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.
20 years later and my mind still remembers the exact layout, colours and character designs for these cards. Amazing work.
I always wanted to create art for these cards. It was one of my childhood dream jobs.
I sure do remember his name. He was my favorite PTCG artist right after Ken Sugimori when I was ~10. Nowadays I'd say they're both awesome artists. I can't say I really prefer one over another. Sugimori's art is something you can easily find outside of PTCG so that makes it more exciting to get a card with artwork from Arita. I haven't really collected Pokémon cards since Gen 3 but I've still bought couple of booster packs from the later generations. I don't have any Gen 7 cards, though.
I just remember being in 3rd grade and this blowing up. I loved and still have the full Base set, and remember being so pumped when they released the Fossil set. Such good times, and such iconic artwork!
Nice. I'm playing Pokemon TCG (GBC) on my 2ds right now. Designs still look good
I instantly looked up to see if he did the art for a card of my favorite Pokemon, Buizel (as evident by my profile picture.), and he has! Now I really want it...
A-mazing, I consider these classics and hope we one day can get a Ni No Kuni-esque Pokemon game employing these exact concepts.
...But I'll settle for a poster with as much of the art pieces as possible
Definitely remember Mitsuhiro Arita, and I feel his illustrations have always been the best. Kagemaru Himeno and Midori Harada also had really good art. These artists were really the trifecta of my pokemon card collection.
Ken Sugimori cards were always boring to me. Just the official art pasted onto an abstract background. But, at least it wasn't claymation art...
Damn i feel old. And boy i miss my old collection.....
I knew this guys name immediately! I remember as a kid realizing that some of the Pokémon cards just had really stunning art and I always found Aritas name in the corner, but even to this day a google search of him doesn’t yield much. I especially recommend the Feraligatr card. Thanks for doing this write up!
And to think I gave away my collection years ago for absolutely nothing.
I’ve got all the common and uncommmon cards from the base set but most of my rares were stolen. C’est la vie 🤷🏻♂️
I met him in 2014 when he came back to the United States for the first time in 10 years. It was Ocala Comic-con (Why he came to Ocala Florida I will never know). I was working the event and he signed 6 cards for my soon-to-be girlfriend and I. Her holographic Charizard and Japanese Gyrados brought a smile to his face.
My favorite: https://www.picclickimg.com/d/l400/pict/112622075549_/NM-Pokemon-COMPLETE-Japanese-NEO-Premium-File-1.jpg
I may have just learned about Mr. Arita, but I am DEFINITELY familiar with his art. I remember collecting and playing with those same cards back as a kid!
Also, it's interesting to learn that each card gets seven weeks of oversight on them, especially with all of the different artists and art styles around. With the process Mr.Arita describes, it sounds like both the artists and Creatures make good use of their time. I think I liked to copy some of the art on these cards to practice different styles, so I think I'll get back to that some time.
I remember those days, back when the kids had Pokémon cards to collect. Now kids just collect Instagram filters.
@greengecko007 I agree that some of Sugimori's TCG art is boring but it's mostly because the same art can be found elsewhere. Back when I started collecting cards, I had no access to the internet and the games didn't have his art yet, so I hadn't seen most of those art pieces before obtaining the cards. Nowadays you can find the same main art piece of a Pokémon everywhere.
That said, his art is really good and he has made bunch of cards that aren't just copy-pasted. Most of the Gym Heroes set is by him and I really like those cards. That's when he started making new art for TCG. (Because he had probably already done each Pokémon card once.)
It seems he always starts out with old art pieces when a new generation comes out. I wouldn't be surprised if that's due to time constraints. They need a lot of cards and Sugimori has some art ready so why not use it?
I Pokemon TCG is really underrated. I wish it got more love.
Oh yeah, even if some of those Pokemon looked wonky in the art (I remember Squirtle looking a bit off), I really liked those pastel-coloured scenes the most. It was really great to see stuff like Machop lifting a boulder or Charmander accidentally setting some grass on fire. It did set the Pokemon in the world.
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