Thread: Alchemia Tarot
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Join Date: 09 Mar 2014
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The Alchemia Tarot


The Alchemia Tarot is a Japanese tarot, written by Ako Morimura-san and illustrated by Takaki-san. As you can see, it comes in a very attractive box, comparatively sturdy as opposed to say, a Llewellynn box (not that this is difficult I know) and can actually be placed on your bookshelf without being irreparably crushed under its own weight:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126810...8/15256502599/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126810...8/15256564620/

The deck itself is quite protected in its own foldout box, neatly matching the dimensions of the manual:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126810...n/photostream/

The manual is small but contains a lot of writing; unfortunately I am bilingually impaired and learning disordered, so the Japanese alphabets- all three of them- are pretty much impenetrable to me. Thus, my review must unfairly skip over this book, which I suspect would be very useful to someone who can read it:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126810...n/photostream/

While art is very much in the eye of the beholder, I think that visually, the deck is stunning. It is a very sophisticated CGI deck, intricately layered and in gorgeous bright colours. The cards have a yellow border, but itís a very narrow one and I suspect that those who donít much like borders in general would grudgingly agree that said border is comparatively discrete:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126810...n/photostream/

(NOTE FOR AMERICANS AND OTHER ALIENS: The coin is an Australian 50 cent piece; 31.5mm in diameter)

The back of the card is reversible and is in the same colour yellow with stylised white lineart:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126810...n/photostream/

All in all, I think itís perfectly lovely to look at. There is just a small problem: the cards are awfully pretty, but theyíre also awfully cold. Everything is pretty in a way thatís almost sanitised, and thereís very little by way of emotion on any card youíd care to name. And thereís a depressing sameness about all of these cards, regardless of face value. Take the Queens, for example, and compare them to each other:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126810...n/photostream/

The faces at the same, the hands are the same, even the position is the same, itís just shown at different angle. Youíve got the hair and what theyíre carrying to tell them apart, thatís it. While granted, the Courts are generally supposed to be in accordance with each other, the fact that the posture and position of all of these noble ladies are so close together suggests that itís entirely possible that they are from the exact same CGI model, just flipped around a bit.

The lack of emotion carries out throughout the deck. Take Death and the Tower:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126810...n/photostream/

Also, see the Devil:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126810...n/photostream/

I feel no great sense of dissolution here, or drama, or seductiveness. The Devil just looks bored, and moves me not in the least. The same chilliness carries on throughout the deck, even reaching two of the more dramatic (and important signifiers for me) cards of the Hanged Man and the Ten of Swords:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126810...n/photostream/

These cards to me represent emotionally charged signifiers and concepts. But looking at these two, I just see two pretty images, vaguely dissatisfied like the Devil, with the Ten of Swords looking just a smidge depressed as well.

The deck as a whole is, provided your tastes run to bright colours, CGI and anime, visually stunning. From an intellectual and emotional viewpoint, itís deader than a late, rainy Wednesday night in a country town. Very pretty, but itís near impossible for me personally to connect to it on any sort of level. If this is your personal art style, you may find this different to myself. This is a lovely deck to look at and the art is incredibly well done, aside from the lack or variety in the faces and hands, and Iíd be able to see what someone else would see in it. (If that makes any sense.)

However, before I consign this to the dust of my second best tarot deck shelf, one very, very important thing must be taken into consideration:

I do not know who the target audience is here. Okay, fine, itís the Japanese market in general and not Australians or other Westerners, but itís entirely possible- even likely- that itís aimed specifically at a teenage market or those adults whoíve a love of the kawaii and want a deck thatís safe and nonthreatening. When I opened up the deck for the first time, all I could think about was Doreen Virtue. Soft, pastel, pretty, unchallenging, almost childish.

This is a gorgeous deck that is, to me, impossible to connect with. Itís very likely that itís aimed at a much younger crowd. I do know that if Iíd seen this ten years ago I would have bought two copies because the first would be ruined because of all the drool Iíd have left on it. (Squick!) From a practical point of view as well, the cards are slightly too large for me to shuffle properly even though I donít exactly have tiny hands, and the cards themselves are covered in a thick, sticky laminate that makes them cling together.

All in all, Iíd say that this deck is a B-. Technically brilliant, very near impossible to read with. Even the journey through the Majors is reduced to brief, pretty vignettes. However, I think itíd probably rate a slightly higher solid B for me if I hadnít had to spend $75 on a purchasing service to get my hands on it. But we live and learn with these things. And it's possible that one day, it'll mesh with me.
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