THE ART OF POKEMON part 2 by SATURNINEBEAR
A year ago I put together a piece for Pojo about the Art on the cards, looking at the best AND the worst of each set. Well since that piece we’ve had three new sets of cards and a lot has changed in the presentation. I thought it time to look again at these new cards and look to the future too.
The most noticeable thing about recent sets is that there is a greater diversity of artists used. Gone are the days when virtually the entire set was illustrated by Ken Sugimori with the occasional card by Mitsuhiro Arita or Kagemaru Himeno. Now we have over a dozen artists working on a set, and this has led to a both a less consistent "look" to the set and also a great disparity in the quality of the work. Many of the newer artists are very stylised and niche… for example the photographed claymation of Yuka Morii or more recently the photo collage of Hizuki Misono. One of my previous favourite artists, Atsuko Nishida has changed painting technique for a less detailed and more airbrushed style, which I frankly find very disappointing indeed. Ken Sugimori has been "sidelined" and is given sole responsibility for Trainer Cards which have human figures in them. He has responded by turning out an increasingly excellent quality of work.
Background has become as vital as the figurative in a lot of the cards, and this has, on the whole been quite revolutionary in the look of the cards. The artist who has most noticeably captured this is Mitsuhiro Arita, who over the past couple of sets has turned out some total masterpieces. Equally impressive is the work of Naoyo Kimura who seems to invest a real sense of atmosphere in the cards, which accentuates the personality of the pokemon… be it the rain storm as Tyranitar prowls the jungle ruins at night, or the bright and sunny day as Blissey strolls out of the bushes (what WAS he doing in there??).
So here follows a look at the BEST five and WORST five Pokemon cards of Destiny, Expedition and Aquapolis. Trainers worthy of mention are given separate attention.
On the whole a truly appalling set of cards. Not just for their lack of playability. The totally talentless Miki Tanaka, Yukiko Baba, Tomokazu Komiya and Masako Yamashita(rtist) illustrated 23 of the 98 pokemon cards in the set. Add in the tedious 12 unowns, that’s a lot of cards that are out of the running. Much of the rest of the set is poor too, with uninspiring performances by Atsuko Nishida, Kagemaru Himeno, Shin-ichi Yoshida and Toshinao Aoki. Personally I think Yuka Morii’s little figures are rarely interesting, but I do now some people really like them.
SHINING TYRANITAR by Ken Sugimori. For such a simple card, no background beyond airbrush cosmos, and simple outlines, this is a great piece of work. The power and magnificence of the Mountain Crusher is captured in this aggressive roar. Godzilla eat your heart out.
DARK GENGAR by Aya Kusube. Whaaaaaaaaat???? No seriously! A truly great piece of art. Simple, with a loose style of painting, it totally captures its subject. I love this card and not just to play. It’s quite a shock away from the tight illustrative style of most other card artists, but it really works here.
DARK TYRANITAR by Mitsuhiro Arita. It is Mitsuhiro’s use of lighting, movement and setting which have made him the current leader in Pokecard art. This card was a real step forward from the days when he played second fiddle to Sugimori in the early sets. Always a consistently good artist, Mitsuhiro is now emerging as a GREAT one.
SHINING NOCTOWL by Ken Sugimori. The brooding black sky, the face in shadows. That stern look. A bold move to illustrate Noctowl so close to. It leaves you very few lines to make an impressive picture. And yet Ken pulls it off.
GIRAFARIG by Yuka Morii. Awwwwwww… ain’t he sweet!! I think it’s the big pink nose and the fact that he looks like he’s made of Marzipan and chocolate that makes me want to eat him. This card, whilst not strictly "illustration" is Art nonetheless. Solid stuff, as is Yuka’s Chansey card.
LEDYBA by Tomokazu Komiya. No wonder he’s crying. If I had my eight legs stuck to a pile of vomit, I’d be crying too. What a horrible piece of work.
CYNDAQUIL by Yukiko Baba. Totally awful. Insipid. Dull. It’s not even like Cyndaquil isn’t a fun Poke to illustrate.
DARK SLOWKING by Tomokazu Komiya. It’s night. A storm rages over a tropical island. The evil Slowking ponders his plan for world domination. And all captured by an artist with no obvious talent….
SWINUB by Kagemaru Himeno. Ok… so Swinub is a BITCH to make an interesting picture of, but, jeeeeez…. Well, one of them seems to have died of embarrassment from appearing on this card. Boring? Doesn’t come close.
LIGHT MACHOKE by Miki Tanaka. Had to get Miki in here (squeezing Slowbro out of the running). Machoke is an UGLY thing at the best of times. This card reeks. Look at the hands….
