Pokémon look more distinguished than ever in authentic ukiyo-e that pay homage to a pair of feudal Japan’s greatest artists.
Is the quintessential representation of Japanese art an ukiyo-e woodblock print or an anime cel? It’s really got to be one of those two, as they’re both instantly recognizable as indigenous products of Japan, symbols of societal phenomena at home and gateways to the greater world of Japanese culture for many overseas.
Now, those two artistic forces have come together in a collection of Pokémon woodblock prints. These aren’t simply illustrations drawn using classical aesthetics, either. Highly skilled craftsmen actually carved, by hand and using traditional techniques, the necessary woodblocks to use as stamps for producing the paintings.
The result is authentic woodblock prints, but that’s not the only nod to the art form’s lengthy past, as both of the paintings are homages to famous ukiyo-e. 19th century artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s View from the Chronocles of Yoshitsune: Gojobashi…
太田記念美術館 (@ukiyoeota) October 12, 2012
…has real-life samurai Minamoto no Yoshitsune and warrior monk Benkei’s fabled duel in Kyoto reenacted by Snorlax, Pikachu, and original Pocket Monster video game protagonist Red.
▼ You might have thought that was Ash on the far right, but he’s probably got too much homework to be out this late at night.
In a more serene depiction, the Kanagawa ukiyo-e from Utagawa Hiroshige’s painting series 53 Stations of the Tokaido, created between 1833 and 1834…
…sees its venue changed from the outskirts of Tokyo (back when it was still called Edo) to Vermillion City. Instead of human travelers, it’s now Pikachu, Bulbasaur, and Eevee among those making the trip along the highway connecting Edo and Kyoto, while aquatic Pokémon including Magikarp and Gyarados watch from the bay. The fact that Vermillion City shares many characteristics with Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture’s largest city, makes the location especially apt.
▼ The Pokémon version even matches the original print’s uniquely contoured corners.
As pieces of fine art, you won’t find the ukiyo-e prints sitting on the shelves of Japanese toy shops. Instead, they’ll be offered through the Pokémon Center Online shop, priced at 45,000 yen (US$440). Orders can be placed between October 15 and December 18, with delivery scheduled for early March.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s wondering where all his anime posters from his student days are now.