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Probably one of my favorite purchases from my time in Japan last year, I bought mine at Art Square Kyoto, the SRP is 2200 yen.

Each card features artwork by the Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano, famous for the character designs of Vampire Hunter D and most of the Final Fantasy series. The card stock is thicker than your average playing card, which would make my traditional shuffling methods impossible. For anybody familiar with Steve Jackson Games' CCG Illuminati: New World Order, the cards are of similar thickness. This doesn't really matter to me, though, because I regard the Yoshitaka Amano deck as an art deck. The deck itself comes in a nice looking display box and is packaged with a book of readings, written in Japanese (though the cards themselves are labled in English). Although my Japanese is far from perfect, I was able to figure out that even tarot readers with as little experience as myself won't glean anything from this book they haven't learned somewhere else.

The deck uses the same card names as found in the Rider-Waite Tarot, and the same numbering system of 0 to XXI. All the major arcana, court cards and the aces sport original full-color artwork which is as amazingly beautiful as fans of Amano might expect. As usual, most of his humans are of ambiguous sex, unless they sport breasts or a beard. The rest of the minor arcana are less impressive, being a simple three-color (black, white and red) representation of a cup, sword, wand, or pentacle, repeated an appropriate number of times

One of the things I appreciated about this tarot deck is that it avoids two of my major pet peeves. First, it is not simply a themed version of the Rider-Waite Tarot, and second, the imagery of the cards still readily projects the core meanings of the card. Many modern tarot decks fall into the first trap, but there are also many decks that try so hard to be pretty that meanings get lost somewhere in the linework. Not only does Mr. Yoshitaka manage to reinvent much of the traditional tarot imagery, but in studying his representations I was able to gain some new insights into the nature of certain cards. His representation of Judgement is my favorite of every deck I've ever seen. Other notable cards include his renditions of Strength, the Wheel of Fortune, Death, Sun and Justice.

Although I wouldn't do readings with this deck personally, it makes a great thing to show people who like anime or tarot art. It's probably not going to be the easiest thing in the world to find, but if you see it in the dusty corner of some used book store, check it out.

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