When a new Pokémon Trading Card Game expansion is released, we like to flip through all the cards and admire the gorgeous artwork that gives each of them visual flair. The Pokémon TCG is a fantastic strategic game, of course, but we can't imagine it being as much fun without those wonderful illustrations of some of our favorite Pokémon.
Join us as we take a closer look at what the talented crew of artists have cooked up for us in the latest Pokémon TCG expansion, Sun & Moon—Celestial Storm.
The Artist Evolves
Most of the time, a different illustrator creates the artwork for the Basic, Stage 1, and (if applicable) Stage 2 Pokémon in the same Evolution chain. It's a fun way to see related Pokémon from multiple points of view. In the Sun & Moon—Celestial Storm expansion, however, there are a few cases where the same artist has allowed us to view a Pokémon's complete Evolution chain through their eyes. For example, Atsuko Nishida gives us a soft, muted take on Lotad, Lombre, and Ludicolo.
Yuka Morii depicts Gulpin and Swalot as a pair of delightful sculptures photographed among real-life foliage. The sketchy, chalky style of Aya Kusube breathes life into the water-dwelling Pokémon Chinchou and Lanturn. Even noted Pokémon illustrator Ken Sugimori leads us through the Evolution of Phanpy into Donphan, with illustrations that first appeared in the Neo Genesis expansion in 2000.
Chaos and Destruction!
It's fun to imagine living in the world of Pokémon, but let's face it—a world inhabited by creatures ranging from adorable lightning-generating Pikachu to gigantic Onix made of rock would be terrifying. Every now and again, a Pokémon TCG card gives us a glance into this dangerous landscape. Look at Combusken here. At just under 3 feet tall and covered in feathers, it may look cute, but just what is it doing? Is it…summoning lava? The ground is cracking as molten rock is drawn to the surface and expelled skyward. And that's an angry look on Combusken's face! It's set to do some serious damage.
Legendary Pokémon can be even scarier—check out the fiery maelstrom swirling around Groudon! And what of the Ultra Beasts? From the look of things, the massive Celesteela (over 30 feet tall!) can cause gaseous explosions wherever it goes. Whole cities would be destroyed! Luckily, some Ultra Beasts are too small to do much damage. Take the tiny Kartana. At only a foot tall and weighing a fraction of a pound, it—wait, did it just slice a skyscraper in half?!
You know what? Forget it. We're happy to keep our Pokémon in game form, thank you very much.
Art by Shibuzoh.
The Pokémon TCG is host to a wide variety of extremely talented artists who usually create multiple pieces of art in a single expansion. We often choose one or two of these artists to spotlight, giving everyone a chance to appreciate that artist's skills and allowing us to compare how their style is used to bring different Pokémon to life. Let's first look at the artist known as Shibuzoh.
Shibuzoh. tends to use a more cartoonish style, with the Pokémon subjects front and center within the frame. A quick glance might suggest a relatively simplistic style here, but a closer look at these illustrations reveals tons of detail. Look at the heavy use of shading on Meditite, for example. Both the Pokémon and the leafy ground it sits on feature ample gradient coloring, which lends extra depth. The rays of sunlight coming in from behind the trees further set the scene.
In fact, backgrounds are clearly very important in Shibuzoh.'s work. Check out the detailed city scene behind Alolan Rattata and the lush trees lining the path where Whismur is running. The elaborate detail makes these settings feel realistic despite the more animated appearance of the Pokémon subjects. Adding to the realism is the inclusion of other Pokémon in the background of the woodland scenes. (And we can't say we blame Whismur—we'd run, too, if we had a Bewear on our tail!)
Art by sui
When looking at card art by sui, you'll notice that the style is more rooted in realism than Shibuzoh.'s pieces. That realism is accentuated by a rich use of color and elaborate lighting effects. This is especially noticeable with Clamperl. In the hands of other artists, an underwater scene such as this might be overpowered by blue tones, but sui surrounds the subject with multicolored coral and sea plants, framing the Pokémon and drawing your attention to the center of the image and Clamperl itself. Small bubbles and motes of light add further depth to the image.
It makes perfect sense for the Meteor Pokémon Minior to be depicted floating in the upper atmosphere. Once again, the Pokémon is centered in the frame, surrounded by blue sky and white clouds. Lighting is also put to effective use here, showing off meteors streaking past our subject.
The final card by sui in this expansion is the adorable Bagon. Have you ever seen a Pokémon who was happier to be traipsing through the woods? Its huge grin is infectious! In this artwork, the low angle looking up past Bagon and into the trees really accentuates the light streaming in through the forest canopy, giving the scene a warm and joyous feel.
This is just a small sampling of the beautiful cards in the Sun & Moon—Celestial Storm expansion. While you're looking through your collection, be sure to pay extra attention to the work that the amazing artists have done, and then choose your own favorites!