Miracle Tarot  

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Miracle Tarot depicts the Fantasia-like world of Reiko Shimizu. Published in 1993 by Hakusensha in Japan, the set includes a book and 78 cards which are packaged in a beautiful and sturdy slipcase. Since the book is written entirely in the artist’s native language, however, many of us will be left to interpret his illustrations on our own.
While the package is deceptively compact, the deck itself is not; the cards are held as two stacks within a foam die-cut, and when both stacks are brought together the complete deck is over one and a half inches thick. Measuring about 2¼ by 4¾, each card is quite thick and the actual deck would present a challenge to anyone hoping to shuffle it in the usual way.
A strong calligraphic influence can be seen throughout the designs, as in the flowing hair of Justice, in the exaggerated elongation of her sword, in the tail feathers of the Ace and Knight of Wands, in the swirl of fish on the Ace of Pentacles. The Ace cards are particularly striking, each featuring a different animal totem: rooster for Wands, butterfly for Swords, water-serpent for Cups, and fish for Pentacles. Some of these are brought into The Magician, who is shown above with butterfly, fish, and flying mermaid.
Shimizu’s trumps are nicely rendered and colored, but are not really the most interesting designs in the deck; he seems to have had much more fun with the highly detailed court cards. Each depicts a world unique to its suit. The Page, Knight, Queen and King of Wands are all illustrated in a sunny yellow, with birds or bird feathers figuring into their costume; King of Wands (not shown here) is striking because of the dove perched in front of a shark’s jawbone. The Sword personages are fairy-like, each having butterfly wings on their back and all in magenta and orange tints. The court of Cups are mer-folk with crustacean horns, scale-like bodies, and water-serpent familiars in an underwater hue of blue-green. The Pentacles are in tones of blue-violet, each equipped with fish fins and lavish necklaces of gold coins. Many of the court figures wear highly detailed ornamentation.

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