Muk's fine assortment of exquisite Japanese cards 2023/09/29

So, this following update isn’t all that big monetarily, but its emotional value is through the roof. Oh, what a ride it was.

It all started early December '22, when I found an ebay listing for a really nice looking and appropriately priced copy of the Japanese Lugia 228/XY-P promo. A truly magnificent card by Hajime Kusajima, widely overlooked and surprisingly though to find at a good price.
Problem was, the seller only shipped within the US, which is why I, for the first time ever, consulted a private middleman - and it was none other than my good friend and fellow efourian @brendantheclayboy.
It all started out extremely smooth. Brendan bought the card, it arrived pretty fast at his home and he immediately went to drop it off at the post station.

That’s where the adventure began. Below you see the (very heavily shortened) tracking history.

2022-12-20 USPS in possession of item
2022-12-27 CANADA, Processed Through Facility
2023-01-12 CANADA, Arrived at Facility
2023-02-14 CANADA, Arrived at Facility
2023-02-21 CANADA, Arrived at Facility

2023-03-13 07:26 GERMANY, Out for Delivery

tl;dr is it went from the US to CANADA four (4!!!) times before it finally got delivered to GERMANY where it actually friggin belonged! All because some clerk at the post office got the country code wrong. Brendan absolutely did god’s work calling a service manager dozens upon dozens of times, even though he wasn’t responsible for any of this at all.
All in all we stayed relatively positive throughout this whole ordeal. The potential financial and time loss would be majorly annoying, but not the end of the world. However, as the great guy that Brendan is, he didn’t only ship the single card he middled for me, but also some extras he didn’t disclose at the time - the loss of which would have been much more dramatic and sad than the mere, replacable Lugia.

Truth be told, after the fourth time of the package going back to Canada and subsequently not getting any status updates for three weeks, I think we both had lost most of our hope. But then - completely out of nowhere - it actually DID arrive at my door. It was actually quite surreal for the both of us, after waiting in vain for almost three full months.

ANYWAY. If you follwed this horrific story up until here, you certainly deserve to be treated with the actual contents of the shipment.

The Lugia:

Coincidentally also the last card I needed for this page in the Kusajima binder:

Not too big on the Bronzors (or Bronzongs?) personally, but all in all Kusajima still was packing some heat in the XY era!

While that’s it already for the actual purchase, here is the extra that was included in the shipment. This beyond phenomenal piece of handmade art is crafted by the man himself, Brendanthecaly(sajima)boy:

Dude, how beautiful is that?!? Still speechless at his skill and generosity whenever I look at it.

To round out this small update, here’s an equally small flower pic (that’s luckily even kinda fitting Brendan’s artwork’s color scheme) :stuck_out_tongue:



The sunset on Kusajima’s Lugia is breathtaking. I guess it needed to take the long North American tour before finally venturing to Europe.


Such a satisfying conclusion. He forgot the funniest detail:

I messaged him just some hours before, after nearly a month of no activity, stating that I was pretty much accepting that it’s lost. Then just that night, I got a tracking text, “delivered to Germany”. Unbelievable. Went from doom and gloom to ‘it’s there dude’ within a few hours haha!

Yeah there are about 60 tracking updates of back and forth and to and fro customs in LA. The biggest frustration for me was that domestic packages? No prob, package intercept, done. International, even when in the country? Sorry Charlie, no sir, can’t happen. By the time this was over, I was on a first name basis and speed dial personal number with Trisha at internal affairs. She felt terrible, unlike the clerk at the office who blew it (who funnily doesn’t work there anymore, most likely coincidence obviously).

The page looks great! Really really glad you love the drawing, I had such a fun time making it. I’ve not done marker like that in a long time, and it’s something I will definitely be doing again sooner rather than later. Starting out I was going to paint it, but then I thought it would look cool being comic booky. Hajime’s work often feels like it is out of a comic strip.

Overall I couldn’t be more relieved and happy this all worked out after all.

What a funny first time. Let’s do it again! :cowboy_hat_face:


This is a wild case. Major props to you and @muk for being persistent.

Please add more of your art in the future!


