enumerate the different forces affecting our lives, and all the different forms they take. Laid back-to-back, they flow together to tell the story of the Fool’s Journey from ignorance to enlightenment. In all, they represent the balance of every aspect of existence—and in La Storia de la Arcana Famiglia, they work to portray the underlying struggle between chaos and order that accompanies the plot.

Through the first episode of Arcana Famiglia, we see a clear distinction being drawn between some of the characters, the most recognizable example of this being Nova and Liberta—represented in the Major Arcana, Death and The Fool. Both characters are established with a similar motif and motive: that of a younger boy set to come to maturity through their attempts to protect one lucky girl. Their means of reaching an end, however, begin to draw a rather severe rift between them, which becomes apparent within the first few minutes of the anime. Nova’s first instinct is to pursue in a head-long chase; Liberta, on the other hand, suggests a bit of trickery through the use of back alleyways. This is also the first opportunity we have to see Nova’s connection to his card, Death: the ‘elimination of excess,’ and focusing only on what is essential to a solution. On the other hand, though we get to see more of Liberta’s chaotic nature through his act of jumping from the roof of a building onto a speeding car, we have to wait until later in the episode to clearly witness his connection to his given Arcanum.

He’s really not.

Without question, the party scene offers a great deal more insight into which character falls onto which side of the alignment fence than any other scene of the first episode. Papa’s announcement of the Arcana Duello gives (almost) every major character of the anime an excuse to let their true colors shine. It begins with Liberta fully embracing the spontaneous and innocent aspects of The Fool by confronting Papa—and, of course, the first to step in his way is none other than Nova, his direct counterpart. Since we already know they’re predestined to clash, this shouldn’t come as any surprise—what happens afterward, however, gives us our second clear look at the distinction between two characters.

At the exact same time Pace subdues Liberta using nothing but brute strength, Debito cuts Nova’s legs out from under him—firm examples of each side stepping in to halt the actions of the other. The dialogue of both characters during this scene further exemplifies their alignment. Debito’s cheer of “your careless, no regard outbursts are fantastic!” to Liberta shows just how much he’s enjoying the chaos—and the taunting tone of his words make him sound as though he’s offering a sort of counsel to his junior, portraying an aspect of the Hermit. For Pace, saying “I know how you feel, but it’s no good if you disobey Papa” makes the fact that he prioritizes loyalty to the family over all else plain to see; in addition, the patient manner in which he states it (really, the patient manner with which he does practically everything) expresses a prominent aspect of the Strength card.

Will never not love this character.

While the party scene offers a clearer look at Debito and Pace’s alignments than any other in the first episode, their respective penchants for chaos and order are run through their characters as a whole. In Debito’s case, there are few establishments better suited to symbolizing chaos than a casino, so it comes as no surprise that he’s found some sort of employment there. In contrast, nothing could be farther from the excitement of a casino than a small, out-of-the-way restaurant—which is exactly where we first find Pace, indulging in the food that appears to be his one-and-only material vice. Or attempting to, at least, before he joins the confrontation that makes up the anime’s opening scenes, where his one and only contribution is to catch his flying comrade. Debito, on the other hand, opens fire on a car filled with criminals—with said comrade still clinging to it.

While these two pairs offer the clearest examples of the family’s division between chaos and order, there are still several sets of foils left to define—with far more intriguing connections to their Arcana, at that. Even so, just with these four characters alone, Arcana Famiglia has already set a strong precedent for the power struggle afflicting its titular family.

(Note: Due to time constraints, I won’t be doing a post on the second episode of this series, and instead will be jumping straight to the third. There will, however, be a second half to this post–look for that either tomorrow or Saturday.)


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  1. #1 by -chii- on July 17, 2012 - 6:50 pm

    I gotta say I’d rather the 2 boys that want to help the girl not to be helping her. I’d like to see her do it all on her own. She wants to settle her own fate so why bother getting help from 2 boys that say they want to help her but are just using this as a way to get closer to her.. That’s the way I see it anyway.

    Shows like this always have annoying main main characters for me but the supporting cast is so large and full of awesomeness it’s hard to look away.

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