Throughout the years, the Pokémon Trading Card Game has featured a variety of incredible art styles. Now that the hobby has been around for more than a quarter of a century, we have seen the artwork of Pokémon TCG cards elevated by daring new artist choices as well as illustrators who have been veteran contributors since the very first releases. Let's take a journey through the eye-popping, mind-expanding history of Pokémon TCG artwork by exploring some of the hobby's most interesting and unique artists. For the last two weeks, we spotlighted Mitsuhiro Arita, artist of the iconic Base Set Charizard. First, we focused on his vintage cards followed by his classic cards from the middle years of the Pokémon TCG. Today, we will spotlight the modern cards of Mitsuhiro Arita.
Mitsuhiro Arita has thrived in the modern era, which is driven by experimental images with larger artwork windows, just like he thrived in the vintage era and in the classic era. In many ways, Arita was the first artist to debut the Alternate Art style in the Pokémon TCG. Alt Arts have become beloved staples in the last leg of the Sun & Moon era and in the second and third years of the Sword & Shield era, but they began with one card much earlier in the Sun & Moon era.
It was the special set Shining Legends that debuted the first true Alt Art with the card that collectors have come to call "Mewtube." This card showed Mewtwo in its original test tube as a Secret Rare in the set. Later, Alt Arts would be classified in number along with Full Arts when they became normal parts of Sun & Moon sets… but Arita was first.
During the Sun & Moon era, Arita was also a major part of the Tag Team GX cards, which largely left behind the overused 3D style of normal GXs in favor of more diverse artwork. On the two Tag Teams above, Arita delivered Alt Art-quality illustrations for the standard Reshiram & Charizard GX and Mewtwo & Mew GX.
Arita would continue to bring his painterly style to Alt Arts in Sword & Shield sets with the Batman-inspired Noivern V from Evolving Skies and the stunning, godly Origin Forme Dialga from Astral Radiance. He also got the chance to expand on his original iconic Base Set Pikachu artwork with a Full Art version of the card for the 25th Anniversary set, Celebrations.
If you were to name one Pokémon TCG artist as the definitive contributor to the hobby, it is Mitsuhiro Arita. Not only does Arita have his imprint on the entire run of the TCG from Base Set to current releases, he has also stretched his style in experimental ways, remaining relevant by creating pieces of artwork every bit as vital and alive as his Base Set Charizard. When that Charizard card came out, we knew it was different and now, years later, we know why. It's not just because Charizard is the king. It's because Mitsuhiro Arita is as well.
Be sure to check Bleeding Cool every day to follow our in-depth Pokémon TCG coverage as we explore the hobby's past, present, and even future with upcoming set reveals.