By HIKARU ITO

After nearly 18 years, “Magic: The Gathering” returns to the Japanese-inspired setting of Kamigawa.  

Set 1,200 years after “Saviors of Kamigawa,” which was released in June of 2007, “Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty” combines aspects of Japanese Shintoism with anime, mecha, and cyberpunk aesthetics.  

In a video discussing the challenges of designing the set, Gavin Verhey, “Senior Magic: The Gathering” designer at Wizards of the Coast, compared the realm of Kamigawa to modern Japan. He described Kamigawa as a world where “technology and classic traditions can coexist.”

The original Kamigawa block began when the first set, “Champions of Kamigawa,” was released in October of 2004. The block was fully inspired by Japanese folklore and mythology with creatures such as kappa, oni, and kami fighting with and alongside samurai, daimyo, and ninjas. 

While the setting was rich with lore and art, initial responses were negative as many Western audiences were unfamiliar with Japanese culture and folklore. Some have described it as the worst set that Wizards of the Coast have ever released. “[Kamigawa] had been a blemish on the record of Wizards of the Coast. Many fans decried it as one of the worst blocks of all time due to its at the time perceived weak nature and, for some, the lack of resonance with flavor, but things changed with time,” said Verhey.

Screenshot from Twitter.

The growing popularity of Japanese culture in the West has brought excitement for “Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty” to a fever pitch. A promotional card image posted to Twitter made the card game the #16 most trending topic worldwide.

Image provided by WotC. Artwork by Yoji Shinkawa.

Collectors also have much to be excited about as “Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty” includes rare cards with alternate art from legendary Japanese artists, and art inspired by classical Japanese techniques.

Yoji Shinkawa, legendary concept artist of the “Metal Gear” franchise, has created the alternate art for the buy-a-box promo card Satoru Umezawa.  

Other notable artists for this set include: Terada Katusya of “Legend of Zelda” fame and other card game artists from Japan — Miyaki Hajime, Satoru Senda, Sennsu, and many more.

“Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty” will be available on amazon.com or at your local game store Feb. 18.

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