Column: Pokémon Company should promote Japanese illustrators at overseas Pokémon Events

Published on 22 June 2019 at 19:13

Some of you may have seen it before; famous TCG illustrators such as Mitsuhiro Arita, Midori Harada and very recently Kouki Saitou have travelled to the West to visit large exhibition events and showcase their talents to Western audiences. Their attendance at large format events like Comic-Con is proving a success with not just Pokémon fans but other fans of their artwork too! With Mitsuhiro Arita leading the way in his attendance at various card signings across America [Ocala Comic-Con 2019, Dallas Regionals 2018] and Europe [Italy’s Cartoomics 2017 & Hyper Japan in England], other artists have followed his success in showcasing their talents globally.

From personal experience, it is truly fantastic owning a card that has been signed by your favourite artist, so these events can resonate positively for all die-hard collectors!

But of course, there are times when card signings and artist event attendance can go wrong. Take Midori Harada as a prime example. Her talents are not just limited to the Pokémon franchise, but her work also features beautiful portraits of everyday scenes, or caricatures of the people she meets. Upon attending one of her “meet the artist” events in Europe, a selfish “fan” requested that she must autograph 20+ cards for them to resell at a later point. Ms. Harada took offence to this and refused, declaring that she would not sign any more Pokémon cards from that point onwards.

So, there can be pros and cons to Illustrators venturing out of Japan and attending events. The cons do carry a detrimental effect within the hobby, but the pros allow a younger generation to join this wonderful hobby and fall in love with the cards we once did as children.

Do you ever ask yourself why your other favourite artists are not available during the North American Championships or even outside of Japan at all? Creatures Inc. & The Pokémon Company frequently organise autograph sessions for their contracted artists inside of Japan during their equivalent of Pokémon Regionals, Nationals and International Championships.

Eevee card signed by Shibuzoh. Picture courtesy of @TimmusGG !

Could we someday see something like this displayed at overseas Pokémon Events?


Signature sessions in Japanese Pokémon Events

During Pokémon Card Game events in Japan, such as the Champions League events, Japanese illustrators are officially available for signature sessions. These can be a mixture of new and upcoming artists, or well-established artists within the TCG. Their work is showcased on walls during these events, allowing attendees to marvel in the beauty of their card designs. Some artists can prove to be very popular in Japan due to their artistic styles, with cute [or kawaii] designs, abstract art [Imakuni? Comes to mind here!] or extremely detailed artwork that captures the ferocity of beloved Pokémon characters.


Fans standing in line to get their card signed by illustrator kirisAki during the Japanese Champions League 2019 in Tokyo

Japanese culture

Obtaining a personalised signature from an artist is for you and you alone. Selling one of these cards is perceived to be very disrespectful as this card was meant as a gift from the artist directly to you. It’s a sign of respect, knowing that you have made the effort to see that particular artist and in return, they are rewarding you with a piece of timeless history. If you are a foreigner in Japan and visit an autograph session during a Japanese Pokémon event, many people will be weary of your presence.

Some people have stated that they have had their picture taken when you have their card(s) signed. If the artist or others attending recognise you and believe that you are flipping the card for profit, they will refuse you and even ban you from all future events.

In the West [Europe and the Americas], it's quite normal to ask for autographs of your beloved artists or celebrities and isn’t seen as something to be disrespectful if you do sell on that signature. Some signatures [for example in Baseball or Basketball] may hold a premium price in the future and the players of these respected sports know this as well.


How it could work here

Creatures Inc. & The Pokémon Company could promote their illustrators at official Regional/National & International Championship events, and only allow for unique personalised autographed to attendees of these events. Signing a card “For Zak” or “To Adam” holds a unique impression on the person attending the event whilst also safeguarding the integrity of the artists’ signature in the second-hand market. These methods would severely crack-down on the reselling of signed cards and allow for collectors and fans alike to appreciate the card and signature on their own level.


During The Pokémon World Championships in 2018, Creatures Inc. & The Pokémon Comapny held a signature session with well-established people; Mitsuhiro Arita, Junichi Masuda, Kazumasa Iwao and Tsunekazu Ishihara based on a lottery system. This event allowed attendees to obtain ONE card to be signed by each person, allowing for as many people as possible to meet these famous people and significantly decrease the amount of card flippers – showing that this method can work in the Western world.

Why it could not work here

Creatures Inc. & The Pokémon Company’s illustrators will have to leave Japan, an extra cost that may not make sense to both companies. There will also be a culture gap. For those of you who may have travelled to Japan from the Western world, you may have noticed how polite, respectful and generally pleasant Japanese people are. This generally isn’t the case in Europe and the Americas and people can be prone to wanting more for less, something that portrays the West in a negative light. Misunderstandings in language, tone, terminology and gestures can lead to poor experiences for both artists and attendees which will have a detrimental effect to future events. As previously stated, Midori Harada has seen the negativity of ‘pushy’ Western collectors and both Creatures Inc. & The Pokémon Company may not want to subject their artists to the same fate.

What do you think about this? This is a topic that many may not discuss, if you have an experience to tell, or an opinion that covers any of the points raised or missed, let us know in the comment section below, or start a conversation on Twitter.

My signed Meiji Promo Lugia during the Dallas Regionals 2018. Signed by Mitsuhiro Arita.

Add comment


There are no comments yet.