The Art of... Pokémon TCG Chilling Reign

It seemed like there was a return of the late 1990's Pokémon card fad as bored rich Youtubers, blew the scene up again, the scalpers went a-scalping and professional card graders couldn't even keep up with the demand with the volume of cards being sent in for grading by locked down boredos desperate to cash in on the hype. Ultimately it lead to card shortages, as the millionaire youtubers and scalpers bought boxes by the hundreds and for a hot minute there it felt like everyone was cracking packs on their channel on the hunt for the illustrious chase card (one of the 4 million charizard cards most likely) and likes, follows and subscribes. Much like the NFT craze but slightly less pointless, it seemed like the cards themselves sort of got lost amongst the hype. But we've been long term fans of the game and even have the promo cards and PTCGO beta rewards to show it but today I'd like to look at an often overlooked aspects of the cards, the card art. 

In the only readily available book on Pokémon's impact in popular culture, Joseph Tobin's Pikachu's global adventure in a section about the (evil) genius about the card game is mentioned the cards appeal to all ages. Little drooling kiddies pore over the pretty pictures whilst the slightly older kids may, actually, every now and then, play the actual card game. Fast forward 25 years and it seems the droolers won out, but the chase cards aren't the chase cards because they're especially good in the game or the art is particularly better, it's all about the totally baked in rarity that has really been leant into by the PTCG makers. Not content with rares we now have secret rares, rainbow rares, full art cards, limited release sets and promo cards and the youtubers crack pack after pack barely stopping to look at the commons, the middle evolutions or quirky play cards in the simple pay to win numbers game hunt for that elusive sought after card. 

Here at TGAM towers, we're made of more sophisticated stuff taking the time to appreciate the artmanship (is that a word ed.?) of the cards, an aspect I always feel gets overlooked when it comes to non photo-based trading cards. Part of the charm of the games like the PTCG, Magic the Gathering and others is the little art windows into a different world. When it comes to the pokémon card game, the card art gives us a little viewpoint into the world of pokémon through accomplished, gaudy and sometimes storytelling art as well as causing a momentary focus on pokémon you just don't see outside of the main games, in the anime or the merchandise (your ever sellable Eevee's of the world). Unlike the hunt for the next PSA 9 Charizard, mechanically crap cards can be embellished with the most amazing art and some of the more sought after ones can be... well. Look at this:

It's simultaneously boring, an eyesore and a wasted space of a card despite being a 'rainbow rare'. 

Chilling Reign is the latest non-Japanese set to come out and one that many are predicting will be hard to find in stores ("stores"... laughs in UK) due to the whimsical notions of what is a 'good' or 'bad' collectible set. The last one, Battle Styles lacked the evergreen OG chase card Charizard and was possibly easier to get ahold of than the previous set which was like Goldu(ck)st at the height of the card craze. Here's my picks of my favourite pics from the current set. 


Let's start with card art I don't necessarily like but is at least interesting. On a middle evolution card too. You can spot a Tomokazu Komiya's work a mile off and although It's not a style I particularly care for, I'm really glad an art style like this has a place in official merchandise. The childish styling and warped perspectives whisk us off to an alternate universe where pokémon exist, they just don't look right. I particular like this card as the evolution stages either side of it are the more typical bold line art works. At the very least it'll encourage you to dredge up the Tsareena quick sharp so you don't have to have this visage stinking up your bench. Not to my liking, love that it exists though. The Galarian Slowking V card in this set is one way to spoil a full art card. 


Your average pokémon card will depict the critter straight on, either pulling a fierce face or doing some kind of kick/punch/spit/sliver/roar. In this card we can see, Inkay's been up to mischief having not only nicked a bunch of recognisable camping items from Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield but also a fucking pan too! Well perhaps not stolen, maybe it's carrying it for its trainer or something but the little open campfire in the back suggests a two head tentacle discount on these items. Perhaps this piece is also a complement to Battle Styles' Remoraid which shows a Remoraid and Octillery balancing various items. Who knows maybe there will be a third balancing cephalopod-inspired pokémon, either the Grapploct or YOU KNOW WHO's line in a future set?


Remember Blitzle anyone? This line isn't even in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield and now we know why. The Crown Tundra of the Galar region is clearly depicted in the background and this sorry scene shows the lengths that some pokémon are taking to try to weedle their way back into the games. Sadly the Avalugg this Blitzle hitched a ride on has almost completely melted away. Soon Blitzle will follow unless a Lapras eats it or something. I consider this to be a "What If...?" depiction of an otherwise uninteresting horse pokémon. Even if Blitzle does make it to Galar there's at least three new ponies far more interesting than it and that's saying something as vanilla Spectrier and the Ice Horse chap are quite boring. 


Castform-also-not-appearing-in-sword-and-shield is cursed with the hugest balls and smallest penis but as this card shows, our sperm-headed friend is still in high spirits. There are at least two card artists who create their art with models rather than paint and ink. This crochet model is by Asako Ito. Yuka Morii uses adorable little putty/resin/clay models. We're huge fans of both. Yuka Morii recently had a mini exhibition of their models in Japan, yet another kind of pokémon event/activity/merchandise/offer/screening/exhibit/display/experience we'll never get here in the UK. I might see if I can find a GAME still open in the UK and watch some Morph videos on my phone to see if it feels the same. 

Galarian Zapdos V

In theory, a full art card gives the artist a wee bit more space to play with but until comparatively recently, most full art cards just show the pokémon against a generic 'energy crackle' background. I love this Galarian Zapdos V card. The art is simple but effective, this motherfucker can run so fast it can run up walls. Just out of shot is a Galarian Wile E. Coyote with some bird seed or something. I mean, it helps that all the Galarian legendary bird designs are cracking remixes of the much loved originals. I also love, I've cut off the rules text here, that this is a really awful card. You won't ever see this card in a deck. Shame cos it's a belter. 

Well that's my pick from the latest frosty set of cards. Who knows, I may visit some rocking art from sets of yore or do updates on newer sets as they release although there's a 25th anniversary some 'limited' boxed product only set coming soon with both an original Charizard reprint and gold metal promo cards so no mere mortal will ever actually lay eyes on those. In a while Totodile!

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