A wholesome story, Tobi! It’s heartwarming to see such friendship in the community. Oh, and that drawing, Brendan! I can only imagine the joy on Tobi’s face after discovering your present in the package.

Glad you finally got your card and excited to see what’s coming up next! :muscle:


Couldn’t imagine a beautiful story between two great people here getting any better but then i see a gorgeous painting of the favourite art of my favourite pokemon, you guys know you are spoiling me!


Hey y’all, long time no see.

So, I just finished my biggest, most costly and most ambitious collection goal to date. Yes, yes of course it’s the infamous Kusajima binder I’ve been ranting on about for some two years now I think.

I know that not many people will care about my wall of text, but this is too big for me to only show images.

So, why Kusajima and what’s the big deal about him?

Hajime Kusajima joined the team of Pokemon TCG illustrators in 2001 with the release of the VS set that also introduced the e-reader layout for the first time.
I think the e-redader aesthetic has been pretty polarizing for the longest time, but has now grown to be a fan favorite.
Obviously, this era is not mainly beloved for the card layout, but for the high quality and diversity in artworks that has never been seen before.
I do firmly believe that Kusajima is one of the driving factors who made this era so great.

Right away he showcased a great diversity in styles that were all completely different from each other, but super distinct and recognizable on their own - all combined within one artist. Just look at these four random cards. If you didn’t know any better, would you actually believe they’re all from the same artist?

(His sunsets are always to die for btw!)

His range goes from soft and dreamlike (almost resembling Nishida), over naturalistic, to abstract and even something that looks like western comics (like the Diglett above) - and many more nuances inbetween. There is no other one like him.

What made this collection goal so challenging for me was my self-imposed condition standards of NM+ and that, if a card exists as a holo, I’m gonna have it as holo (please ignore Expedition Mew).
To me, that also meant getting all English ex cards that had the “artwork-box reverse holo”/" “stamped holo” treatment (you know what I mean) as well. So if a card was only available as holo in a different language than Japanese, I’ll have that one, otherwise it’s all Japanese.
95% of the cards you’ll see here are NM/M, especially if there’s any noteworthy value attatched to them.

Well, enough talking. Here are some pics :slight_smile:
e-Series & early ex:

Now we get into the aforementioned later ex era that features the stamped “reverse” holos I love so dearly. I honestly have a hard time choosing my favorite era between this and the original e-Series.

Then we’re entering the rather obscure time period. Everything that came past ex is much less well known, but there are still some absolute bangers in there!

And lastly, just ever so slightly peeping in to the SM era, these were his final three cards:

I have no idea if he already knew at that point that Sudowoodo would be his final card, but I like to think he did. To me, it looks like he self-inserted him into his card, leaving the scene happily and proudly - as he rightfully should.

We can’t know if he ever returns to the TCG. While I have to admit that I’d love to see a Full Art by him, he really hasn’t any unfinished business left. His monumental legacy stands as tall as it possibly could and frankly, if he chooses to stay retired, that’s a fine choice.

I had the best time of my collecting life while working on this goal and learned lots and lots about the different eras of the TCG and obsucre random half decks, promo releases etc. that I would’ve never gotten in touch with otherwise.

Hope you enjoyed this little trip with me and maybe even found some cool new artworks you haven’t seen before :slight_smile:

Cheers, muk

By the way

Btw, around two years ago I’ve made a rough calculation of upcoming expenses for my future collection goals. I’ve put in €4000 for the whole Kusajima binder. Two years later, with every single purchase recorded, this is what my spreadsheet says I ended up spending:

I can hardly believe myself how accurate this was going to be, haha. 2.7k are accounted for by the 34 original era e-Series cards alone, and 1,5k of that are Ho-Oh and Umbreon alone.


Good god this is beautiful. Kusajima is easily one of my top 5 favorite artists and I have considered making a binder collection myself. So happy you were able to make this a reality!



I don’t think there are many collectors with your level of taste. GREAT stuff!


Congrats @muk , that’s an incredible accomplishment! I love going through and seeing the changes in styles over time, and at such a high level of consistency!

I’ve gone back and forth a few times when working on my Komiya binder in regards to only obtaining Japanese or whichever comes as a holo/reverse holo which would mean a mix of Japanese and English.

