Mitsuhiro Arita might not be a name that you're instantly familiar with, but you'll definitely have seen dozens of pieces from his impressive portfolio of work, and you may well have several of them stored safely away in your home right now. One of the most prolific illustrators in the history of the Pokémon trading card game, Arita has been illustrating cards for over 20 years now - including that Charizard card that seems to bring back waves of nostalgia with a single glance.
The official Pokémon website has shared an interview with Arita, going into detail about the design process, his work with developer Creatures, and how Pokémon became the global phenomenon as we know it today.
“When I first began working on the Pokémon Trading Card Game, I had no expectations I'd be working on it over 20 years later," he said. Asked if he would he have charged a little more for his work had he known what Pokémon would become, he jokes, “Of course!”
It's clear that Arita is proud of his achievements with the franchise, bringing along a complete binder full of the cards that he's worked on to the interview. It features 537 cards, all in chronological order, with the famous Charizard and Pikachu cards from the Base Set visible in the very first page. “Going through it, I really have a lot of memories of these, and I really like all of them,” he says.
The process behind the creation of the cards has apparently remained the same from the early days, right through to the present day. He starts things off with a hand-sketched draft to set the scene, creating a few versions for Creatures to choose from. Once a general direction has been decided, he moves through black-and-white and full-colour versions, edging towards the final product. The planning, illustration, and approval phases take around seven weeks for just a single piece of art for one card.
“For example, maybe they want a spot in the Alola region, and will maybe provide information about that place. Also, sometimes Creatures will have a specific pose or attack in mind that they want me to do... One thing I always try to focus on in my illustrations is to think about what that Pokémon is, and to not think about what I've done with other Pokémon. I've always tried to observe reality and nature and try to reflect that when portraying the Pokémon as if they could be realistic creatures.”
If you'd like to check out the full interview, make sure to give it a read on the Pokémon website.
Do you have a collection of Pokémon cards? Do you fondly remember these early, classic designs? Let us know with a comment below.