I thought for a change I’d do a piece about the actual art on the cards. Everyone’s done their top ten “cards” to death, but I’ve yet to see anything on the artwork. Below is a brief look at the first three Neo sets with the best AND worst of what they have to offer! I have only looked at Pokemon cards, not Trainers  (or indeed Energy).

Neo Genesis:

Well, this was a VERY hard to one to judge as there is much here that is defining. Ken Sugimori contributed no less that 48 of the 81 cards in this set. He’s rarely less than brilliant… and having been the designer behind most of the pokemon, it’s no wonder he gets them spot on. The whole look of Pokemon as we know it was created by him and his work on earlier sets was the standard we came to expect. However after much deliberation the top five cards I propose are:

  1. Slowking by Ken Sugimori: Putting the character off centre to a beautiful background really complements the holographics of this card.
  1. Steelix by Ken Sugimori: Dramatic background and aggression making this look like one MEAN pokemon.
  1. Totodile by Hinorobu Yoshida: Atmosphere and character beautifully executed.
  1. Lugia by Hinorobu Yoshida: Great framing and background, simple yet effective.
  1. Sneasel by Ken Sugimori: Hard to choose the fifth place with so many worthy cards, but the atmosphere in this one is stunning, as is the point of light effect on Sneasel’s claw

Thankfully there were not too many poor cards in this set, but the pick of the worst were fairly dire:

  1. Slowpoke by Tomokazu Komiya: Oh dear…. What more can I say. Poor old ‘poke gets a raw deal whenever he appears.
  1. Horsea by Miki Tanaka: A combination of horrid drawing with sick colours. I am astounded they continue to employ Miki.
  1. Elekid by Miki Tanaka: and here Miki is again, ruining one of the best pokemon. By the way there’s a great Elekid card on PokemonZeo. Check it out.
  1. Wooper by, you guessed it, Miki Tanaka: Now why couldn’t we have had the art from the coro-coro promo wooper?  This is tragic.
  1. Murkrow by Shin-ichi Yoshida: While I really like some of Shin-ichi’s work, this is really poor. Again, the promo Murkrow of Ken’s would have suited the set so much better.

Neo Discovery:  

I don’t know about you lot, but I was SO disappointed by the look of this set. A real mess of inconsistent artists worked on this and no Ken Sugimori cards in sight. At least there were a couple of gems amongst the garbage.

  1. Butterfree by Atsuko Nishida: At last, butterfree gets a good card (playable) and a good picture too! AN’s style is very cutesy, but when it works it REALLY works. This is one of his/her (I don’t know?) best to date. Just beautiful.
  1. Umbreon (holo) by Kimiya Masago: The style is more adult and photo-realistic, but this is a truly beautiful holofoil with those stunning gold bands on Umbreon. Character and class combined.
  1. Mareep by Atsuko Nishida: As I said above, AN goes for the sweet and flaaffy end of the market, so what better subject than the electric sheep family.
  1. Smeargle by Hironobu Yoshida: Very much in the style of Ken Sugimori (MIA), a bold design that really works… and SO much better than the Smeargle promo!!!!
  1. Kabutops by Kimiya Masago: Now I know that a lot of people really like this picture and would place it higher. I’m not such a fan. It’s good, but the style is so alien to pokemon. Still, I rate it simply for the beautiful execution of background and water. A really frightening beast

And the worst…. Well, so, so, so many to choose from. Let’s see. How about:

  1. Tyrogue by Miki Tanaka: I mean…. What IS that???!!!!
  1. Eevee by Aya Kusube: Not as obviously BAD as some others but just a really depressingly POOR picture of Eevee, who is, after all, so “photogenic”!!
  1. Igglybuff by Miki Tanaka: I’d take a pin to that balloon. Iggly is fairly ugly at the best of times. Yet Miki makes it that bit worse.
  1. Dunsparce by Yukiko Baba: Now, I know… Dunsparce is the UGLIEST pokemon and the biggest waste of space. But it can be drawn well. Take a look at the Japanese promo Dunsparce if you don’t believe me. However this is just terrible.
  1. Wooper by Yukiko Baba: Oh no! Not again! WHY can’t we have nice woopers? It’s such a cool character and yet the two cards are so poor. Give the guy a break and do an English version of the coro-coro promo.

 Neo Revelation:

 Hooray!!!!!!! Ken is back and we have another stunning set of cards to feast our eyes on. Revelation has some consistently good artwork and, on the whole, unites as a set. Lots to choose from here, but my top five are:

  1. Houndoom by Mitsuhiro Arita: MA is one of the main and best pokemon artists with a really beautiful painting style. The colours and atmosphere of this card win it the top award.
  1. Ho-oh by Kimiya Masago: A nice subject matter always helps but KM has really pulled this one off. A perfect Holofoil card with movement and power.
  1. Shining Gyarados by Ken Sugimori: It would be really disappointing if the “shining” cards were crud artwork (Charizard anyone?). So thank God they asked Ken to do this one. A real masterpiece.
  1. Celebi by Hinorobu Yoshida: as with ND Smeargle HY has a style very in keeping with the look developed by Ken Sugimori.  This card is crisp and simple in its design but all the more effective for it.
  1. Chinchou by Atsuko Nishida: to be honest there were a dozen cards that could fill this 5th space. But I think AN has created a beautiful card here, with the sun filtering down through the water. After all, Chinchou ain’t a looker!

But every set is marred by a few turkeys and Revelation was no exception:

  1. Stantler by Yukiko Baba: Vile beyond measure. Poor old Stantler.
  1. Zubat by Yukiko Baba: Now come on. A child of eight could do better.
  1. Geodude by Masako Yamashita: Or is that I-am-a-shit-a(rtist)?
  1. Snubbull by Tomokazu Komiya: I think it’s the insipid acid yellow grass that ruins this one for me.
  1. Remoraid by Miki Tanaka: This spot would have been filled by Delibird but for the fact that in a modern art way, it has something going for it. This on the other hand does not. A more boring card has not yet been conceived

Well there you have it. It is all personal opinion and therefore unlikely to find agreement with everyone. The point of this all is to show that presentation is important. I’m sure I am not the only one who is disappointed to see a badly drawn card in an otherwise excellent set. I beseech the powers that be to think about this when commissioning for future sets.

And next week we have Destiny to look forward to. From what I’ve seen, it’s a really mixed bag. But the Dark Typhlosion is way cool…..

Thoughts, comments and disagreements to: