Yuka Morii Art Exhibition

Sculpting Imagination – Interview with Pokémon Trading Card Game Artist Yuka Morii

Fans of the Pokémon Trading Card Game will no doubt be familiar with the works of Yuka Morii. In a game with so many different artists regularly contributing art, she has defined a unique and immediately recognizable style during her 20 years working in the series. Her delightful clay renditions of many Pokémon in the series have long been fan-favorites because of the way she brings the creatures to life through her work. When it was announced that she would be holding an exhibition featuring her original artworks, the Pokémon fanbase internationally responded with excitement. Unfortunately, travel isn’t a possibility for many people at this time, so thankfully Ms. Morii graciously granted us an interview and provided photos of the works from her exhibition so fans all over the world can join in.

Read on to learn more about how she creates her wonderful artworks, see select photos of the works on display, and learn more about her time working with the Pokémon Trading Card Game!

Yuka Morii Art Exhibition
OTAQUEST: Your first contribution to the Pokémon Trading Card Game was in 2000 with the Pokémon Neo Discovery set, and before that, you worked on projects for the franchise like the Pokémon Tales series Let’s Make Pizza, Machop! book. How did you get involved with making art for the Pokémon Trading Card Game and were you already a fan before you started working with the franchise?

Yuka Morii: At that time, it was soon after I transitioned to being the type of illustrator who creates 3D art with clay from an illustrator who draws 2D pictures, so I was literally walking around to sell my artworks to people (because the internet was not widespread at that time and I could not rely on it). While doing so, I had a lot of connections to many different people and one of them offered me the job, as far as I can recall. Of course, I love the Pokémon games, and I used to play them on Game Boy.

OTAQUEST: In the early days the in-game 3D models of the different characters weren’t as sophisticated as they are now. How did you go about creating your 3D models of the different Pokémon back during that mostly 2D time period for the series?

Yuka Morii: I create artworks by imagining the 3D images of the Pokémon and draw sketches, then have discussions with others before I actually work on the final creation. I have been working in that way for some time. At an earlier point in time, I used to use Japanese-made resin clay which you had to heat to harden, but now I use materials made in Germany.

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OTAQUEST: How is the process of working on clay art? How do you express your art feelings on designs and/or posing?

Yuka Morii: As I said before, the production process of the artworks has not changed that much for some time. There is a way to produce by modeling and using a 3D printer to output, but it is much faster to make things with my hands. When you create with your hands, small imperfections and handprints on the work would add a type of personality fluctuation on the work, so creating with your hands is necessary to reproduce to elements.
And talking about posing, I think a standard pose would fit more with my style. I am not intentionally doing so, but my style uses round edges and a peaceful atmosphere, I try to create something outstanding but at the same time cute.

OTAQUEST: Are there any Pokémon you would like to make artwork for but haven’t had the opportunity to work on yet?

Yuka Morii: I would love to try massive and rock-type Pokémon like Lunatone or Solrock.

OTAQUEST: For your exhibition, you just have a sample of your work for the Pokémon Trading Card Game on display, but you have created art for more than 150 cards at this point. How did you select which pieces would be displayed in the gallery?

Yuka Morii: I was told to narrow it down to 33 artworks because the number of display cases was limited due to the Covid situation. When selecting them, I listened to students from the design school where I teach and selected the works which were in the most beautiful condition at that time.

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OTAQUEST: Of all of the works you have created for The Pokémon Trading Card Game over the years, do you have any that stand out to you as your favorites or have any particularly fond memories of working on any specific pieces?

Yuka Morii: There are many artworks but when I work on the characters which are geometric like Starmie, Ferroseed, and Beldum, it requires a lot of work because it is so delicate, but I can feel very accomplished when I complete the work and it means a lot more than anything. If the warmth from handmade work is reflected in inorganic molding, I think that is my style.

OTAQUEST: The Pokémon Trading Card Game has players all over the world and in relation to that you also have fans of your art all over the world as well. How does it feel to have your art be known and appreciated by so many people of different ages and nationalities, and do you have a message or additional personal opinions you would like to express to your fans around the world?

Yuka Morii: I am very honored and lucky to be involved in the same project for such a long time, and I really appreciate the positive reactions I receive on social media (that makes me happy all day long!). People often think that my artworks are made by CG, so I intentionally exhibit those artworks to show that they are actually ‘hand-made’. It would be great and make me happy if the audience could feel and see the happy feeling I had during the production through my works. I hope more people would enjoy using clay because making something with your hands will heal your mind. (The clay I use is resin clay requires heat to harden, but recently, I use other types of clay, too.)

And I believe that our future will be made from people’s imagination, so I hope the love of Pokémon will help enrich our lives.

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Yuka Morii’s Pokémon Trading Card Game Exhibition is running through 5 February 2021 if you happen to be in the Tokyo area. You can also follow her on Twitter or visit her official website to see more of her work!

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