Did you consider this at one point and I’m curious how you ultimately came to your decision? I’m set right now on going for 100% Japanese but those mid era English stamped reverse holos are tempting!


I simp for Kusajima. I’ve been planning on attempting to do this, so it’s nice to have a frame of reference for costs. Congrats on completing this beautiful collection.

Out of curiosity, which was the hardest to find in NM/M condition?

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Beautiful collection @muk! I too love the sunsets, especially on Onix from Wind from the Sea. Such a great card by Kusajima. And congrats on the Ho-oh, I remember you were looking for one not so long ago so happy it found its way to your binder.

Also need to mention the Koffing evolution line from Expedition. Both having been illustrated by Kusajima together with the holo treatment on Weezing really does justice to these forgotten species I feel. And the Mcdonalds charmander, simply a chef’s kiss.

But I gotta say, the post-eseries artworks are on another level. I am not actively collecting any of these but seeing so many cool cards will probably make me reconsider my focus haha! Thanks for sharing and always nice to see the closing flora-themed pictures in your posts =)


Amazing accomplishment and beautiful binder!


My exact reaction as well

The day has come. My anticipation at not only seeing one of the most amazing binder achievements ever from one from one of the finest collectors this world knows, but also for one of the finest, most beloved artists any illustrative card game has ever known… it’s just as satisfying as I knew it would be.

Not enough words can be said of Kusajima. I of course could sing my praise for him at length. At great, indulgent length. We have done so many a time, and… it never gets old baby! But no one would debate his being in the pantheon of pokemon artists. Mr. Bowie. The legend. No one else does it like him. In fact, the man doesn’t even do it like himself (mic drop)

All his work range is utterly bafflingly unique, and yet every time you know it is him. Confounding, to say the least. Majestic and never unfulfilling.

And I know how hard you’ve been working at this and how hard it indeed has been. We chase the same standards as you know, and my lord I know full well how hard it is to get most of these in mint condition, especially those eng reverses. That’s some of the hardest bits of this. And speaking of… oh MY! They look spectacular and are some of the most satisfying pages to look at, and bring a real edge and even more considerable uniqueness to an already fully original collection update! I always always love the muk assembly style, in both the presentation and acquisition style/choice.

Now that it is complete, I’m not sure you’ve ever said two important things. And forgive… they are very hard questions. What is his best work, and what is your favorite? Now that you have the full collection. If I may, I do think his masterpiece is sky Magneton. I cry when I see it. I stand beside myself, I share in the cerebral disposition with which Magneton finds himself in. It’s very meta. But oh my, on that very same page, Articuno is right there. But also, muk, muk! The very card that ended it all for me and sealed my fate in starting collecting E series… I owe it all to Kusajima. The bastard. It’s also on that very page. That’s right. Skyridge Magcargo. Ladies and gentlemen… behold it’s profundity!

Ok ok… phew. You’ll have to slap some sense into me. I am giddy with joy at your accomplishment. I could seriously type more here than you did. And I better not haha. I’ll say, I’ve felt the same way about Sudowoodo at the end. And I just love that you’ve expressed this eulogy, this poetic departure of his, as you so aptly have done. Though we can hope he might one day return, I agree fully he has done the work of wonder infinitely.

How funny you were so on about your budget. How satisfying!

Lastly, and most importantly. Congratulations on what is the most satisfying collection goal realized! Amazing my dear friend! I weep and marvel at its beauty, at its completion, a time of great joy! This has been one of the best collection updates in the history of the forum. That is no small feet. I’ll be revisiting this one many times more. You are an artist, Tobi my boy. I applaud your passion and your heart.

edit: (oh shit I typed too much =D)


@azulryu Thank you my man! If you ever choose to go that (very rewarding) route, there is a Kusajima checklist ready and waiting for you in the Artist Collectors Thread :stuck_out_tongue: Nice to see you hanging around here a little more again, btw :slight_smile:

@Cerulean Thank you so much! Ultimately I just buy the stuff I like, but of course it’s even better when there’s a shared enjoyment in the community :slight_smile:

@oxidelake Thank you! That’s a very interesting question you’re asking. I’ll have to go into a bit of detail.