Top Marks for TEAM ROCKET’S EVIL DEEDS by Ken Sugimori.
Bottom marks for, need I say it, LUCKY STADIUM by Imakuni. Although…the Personality Test gave him a close run.
A new look. New Border, Rounded picture frame. I didn’t like it when I saw the first Japanese cards, but actually it’s not so bad. A very big set this. VERY big. So a lot to chose from. On the whole a vast improvement in the art from Destiny. Some incredibly solid artists turning in consistently good work. Some very stylised work too, from artists like Kyoko Umemoto and Yuichi Sawayama. Because there are so many decent cards here and Mitsuhiro Arita would probably take most of the top five spots, I’m going to do a top 5 Artists, for their entire work on the set and name their best cards.
MITSUHIRO ARITA. Feraligatr. Magby. Flaaffy. Houndour. Backgrounds. Lighting. Atmosphere. Truly captures the personality of the Pokemon he is illustrating.
HAJIME KUSAJIMA. Mew. Abra. Weezing. A versatile artist with a range of styles. Some of his work is not as impressive, but when it does work, it’s very impressive.
KYOKO UMEMOTO. Squirtle. Ekans. Spearow. Cloyster. Very geometric designs, with outlines done in coloured pen. Stylised with a unique signature.
AYA KUSUBE. Graveler. Golem. Geodude. Having done the Gastly line in the previous set with a wild freestyle, this shows this artist has a range. He brings a very classical style like woodblock print to give great atmosphere to these heavyweights.
SHIN-ICHI YOSHIDA. Kingler. Krabby. Hit and miss with the Machamp and Machoke really not up to par. Shin-ichi has often turned out both great and poor work.
DREGS (worst five cards):
1. LARVITAR by Yukiko Baba. And his work just gets worse and worse…
CYNDAQUIL by Sachi Matoba. Stylised? Yes.. Good? No..
CORSOLA by Miki Tanaka. WHY can’t we have a nice picture of Corsola for once??
PIDGEY by Tomokazu Komiya. Just horrid.
IVYSAUR by Miki Tanaka. Oh come on!!! He’s just traced the Base Set Sugimori one and infilled with naff colours!
TRAINERS: Top marks for the superb NURSE and COPYCAT by Ken Sugimori. Bottom marks for DUAL BALL by Big Mama Tagawa, the most tedious card yet produced.
And things just got bigger and better. Once again a huge set with so many excellent cards. Here are the top five artists and worst.
MITSUHIRO ARITA. Hypno. Donphan. Lanturn. Quagsire. Umbreon. And others. Gets better and better. The alternate art Donphan and Umbreon (McDonalds promos) are equally good too.
NAOYO KIMURA. Tyranitar. Nidoking. Blissey. Larvitar. Masterpieces, that really capture the personality of the Pokemon.
KOUKI SAITOU. Miltank. Rapidash. Perhaps too Disney. But what great pictures. Hope we see a lot more from this artist.
MIDORI HARADA. Sneasel. Bold lines and sombre inks. A really great pose on Sneasel. Not so taken with the Eevee or Scyther, but look forward to seeing more by this artist.
AYA KUSUBE. Slowpoke. Just knocking, perhaps unfairly, Hajime Kusajima (Tentacruel, Onix) off the list. But I just love this card. Again showing the versatility of a great artist to develop a style for each evolution to match their personality.
TOMOKAZU KOMIYA. Tyrogue. Hitmonchan. Hitmontop. Mankey. Primeape. Tangela. Need I say more.
MIKI TANAKA. Paras. Victreebel and various other crimes against art.
YUKIKO BABA. Mr Mime. Doduo. Marill. Consistent. Terrible, but consistent.
MASAKO YAMASHITA. Porygon. Bellsprout. Spinarak. Thankfully few.
… HEY! Nobody else who worked on this set DESERVES to be lumped with the above four, so I think we will spare them the indignity.
TRAINERS: Sugimori turns out his best work yet with VOLUNTEERS and FAN CLUB especially note-worthy. Nothing too bad on the other end either. PARK, I guess would be the least pleasing card.
Looking ahead to the next set, the picture just gets better. Look out for an Ursaring card that is probably the best card art yet. Sadly we haven’t seen the last of Miki Tanaka and his friends, and there are several appalling cards on the horizon too.
Hope nobody took this too seriously. It’s only meant as a light-hearted bit of fun. And if any of the artists I insulted are reading this.. I’m real sorry, but, please, FIND ANOTHER PROFESSION!!