I recently stumbled across a set of major arcana tarot cards by Japanese artist Aya Takano and immediately added them to my collection. Part of the Superflat movement, Takano’s work is done in an intentionally juvenile style, while still addressing the prevalence of sexuality and consumerism in post-war Japan. Takano has been on my radar for a long time, but I had no idea she had released a set of tarot cards until recently. Below are some images of the cards and my thoughts on the deck; a gallery can be found at the bottom of the post.
Above, clockwise from left is The Fool, the card back, Fortune, The Hanged Man, and The Magician. Takano uses reddened joints that appear as sunburns to indicate that the figure is still growing. Her subjects are usually nude or only partially clothed, which creates an intentional juxtaposition of innocence and sexuality. The back of the cards are bright pink and feature flowers, peacocks, rabbits, planets, and what appear to be eggs. All of these make me think of Hera, but I am sure I’m just reading way too much into the card back.
The Fool (above left) practically leaps out of the deck just because it happens to be so colorful. The dog that nips at the heels of the oblivious wanderer is now clutching its leg, while the figure seems to be unaware of the state of its clothing. Takano’s interpretation has the figure running straight at the viewer, which I find really interesting, perhaps since I’m just so accustomed to seeing the Fool in profile. I believe that the figure here is blowing a bubble, but I cannot figure out what is in its other hand. I say “its” here, though I believe the figure is a girl, because Takano purposefully uses androgyny in her art, and I would rather err on the side of caution.
The Magician (above right), on the other hand, is predominantly yellow, and seems to invert the color scheme of the Fool. While the Fool (card 0) is mostly pink with yellow, the Magician (card 1) is saturated with yellow and splashed with pink. The purple and pink butterfly that hovers over the Fool is now by the Magician’s side, along with flowers, a bird, a pink snake, and a tree. There are coins on the card, but there is also a pentacle, along with a cup and a sword, representing the traditional tarot suits. The Magician holds a staff (representing the Wand suit), with an infinity sign on top (or behind, it’s not completely clear); the knowledge seemingly blowing back the figure’s hair. The clouds that part over the figure’s head are pastel pink; the pink snake and clouds could represent knowledge in this interpretation.
The High Priestess card (above left) is, for some reason, always my favorite in given deck. That probably says a lot more about me than the cards themselves, but hey, it is what it is. In Takano’s interpretation the High Priestess writes in the book of knowledge with a feather pen, rather than holding it, but the symbols in the book still indicate mystical knowledge. Additionally, the Priestess’ triple moon hat has been replaced with a crescent moon, and the crescent repeats on the horse in the background and lyre in the foreground. The color scheme is cool toned, and predominantly indigo, which makes the card stand out, and gives it a darker, quieter feeling.
The Hermit card (above right) is also particularly lovely. It has a similar aesthetic to The High Priestess insomuch as it’s cool toned; additionally, this card is predominantly purple and also seems to portray a female figure. The eyes are quite blank and staring in this card; I read that Takano uses this to convey a sense of ‘wide-eyed innocence’ while also indicating that the mind is still developing. I have a soft spot for mushrooms, which this card features, and I definitely get a solitary forest witchy vibe from it.
The Star (above left) stands out in this deck as well, and not just because the figure is sans pants. The card preserves a lot of the original design: the nude figure, the water’s edge, and the two jugs: one that pours water onto the land, and one that pours it back into the water. The major change is the movement of the space surrounding the figure from Earth into the cosmos, and making the globe into one of reflective water. This card speaks to me because of its pastel softness, and the gentle, direct gaze of the figure. I feel like there’s so much more to unravel, too.
Finally, the card Revival (top right) also known as Judgement; this is the only card in this major arcana deck where the card’s title has been changed. Perhaps it’s because the old card references the Christian Judgement Day for its imagery, and Takano wanted to reference reincarnation. If that’s the case I am completely on board with this renaming. Giving cards a new name is something that people almost never do, with a bold few reimagining the suits, so this card really stands out. Additionally, it features the same luminous peacock that the card backs feature and is in the same pink and yellow color scheme that the Fool, Magician, (Wheel of) Fortune, and World cards are.
There’s so much more to say about this deck that I hope to delve more into it at some future time. The fifteen individual card scans that I found online are in the gallery below; you can click to view them larger. If you have scans of the missing seven please let me know in the comments and I’ll be very grateful. My copy of this deck is on its way to me now, so I am hoping to post a follow up to this that reviews the rest of the cards and shows of the deck itself.
Aya Takano on Wikipedia
All images of the Aya Takano tarot cards shown were found uncredited online. If you know who they belong to please leave a comment so I can credit the source.