Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Tarot Cafe (manhwa, vol. 6) by Sang-Sun Park

Alecto visits an old three-headed fortuneteller who reminds him of a promise he once overheard between Ash and Belial, the devil, and tells him various important secrets. Alecto tells Cora these secrets, secrets with include the knowledge that Cora is Pamela's mother, reborn in a new form. Elsewhere, Ash arranges a surprise meeting with Pamela and tells her about his relationship with Belus. Since he was a child, Ash saw Belus as something like a father figure, but one day Belus left him in order to go be with Pamela. That's why Ash hates Pamela. He tries to push her into a door to Hell, but Belus saves her, getting wounded in the process.

Cora finds Pamela and, just before she dies, tells her to find Alecto. Belus and Pamela track Alecto down, as does Ash. Alecto reveals some of what he's found out. It turns out that Ash isn't really Ash, but rather a gem - the real Ash is being kept at Belial's castle. A long time ago, Ash made a deal with Belial: Ash wanted to give up immortality for the ability to die, be reborn, and have an end. He said that, although he loves Pamela, he loves himself more. Before Alecto had even met Pamela, he'd also learned from the three-headed fortuneteller that it's his fate to have unrequited love for a human female and then disappear like dust. Alecto did his best to protect himself from that fate, but then Ash took in Pamela. Alecto eventually fell in love with Pamela and was jealous of the love between her and Ash.

Alecto begins coughing up blood, and Belial appears. Alecto turns into his dragon form and attacks Pamela, who is told by Belial that she must do what she can in order to stay alive if she wants Belus to continue living. With that motivation, Pamela tries to kill Alecto but fails. Belus appears to try to finish the job but is badly wounded. By the end of the volume, it's unclear whether he will continue to live, since Alecto had the power to kill immortals like Belus. Meanwhile, back at the Cafe, Nebiross comes back for Aaron.

I have to admit that this volume was massively confusing for me. Ash isn't Ash, Alecto loves Pamela and hates her too, Cora is Pamela's mom, and Belus may be dying. Actually, it doesn't sound too complicated when I put it like that, just... soap opera-ish. Even if the confusion turns some readers off, I imagine the high pretty-boy content will keep people reading anyway. This volume is just filled with images of Alecto. Are really gorgeous images of Alecto worth paying $9.99 for? I suppose that depends on who you ask. At any rate, the series is almost over, and the events of this volume may make more sense after the next and last volume.

As far as extras go, there's a preview of Park's Ark Angels vol. 2. Three sisters are sent back in time to rescue the last remaining Seychelles Elephant Turtle.

Read-alikes:
  • Alichino (manga) by Kouyu Shurei - This fantasy series revolves around Alichino, beautiful creatures that appear human and will grant any wish at a huge price, and a beautiful boy named Tsugiri, who has a terrible past. Overall, this series is darker and more serious than The Tarot Cafe. Those who'd like another story with somewhat similar artwork and beautiful and androgynous (yet somehow still sexy) men might enjoy this manga. Unfortunately, although it's only one volume away from being concluded, it's unclear when and if the final volume will ever be released.
  • Night Pleasures (book) by Sherrilyn Kenyon - Kyrian is a Dark-Hunter, someone who's given up their soul to the goddess Artemis in order to be able to exact vengeance after death. Part of the price he must pay is that he must continue to fight for Artemis, battling Daimons (a bit like vampires, only their main goal is to consume the souls of their victims). Kyrian meets Amanda after the two are attacked and handcuffed together. Amanda's never been one to believe in the supernatural, but seeing Kyrian fight Daimons shakes her world view up a bit. Along the way, Kyrian and Amanda fall in love, but they're going to have to get Kyrian's soul back from Artemis if they want to have any kind of a life together. Those who'd like another story that includes gorgeous male characters and people with painful past relationships might enjoy this. Actually, the entire series is full of gorgeous guys, hideously painful pasts and betrayals, and romance, plus demons and shapeshifters.
  • Demon Diary (manhwa) by Lee-Hyung Lee (script, vol. 2+), Lee Chi Hyong (story), and Kara (art) - Lord Raenef is supposed to be a Demon Lord, the reincarnation of one of the most powerful ones in existence. Unfortunately, even with an exasperated and frustrated Eclipse tutoring him, he's less powerful and terrible and more cute and cuddly. Even if he does become a better Demon Lord, do Eclipse and Raenef's friends really want him to be that way? Similar to The Tarot Cafe, the characters in this series eventually have to make some tough and painful decisions and somehow deal with their pasts. Plus, there's several pretty-boy male characters.

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