JEDDAH: Mitsuhiro Arita, the famous Japanese animator for the Pokemon Trading Card Game TCG, met his Saudi fans for the first time in Jeddah at the anime village of City Walk, one of the nine districts of the 2022 Jeddah season.
The meet-and-greet sessions from May 27-28 allowed Arita fans to listen and talk with the artist behind their childhood favorite cartoon and card games.
Arita has illustrated hundreds of Pokemon cards during a 26-year artistic career that has also spawned “Final Fantasy Games”, “Berserk: The Golden Ages” movie trilogy – worldwide favorites for anime and Nintendo fans – and “Culdcept”.
“I supervised these three works, but all I cared about at that time was to get an excellent result in all three works, which I love equally. But my admiration goes to ColdSept. To me, it is an art, and I feel proud that it is among the My business,” he told Arab News in an exclusive interview while signing cards and autographs for his fans.
“Coldcept” is a series of turn-based strategy video games developed by OmiyaSoft in which the player traverses a map and uses magical tablet-like “cards” to defeat opponents by forcing them to land in designated spaces and paying a fee – similar to Monopoly.
Born in 1971 in Fukuoka, Japan, Arita now lives in Tokyo, where he began his career as a professional illustrator in 1996, with Pokemon TCG as his first project.
He has designed and illustrated over 660 Pokemon cards and has also worked on Final Fantasy XI for 11 years, as well as designing magazines and movie books.
Arita, a self-taught illustrator, said his inspiration was Katsushika Hokusai, known simply as Hokusai, famous for his “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji” and the iconic “Great Wave off Kanagawa” woodblock print series.
“When I was in high school, in 1998, a friend of mine introduced me to ‘Final Fantasy’ by Yoshitaka Amano. I used to draw from time to time, Final Fantasy was an inspiration, and Katsushika Hokusai was my favorite artist and role model.”
The talented and ambitious Arita had a chance to impress the creators of “Final Fantasy XI” when they saw his drawings in the book “Arms and Armor” published in 2004. He then spent more than 11 years working on Final Fantasy XI.
Arita said, “I enjoyed working with the team that built the ‘Final Fantasy’ world. We used to enjoy working together.”
Saudis have long been a fan of Japanese culture, animation production and illustration, with the first Saudi-Japanese animated film The Journey being screened worldwide in 2021.
Arita advised young Saudis who wish to become animators of anime, manga, or video games to “watch different illustrations more than once until the ideas are clear to you, and make sure you present anime that represents your Saudi culture.”
In the past five years, Arita has traveled the world, appearing at public events in Japan, the United States, China, Italy and now Saudi Arabia.
Arita said that his views on the kingdom changed on his first visit after meeting with his enthusiastic audience who carried him posters, posters and cards for him to sign.
As a gesture of gratitude, Arita drew an illustration for City Walk in a live broadcast before heading to Anime Village from his hotel. The illustration is available for sale on their website https://linktr.ee/mitsuhiroArita
Among the fans was 35-year-old Saudi businessman Mohammed Fakhri, who held a file of more than 200 Pokemon TCGs dating back to the 1990s when kids would take their Pokemon cards to show friends at school.
“When I heard that the designer of the original arcade game was coming, I wanted to show him my appreciation for what still exists—still exists. It’s not just a trend. It’s stayed with us, it’s part of us,” Fakhri told Arab News.
“Pokemon was the first card game I ever played. We collected cards, we bought them, we traded and we had fights. I own the deck of cards – it’s very important for collectors.”
Fakhri said he and his friends view cards as an art form.
The longtime fan asked Arita for a unique autograph, saying it was an “unforgettable moment” for him.