Mario, Pokémon, Link, Star Fox and more are brought to life through the same process used 200 years ago.
It’s always fun when artists put their own spin on familiar characters, like plus-size Disney Princesses or 8-bit Ghibli characters. Their different styles give old friends new life and makes it feel like we’re meeting them for the first time.
But one artist has made some very familiar Nintendo characters feel new… in an old way. David Bull is a woodblock artist whose work was recently brought to the foremost attention of the internet via a thread on Reddit. Together with his friend and coworker Jed Henry, he creates gorgeous Edo-period woodblock prints, including a series called “Ukiyo-e Heroes” that includes popular Nintendo characters.
Here’s one of his prints, lovingly dubbed “Rickshaw Kart.”
▼ Ah yes. Mario Kart was much better back in the day
before any of that blue shell business.
And this is not a Photoshopped or otherwise digitally-created image. This is a 100-percent authentically created woodblock print made using almost the same process as hundreds of years ago in Japan. For the Ukiyo-e Heroes series, Jed Henry designed them and David carved and printed them just as an Edo-period printer would have.
David has uploaded videos to his YouTube page showing the painstaking process that each print goes through. You can watch one piece’s incredible journey from start to finish here:
I know when I first watched that, all I could think was, “why would someone torture themself like that?!”
But David has been creating woodblock prints for over 30 years, and his reason for doing so is simple: because he likes it. According to his website, he enjoys using “beautiful materials… the wonderful tools… my hard-earned skills… to create beautiful objects. Nothing more.”
And create beautiful objects he has. Here’s a few more pictures from his “Ukiyo-e Heroes” series:
▼ “Fox Moon,” where the members of
Star Fox ride clouds instead of Arwings.
▼ Samurai Link takes a break to just play
some ocarina tunes in “The Hero Rests.”
▼ “Infestation” has Samus using a pretty sweet-looking
dragon blaster to scorch some Edo Metroids.
▼ My personal favorite, “Soul Eater”, depicts Kirby having just beaten
Dedede, right before being sucked away to battle the eyeball final boss.
▼ If you’d told me Megaman could be turned into a ukiyo-e style print,
I wouldn’t have believed you, but “Blue Storm” proves otherwise.
▼ “I Choose You” has the real original Pokémon.
I love the sakura tree touch on that Bulbasaur.
There’s plenty more in the “Ukiyo-e Heroes” series and other amazing woodblock prints available on the Ukiyo-e Heroes website. You can order them as either authentic woodblock prints or less-expensive Giclée prints. Here’s just a small sample of the gorgeous Giclée prints:
▼ Edo is getting crushed by a Katamari Damacy
rolling ball of buildings and animals in “Origin Story”.
▼ “Waking the Mountain” somehow makes
Shadow of the Colossus’s monsters look even more menacing.
▼ And Dr. Robotnik is foiled by
Sonic and Tails in “Cracking the Egg.”
If you want to see more, then check out David Bull’s official YouTube page or give him a follow on Facebook. You can order prints via his online shop, and if you find yourself in the Tokyo area, you can visit his store in Asakusa.
Plus you can even schedule a Printing Party, where you can make your own prints and see the master in action. I feel like a RocketNews24 field trip is coming up soon….
Update: We would like to add that while the woodblock prints in this series were carved and printed by David Bull, they were all designed by his friend and co-worker Jed Henry.
Address: Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Asakusa 1-41-8
Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.