It happens with embarrassing regularity that I avoid a comic book or manga because it doesn’t appeal to me visually. Finally, I pick it up and am immediately sucked into the story.

There is a much shorter list of manga that I collect but don’t read at all: Tarot Cafe by Sang Sun Park. I have four of the six books. In the books, a woman with lots of bushy hair reads tarot cards for monsters. Stuff happens.

I buy it for the pictures. It’s all lollipop-decadent stuff – everything is lovely or just cute with a slight grotesque element. The pensive characters, dressed eccentrically, wander around and apparently have multiple flashbacks or maybe they just change clothes between panels. Not sure. I love the look of it: the thick lines and the rich chiaroscuro. There aren’t a lot of wispy, fragile lines that turn the image gray.

The best part is that the tarot cards are beautifully drawn and they incorporate the characters. The styles of the decks change story by story but Park manages to make each card’s archetype recognizable.

Even better, she doesn’t just stop with the Death card. So many books and movies show that card and everybody gasps as if it had materialized in the deck. *eye roll*

Now if it were a handwritten note that read: “ha! ha! Your all going to die!” that would be disturbing.

correction: it’s manhwa. oh, well.


I first encountered tarot cards just after I finished at college. A friend read them for me one day – she was using the Mythic Tarot deck which I still think highly of. I loved the pictures and learning how they fit together to tell a story. For my birthday, another friend bought me a different deck, and I started taking it to parties.I discovered that tarot cards are are the most wonderful ice breaker. You can ask a person what she’s been doing and get a pleasant, vague answer.Then you can say, “According to this layout, your business life is taking a new turn. ” The same person will tell you all about her plans to relocate to Tahiti.

Tarot readings are like an exotic form of small talk and an invitation to tell one’s story. And everybody’s got a good story.

Tarotpedia.com is a nice place to start, if you want to learn more about tarot cards.

The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination by Robert Place is pretty good. He talks about their origin as a specialty card game (like Uno or something) and their eventual transformation into a fortune telling deck.

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