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Manhwa / The Tarot Cafe

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The Tarot Cafe is a beautifully illustrated manhwa by Sang-Sun Park about a fortune teller named Pamela who deals with special customers after midnight. These customers can range from a wish-giving cat to a vampire to an alchemist (and so on and so forth), all of them with problems that only Pamela can help with... for a price. The particular price Pamela asks from these peculiar customers of hers just so happens to be a bead from Berial's necklace. The reasons as to why she's gathering the beads is something she prefers to keep to herself, but these are revealed during the course of the story.

The manhwa starts out as a series of one-shot stories but eventually is revealed, through the mysterious beads Pamela collects, to be connected in a complicated plot that covers Pamela's life, from the time when she was a very small child to an adult, and is a mix of horror, comedy and drama. Despite the unreliable narrative (is it Ashes or Axis? Berial or Belial?), it's quite an enjoyable read, with humor lightening an otherwise dark story.

Now has a Character Sheet.

Tropes associated with The Tarot Cafe:

  • Abusive Parents - One of the later stories deals with this.
    • Several do, in fact.
  • Anachronism Stew - To a point, at least - there are modern fashions and the internet in a time period where there wasn't any.
  • And I Must Scream - Ashes is possibly a sufferer of this.
  • Attempted Rape - Victor does this to Pamela and Ash, several hundred years later.
  • Berserk Button - Just try saying Pamela's name in front of Alecto. Go on. We dare you. To a more humorous extent, Pamela does not like being called an old lady.
  • Beware the Nice Ones - Inverted with Ash, who is not as nice as he initially seems. Ashes turns out to be quite frightening when he's angry. This also applies to Aaron (to an extent), since he's a werewolf.
  • Bishōnen - Almost every guy who shows up is this, but especially Belus and Ash.
  • Blessed with Suck - Seeing the future isn't all it's cracked up to be. Neither is immortality.
  • Break the Cutie - Everyone.
  • Cats Are Mean - Very much subverted with Butterfly.
  • Chained to a Bed - A male-on-male example, with Alecto kidnapping Ash and chaining him to a bed. Played seriously at first, with Ash being angry and afraid at the situation... only to be played for laughs later, with Ash teasing Alecto and flirting with him and Alecto getting hot and bothered about it.
  • Costume Porn
  • Cursed with Awesome - Pamela and Ashes immortality can be seen as this. Belus even makes a statement to Pamela that many people hunt dragons for the immortality they provide.
  • Deal with the Devil - Pamela's mother made such a deal to save her daughter from being burnt at the stake. Also, Pamela's lover Ashes makes this with Berial because he's tired of living.
    • Victor makes one with Berial. He hopes to kill Ash, gain immortality, and win Pamela's heart. All he gets is to kill Ash, before he's dragged to Hell.
    • Technically Pamela made one as well, since she made a deal with Belus and Belus and Belial are the same person.
  • Death Seeker - Ashes and Pamela.
  • Depraved Bisexual - Belus and Ash. Victor also counts as this, as he admires Ashes' beauty even while trying to kill him.
  • Disappeared Dad - Pamela's father is never mentioned.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Evil Plan - Pretty much the whole plot was arranged by Belus, who wanted to keep Pamela forever because she amused him. Another example is Ash's kidnapping and attempted rape suffered at Victor's hands - although it's implied the reincarnated Victor would have attempted all of that anyway.
  • Face–Heel Turn - Ashes, in the form of the spiteful and manipulative Ash. Later becomes a Heel–Face Turn, with him able to move on and live a normal, happy life.
  • The Fair Folk
  • Fallen Angel - Belus and Nebiros.
  • Fate Worse than Death - Cora and Alecto suffer this. Ashes is also a possibility, since his draconic form is encased in ice, presumeably for eternity... and is implied to be reincarnated constantly as a tool of Belus'.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation - Pamela begins laughing madly when Belus reveals his plan. Inverted with Ash, who goes temporarily insane and becomes utterly broken when Alecto mistakenly tells him he's just a clone.
