Meet Pamela, a tarot card reader who helps supernatural beings living in the human world. She'll help anyone, whether they're a love-stricken cat, a vampire spending eternal life running from his one true love, an unattractive waitress looking for the man of her dreams, or even a magician who creates a humanoid doll to serve the woman he loves. Although she is good-natured, there is a deep dark secret that she must deal with before she can move on to the next life.
The Tarot Café was published in English by Tokyopop from March 8, 2005 to June 10, 2008. Tokyopop additionally released a digital edition on December 5, 2014. It has also been published in Italian by Flashbook, Spanish by La Cúpula, and Portuguese by NewPOP.
The Tarot Cafe, one really good manwha, and as I can see, not really popular one. Maybe it's not really revolutional or outstanding in any way, but - for me - it was worth reading, reareading, and in the end, buying it (and of course, reading it again :> ).
If you wonder what made me so excited, the first thing is the feel that you get while reading the manwha. Somehow, it consumes you in a world that is kind of realistic, but still magical and alluring, sometimes creepy and odd, sometimes beautiful and elating. The art even emphasizes the feeling, because
as you may know (or not), the style of manwhas is really wonderful, full of details, faces are all gorgeous (except for the bad guys, obviously), it gives off kind of a gothic-like feeling.
Like the mangas that The Tarot Cafe is usually compared with (Pet Shop Of Horrors and xxxHolic), we get introduced to the way that the "cafe" works, how Pamela, the main female charachter - the owner of the Tarot Cafe and a fortuneteller - accepts "special" costumers after midnight and we get to know some of their stories.. This draws us into the reading quite nicely. The main story starts late, almost in the middle of the whole manga. It has a few flaws (mostly just beacuse of this late development, it doesn't evolve properly) but it is still special although it leans a lot on western myths/christianity. The thing I liked the most about the story is one of the strangest relationships I ever encountered on in fiction. Although the charachters aren't greatly developed or deep, you still can get attached to them, because of all the intense happening. There is also one big twist in the story, but it was a bit obvious for me.. The ending leaves us satisfied, but it's no cliché, nor corny.
Despite of all the small holes in the story and a bit too quick development, I enjoyed the manwha greatly for its great art, atmoshpere and the story unique enough to make me read it again (and maybe someday, again). Worth a read for every mystery/fantasy lover.
Just a notice: there's a quite a lot of shounen-ai : >
For the ending, for all the number-lovers, I give you numbers ;) ->
Story: 7, Art:9* Charachters: 8 Enjoyment:9 Overall:8
*I give the art a 9 just because the faces of some charachters sometimes seem just too similiar to each other
Tarot Cafe is a rather charming manhwa. The main selling point for me is the abundance of sympathetic characters. Pamela, the tarot reader, has a long and fascinating past. She genuinely cares for all of her clients, regardless of the challenges presented to her personally. The clients themselves are engaging and easy to become attached to as you learn their stories, and some of the tales are genuinely heartwarming. The settings are also gorgeous, everywhere from centuries old Turkey to modern London, mystical forests, and the very depths of hell.
The plot itself is a little lackluster. Although individual elements of the past are enthralling (enough
so that I was willing to excuse plot issues), when it all gets pieced together something is lost. Also, for the first volume, or even two, the primary focus is not on the plot, but on individual clients that have no apparent relationship to each other. On one hand, it makes a nice little collection of one-shot deals to read at your leisure. On the other, it seems both fragmented and slightly frustrating when searching for a real story beneath it all.
Adding to the frustration is the art. Yes, it's lush and detailed, and both beautiful and grotesque scenes are rendered well. But the character faces fall into only three categories: most noticeably, generic sultry bishies. The only feature I could rely on to tell the male characters apart was their hair. Unfortunately, that's a major flaw in my book.
Still, don't let that scare you away from it. It's still very enjoyable overall. It has drama, mystery, comedy, and a bit of horror. Good characters, pretty (if impractical) art, plot twists galore, fun side stories, lots of demons, and a cute uke werewolf. A bonus - you learn some tarot as you read.
As you know from the other manga I reviewed, I love anything really supernatural, this is no exception. The manga has the same feel as xxxHOLiC and Pet Shop of Horror with a main storyline mixed into the small storylines that show up. We have a girl who has a café where people can come and get their Tarot read and clear up any lose ends that they may have in this world. She mostly helps the Supernatural because she herself is supernatural in that she has lived for over 700 years. It’s amazing to me how the stories seem to play out sometimes through
the ages as some of the beings she caters to never die and their past is laid out on the table. With their past, the future sometimes is also shown and when it isn’t, then it is better to let them take their own future in their hands. You can compare that in xxxHOLiC and Pet Shop as the wish or want of pet being to understand themselves better and the wish being granted or the aftermath of the pet is them doing something to achieve a happier ending.
Unlike the others, this manga is rather shorter in that we get to the main problem early on, about the end of the second manga. At least, it sort of comes into play. It does get much clearer as the story goes on but you only get it in pieces going through the other stories. I love this style of story telling because you get a satisfaction early on while still having to think about what is going on. Many of the stories they show have a bit of a gay relationship in where a male will fall in love with another male so those that have problems with that probably shouldn’t read it. Still, if you changed the characters around and thought of them as female, the relationship isn’t all that different. They do not normally show any sexual images (except for the last manga) but there are some scenes of torture and bondage, sometimes going into the extreme at times.
Character personalities show a lot more through the third manga (just a bit of a warning). You do get a little interaction between some of the characters but the more your going to understand about Pamela happens later on leaving you sort of with a mysterious glow about her. I consider her much like Yuko that way and yet again, we do get much more from Pamela then with Yuko. Aaron is a little bit annoying. He is a character that comes in the second manga and starts working there, acting like a little child at times. He is sometimes cute in that he is like a big puppy dog but other then that, sometimes he seems to pop up at the wrong times and have a really strange look to him to add a bit of comedy to the story.
The artwork is beautiful with characters having delicate mysterious looking designs based on what supernatural creature they are to portray. The almond style eyes take on almost a life of there own for each character, sometimes rather large and other times rather small and delicate to work with the faces. Sadly, many of the men look like women and actually make it hard to tell the two genders apart so when I think someone is a girl, it ends up being a very beautiful man. There is an air of sophistication in every image but the backgrounds seem to be lacking. Many times we have no background or a black background that sort of just feels a bit bland. Sadly a lot of the writing is really small when it talks about what the cards means so it’s hard to read and I have to grab a magnifying glass at times just to understand what the main idea of the card is. If I was any better at remembering Tarot Cards, it would be a little easier maybe.