Tarot Cafe Vol. 1

By Sang-Sun Park
192 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

Sometimes I buy a book based on little more than a hunch, or a lightning-fast initial impression. That was the case with The Tarot Cafe Vol. 1, which seemed interesting enough. The more I read it, though, the more I began to wonder… had I seen this somewhere before?

Pamela owns the Tarot Cafe, where you can come in for a bite to eat, something to drink… and your fortunes read. As supernatural creatures of all shapes and sizes come in to talk to Pamela, all receive guidance on both where they’ve been and what is in store for them, but will the additional knowledge really be helpful?

Sang-Sun Park’s The Tarot Cafe is in many ways a very familiar set-up, with different little horror and dark fantasy stories connected by a singular location or person that the participants all visit for advice. In many ways it’s like Pet Shop of Horrors (also published by TokyoPop), but it’s also unfortunately a little inferior. The stories in The Tarot Cafe are a little too “easy”, a little too predictable. The one time I honestly thought a story wasn’t heading in an obvious direction, what could have been a surprising twist ended up just being a fake-out to distract the reader from the fact that the obvious ending was indeed occurring. Park has a nice touch with all of the stories in The Tarot Cafe having an accompanying tarot reading going on throughout the narrative, showing the reader what cards match up to the story, but to be honest it’s a gimmick that gets old quickly, unfortunately. The Tarot Cafe might not be a bad book for someone who’s never read anything like this, but for experienced readers it’ll get old fairly quickly.

Park’s art for The Tarot Cafe is the real attraction here; she’s got an ink line that isn’t quite like anything else being produced in comics at the moment. It’s almost like seeing a bundle of strings sprawled across the page; you can see each individual line in the figure, but they more often than not are all grouped tightly together to form a character’s hair, or perhaps background shading. Just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on Park’s art, though, she’ll draw something with just a single line, with just its delicate outline existing on the page. It’s a strange dichotomy, and it’s what kept me reading The Tarot Cafe more than anything else. It’s an interesting look, and I may have to check out Park’s Les Bijoux to see if her art is the same there as well.

The Tarot Cafe Vol. 1 in the end was slightly disappointing; I wanted to like it a lot more than I did, because in many ways it just felt a little too old hat. Park’s art is nice, but it doesn’t hide the fact that there’s nothing terribly new or original here. Hopefully later volumes will break out of the standard mold that the first volume seemed determined to fit into, but for now it’s just all right.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

2 comments to Tarot Cafe Vol. 1

  • I just recently started reading the Tarot Cafe, and I have to say that I honestly liked it alot, so much that in fact, I’ve decided to collect the series for myself.

    The artwork was gorgeous, but the whole concept itself, was what I found very attractive, in using tarot card redings and mythical higher beings.

    Pamela’s story was intriguing and I wanted to constantly find out more about her past, and in the end, it was rewarding. Also, I find her a strong charachter, which is hard to find when many female main charachter are often portrayed as innocent and clumsy. She’s a refreshing change after I’ve read so many shoujo stories.


  • Joyac

    I read this manhwa as it was first published in the magazine “Bijou”, and I got Tarot cards set that had her beautiful illustraion when I bought the magazine. That was six years ago, and I lost my cards while I moved several times, and couldn’t remember the name of manhwa. I’m so glad I found the title of the manhwa I am so gonna read the books again^^ I want to get her Tarot cards too…seriously, her cards were the most beautiful tarot cards i’ve ever seen. Oh yeah.