  • Heroes Want Redheads - A gender-inverted example, with Pamela and Ashes.
  • Heroic Sacrifice - Many, but especially Cora, who is killed trying to warn Pamela.
  • I Am Who? - A non-heroic example, with Ash turning out to be the reincarnation of sorts of Ashes, Cora is the reincarnation of Pamela's mother, and Aaron is strongly implied to be the reincarnation of Sariel, an angel and Nebiros' (female) former lover.
  • Love at First Sight - Pamela and Ash both deal with men who falls for him just by looking at him. Neither of them are particularly sane or nice about it.
  • The Masochism Tango: This turns up a lot. A lot of minor characters in the one-shot stories get this, along with Pamela and Belus, Belus and Ash (especially with Belus and Ash), and Ash and Pamela.
  • Mayfly–December Romance - Ashes and Pamela. It doesn't end well. There is also one between a vampire and a human and her reincarnation in one of the earlier stories.
    • One story deals with a man falling in love with a sweet lake spirit. They eventually get married and start a snack shop on a boat.
    • A one-sided one takes place between a girl and her intelligent, wish-granting cat.
  • Mind Control - Ash, with shades of More than Mind Control attached to it.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse - Belial set up a Batman Gambit just so Ashes, Victor and later Alecto, all people with romantic feelings for Pamela were eventually killed off on one of the most elaborate examples of this trope.
  • My God, What Have I Done? - Ashes is implied to have one of these right before his death and apologizes to Pamela. It turns out later that his apology was made for a very good reason.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast - The Prince of Pandemonium also known as Belus.
  • Noble Demon - Nebiros has traces of this.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity - Alecto, to the point where he even manages to fool the devil.
  • Our Dragons Are Different - Dragons are described as "divine, immortal beings" who pass their immortality onto the person who touches the first drop of their heart's blood. Which explains where the mark on Pamela's forehead comes from...
  • Our Werewolves Are Different - Werewolves are described by Nebiros as demons, and the natural ones take on the forms of beautiful women who can shape-shift at will.
  • The Patient Has Left the Building: The manhwa has a rather unwilling example. The abused child of an alcoholic is sent to the hospital by a tree spirit, after the kid's beaten so badly he'll likely die. The father, upon finding out about this, breaks into the hospital and steals his son out of it, arguing that he can't afford to pay for the care. The dad is not mourned, when he dies by the story's end.
  • Really 700 Years Old - There are several examples of this.
  • The Reveal - Belus is actually Berial and has orchestrated everything from the beginning. In a (somewhat) lighter example, the story is revealed at the end of the series to take place around the 1940's.
  • Satan - Belus is implied to be this.
  • Shapeshifter - The dragons, demons and especially Belus.
  • Scary Black Man - Justified in that Alecto, the aforementioned scary black man, is actually a scary black dragon.
  • Shout-Out: A priest falling in love with a girl, then trying to murder the one she loves while decided that, if he can't have her, then he will kill her... And the guy's name? Victor.
  • Stalker with a Crush - Victor.
  • Sympathy for the Devil - Despite all he's done to her, Pamela still feels this for Belus and even befriends him upon recognizing his loneliness. To a lesser extent, Pamela is able to realize what Ash has gone through and forgives him.
  • Taken for Granite - You do not want to piss Nebiros off.
  • Taking the Bullet - Belus does this when Ash attacks Pamela in a jealous rage, then Belus with an umbrella for stopping him.
  • Tarot Motifs
  • There Are No Therapists
  • To Hell and Back
  • Tsundere - Pamela and Alecto are both examples of this.
  • Villainous Breakdown - Ash has one of these at Alecto's false revelation, and Belus has one in the decades after his plans are foiled. Both get better and undergo Heel Face Turns.
  • Waif Prophet - Pamela.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever? - Ashes, who described himself as living so long that his heart had petrified. Also, Pamela, until she finally learns to live with it at the end of the series.
  • Yandere - Ash.