February 07, 2018

Ultra-Cool Art Makes for Ultra-Cool Cards

Take an in-depth look at some of the beautiful cards in the Pokémon TCG: Sun & Moon—Ultra Prism expansion.

When checking out the cards in a new Pokémon Trading Card Game expansion, it's all too easy to focus on the numbers. Your eyes might be immediately drawn to a Pokémon's HP, attacks, and Abilities. That's understandable—when you're assembling a deck, it's important to be aware of each card's strengths. In your quest to build a powerful deck, however, don't forget to take a moment to appreciate the amazing artwork that adorns each of those cards.

One of the coolest aspects of the Pokémon TCG is how it allows artists to present their own unique interpretations of various Pokémon. As we looked at the masterpieces in the Pokémon TCG: Sun & Moon—Ultra Prism expansion, we noticed some clear themes. Whether they feature the repeated contributions of an individual artist or a recurring element in the artwork itself, these cards from Ultra Prism deserve a little extra attention.

Art by Ken Sugimori

When it comes to Pokémon art, perhaps no one is more prolific than the ultra-talented Ken Sugimori—co-founder of Pokémon video game developer GAME FREAK. Serving as a character designer and art director for Pokémon games, Mr. Sugimori has influenced countless other artists and helped define the look and feel of the Pokémon world.

Considering Mr. Sugimori's notable contributions to the world of Pokémon, it's always a treat to see his work appear in the Pokémon TCG. For Sun & Moon—Ultra Prism, he illustrated the three first partner Pokémon given to new Trainers in the Sinnoh region: Turtwig, Chimchar, and Piplup. Mr. Sugimori's other contributions to the expansion include an electrifying Shinx and a small but fierce Gible, in addition to several iconic Trainers, including Gym Leader Volkner, Mars of the villainous Team Galactic, and Sinnoh Champion Cynthia.

Cards illustrated by Mr. Sugimori typically feature simple backgrounds, which allow the focus to remain on the characters themselves. Players and collectors alike can easily appreciate Mr. Sugimori's clear line work and masterful shading, plus the sheer amount of personality that his drawings convey.

Art by kawayoo

kawayoo—the pseudonym of artist Youhei Kawaguchi—has been contributing amazing artwork to the Pokémon TCG for some time now. One look at his cards, and the reason becomes clear: he is an outstanding illustrator who breathes unique life into each Pokémon he depicts.

kawayoo's overall art style is reminiscent of oil paintings, which results in lush, realistic worlds for Pokémon to inhabit. As for the Pokémon themselves, kawayoo illustrates them just as carefully. He usually portrays Pokémon in dynamic poses that showcase their personalities or depict fast action.

You can practically feel the massive Torterra stomping through the forest on this card from Sun & Moon—Ultra Prism. Likewise, kawayoo's depiction of Mow Rotom is filled with frantic kinetic energy—it's easy to imagine the Pokémon zooming through a field of grass and leaving a path of clippings in its wake. And what about his delightful Shiinotic, with its delicate limbs and soothing glow? One can't help but feel a sort of mysterious warmth when looking at the artwork on this card.

No matter the subject, kawayoo's artwork is sure to immerse you in the action and make the world of Pokémon feel even more real!

Look Out for the Ultra Wormhole

Ultra Wormholes are portals that lead to Ultra Space, allowing Ultra Beasts to appear in the Pokémon world. And they seem to be popping up with increased regularity, based on some of the artwork from the Pokémon TCG: Sun & Moon—Ultra Prism expansion. Ultra Wormholes are easily identified by their large funnel shape, glowing grid pattern, and fractured appearance—they have quite an intimidating presence!

Even the Pokémon in Sun & Moon—Ultra Prism are skittish when they see an Ultra Wormhole, which appears on multiple cards in the expansion. Luxray roars at the Ultra Wormhole, while Bastiodon appears to nervously slink away from it. Poor Manaphy looks scared out of its wits as it rushes to put as much distance as it can between itself and the Ultra Wormhole.

By depicting details about the environment and the ways Pokémon interact with it, these card illustrations help fuel imaginations and bring the Pokémon TCG to life.

So Cute!

When playing the Pokémon TCG, it's easy to focus on Pokémon that are considered powerful, but don't forget that some Pokémon are simply adorable. Just look at those Alolan Vulpix—they're slippin' and slidin' all over the place. How could you look at them and not want to give them a snuggle?

A friendly smile is often a good way to make anyone look cuter, and that's evident in the case of Shaymin, whose huge grin just seems to be shouting, “Hello! Be my friend!” Lickilicky also can't be ignored, especially when its enormous (yet cute!) tongue is sticking out of its smile.

Pokémon aren't the only cute characters in Sun & Moon—Ultra Prism. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Supporter sweeter than Lillie, unless you consider the Pokémon Fan Club family. We can't blame those parents for having such wide smiles, especially when their baby looks so cute in Pichu pajamas.

Flashy Effects Bring Attacks to Life

It's one thing to simply call out an attack when playing the Pokémon TCG, but it's another to actually see the attack in motion. Thanks to talented Pokémon TCG artists and the visual effects they create, it's easy to envision just how impressive some attacks could really be.

Take Electivire, for example. Hearing the name of its Volt Knuckle attack gives you a general idea of what the attack does, but seeing it depicted on the card is a whole other experience. Look at that massive fist striking the ground! Look at the huge blast of electricity surrounding the impact site! That is one phenomenally powerful punch—only some of the toughest Pokémon would be able to walk away from it.

Or how about Skuntank? Sure, its Sticky Smokescreen attack sounds unpleasant, but seeing it in action shows just how vile it would be. The cloud spraying from Skuntank's tail looks like much more than just a fine mist—imagine having that noxious plume heading straight for you. Imagine it sticking to your skin. Imagine the smell, enough to turn the stomach of even the toughest Trainer. Imagine…OK, sorry. We got carried away there! The point is, Skuntank's Sticky Smokescreen attack looks wonderfully nasty in the hands of an amazing artist (in this case, Studio Bora Inc.).

Many of the card illustrations in Sun & Moon—Ultra Prism do an incredible job of bringing Pokémon attacks to life. Which ones are your favorites?

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