Review by Solandia
Selena Lin is a Taiwanese cartoon illustrator with work featured in teenage comic story-books, magazines, and calendars, who especially loves the romantic style of ‘shojo’ that is especially for teenage girls – just like the Manga Tarot.
The art of the Manga Tarot, published by Connections, is typical line-drawn cartoonish anime. The major arcana and court cards featuring characters with pale skin, huge eyes and an elfin appearance, dressed in flowing robes and costumes, and inhabiting a dreamy, sparkling and romantic world. The minor arcana cards stick to the same theme and colour palette, though sadly they are undecorated pips rather than illustrated tarot scenes.
Packaged as a kit, the deck and book come in a very sturdy, glossy-coated, cardboard box. It’s of an unusual design: the top of the box has a hinged lid that opens with a pink ribbon to reveal the 64 page book, while the bottom swings out sideways to reveal two piles of cards in a cardboard holder. The 78 cards are quite long and thin compared to regular tarot cards, on a glossy thickish card stock. They fit easily in small hands, and still have enough space for a full tarot image. The backs are reversible and are mainly purple with a white line drawing.
The companion book is written to appeal to teenage girls and takes a fluffy but reasonably common-sense view of tarot sprinkled with some dubious facts (the book begins… ‘tarot has been popular for more than 5000 years’). It explains tarot to be “packed with ancient wisdom for every day problems” and that while it won’t necessarily tell your future, it is a way of consulting your own inner wisdom, finding out ‘how to unravel those tricky bits in your life, and understanding what they really mean’. (Useful at any age..!)
It’s a basic beginner book from there on with advice on using the cards, shuffling (with diagrams – a nice touch), and a choice of spreads of varying sizes. The card meanings are practical and advice-oriented, and young in voice: “How cool would it be not to worry about what other people think about you? The Fool is the one person who doesn’t get upset by life.”
Inside the book’s card meanings section, the majors arcana cards are placed one to page along with upright and reversed meanings, while the minor arcana cards are listed with short keywords for each suit, and short paragraph meanings for the upright and reversed meanings. “Ten of Wands: Upright: You know what you wands, and now’s the time to get it. Listen to your intuition to make an important decision though, and don’t get distracted by things that are not important.”
The lack of reliance on keywords to explain the meaning is nice to see, and there’s enough information is provided for a beginner to use the deck. The more experienced reader may find the meanings a little odd; some align with RWS meanings but others have been altered to fit a the deck and a teenage life. The Ten of Swords is battling with big decisions; Seven of Swords is party time; the Three of Cups is things going wrong; the Three of Pentacles means life is hard. Most of the meanings are familiar, but a few like these take a left turn.
While there are many Asian and Japanese tarot decks from Japan and Asia, few have been published in the Western world, and none especially for teenagers. The Manga Tarot would make a novel gift for a teen or tween with a liking for manga and a potential inclination for tarot, or a fun and sparkly deck for light-hearted readings.
Kate Hill (also known as Solandia) is the founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.