Huge wall of text incoming, but your question really struck a nerve with me so there you go :P

Funnily enough, I also have a Komiya binder. Matter of fact, it was my very first artist binder and my entry into the whole space. My inital motivation for this collection was obviously that I love Komiya, but also that I wanted a chill side collection to fall back into when I was too stressed out by my graded card goals (different market and different financial situation back then). This is why I simply took the cheapest available version of a given artwork, no matter if English or Japanese. I only restricted myself to straight-Japanese for the original era. I was very happy to complete this goal relatively easily, low effort and low cost. - However - now, quite some time after “finishing” the binder (of course always adding the new releases), I came to realize I only truly enjoy looking at the first few pages that are strictly Japanese. While artist collecting is ultimately about the art, I still learned that I personally need some consitency in language and layout to fully enjoy a cohesive collection. In my later artist binders, I always set myself stricter rules from the get-go and have never looked back.
Take the Kusajima binder for example. My rules may seem messy, but they’re pretty clear to me: as much holo as possible, otherwise only Japanese.
BUT if I do or do not go for ex stamped holos in a artist collection also depends on my very personal preference, if I like this specific illustrators art more as holo or maybe even better as non-holo - and if I’m willing to spend like 10x more for this era of this artist’s cards.
Going back to Komiya specifically, I personally wish I would’ve gone Japanese-only from the beginnig, because I personally don’t think the holo treatment adds a whole lot to his particular style and I value the possible language uniformity more. I guess at some point I’ll have to rework my Komiya binder because of that and make it all-Japanese. But your preferences might be different - just make sure you are sure about your preferences and build your collection so that you’re satisfied about it for the longest possible time. So, learn from my mistakes, really think about what you like most, choose the best option, not the easiest one and rather take a bit longer to achieve your goal, but be happier in the end. Good luck and lots of fun on your journey regardless of the way you choose to go :slight_smile:

@shoops Thank you! Go for it, it’s truly one of the best illustrators to collect due to his variety!

Damn, another wall of text incoming

Regarding your question, well, the literal last two cards I got my hands on were Kirlia 042/080 from Aqua vs. Magma (in English it was released in EX Sandstorm. The whole JPN/ENG ex era releasehistory is a terrible mess, but that’s a topic on it’s own) and Corphish 004/015 from the Piplup Half Deck inside the Dpt Gift Box. The third-to last-card was World Champions Pack Raichu, so that was at least a holo - the other two were as anticlimactic as it gets if you ask me. So yeah, those obscure mid-era Half Deck releases tend to be pretty pesky. All of the Japanese Delta Species holos are also suuuper hard to come by in good condition for whatever reason. Oh, and let’s not forget Milotc 034/100 from Beat of the Frontier - make that one a prioritized purchase as long as it still flies under the radar if you find one in decent condition! Other than those, it’s just a money game. But for as cheap as most vintage PSA 8-9s currently are, most of them are pretty easily obtainable.

@martin Hello my friend and and thank you! :slight_smile: Glad you mention the Weezing in particular, it’s a phenomenal card! Very menacing and mysterious. Most of the post e-series cards are still comparably cheap, there wouldn’t be any harm in giving it a go :wink:

@qwachansey Thank you! It’s great you have you in my thread - you have always been a very inspiring figure to me ever since I joined e4 :slight_smile:


Well, Brendan, you already know there’s only one correct answer:

That was a joke :slight_smile: But I guess it’s good to have a bottom line of THE very worst artwork to start from. You see, the problem with publicly announcing my personal favorite, I run the risk of putting off every single other Kusajima fan that has completely different preferences than myself - that being said, if there’s one person I’ll risk my reputation for, it’s you :wink:

Still no easy task, though!!! I just went through my (new and pristine VaultX) binder and tried very hard to narrow it down. You know I could pretty much choose every single e-Series card (Muk, Magneton, Mew, Starmie, Weezing, Charmander, Onix, Steelix, ow mah gaaawwwd that Steelix!, etc.), which would be justified but also kinda boring.
What I can pretty confidently say is that I have my favorite style nailed down, which is the naturalistic/ natrual-abstract style (for a lack of better words).
These are the ones I came up with:

I actually never thought about what his singular best work is, but somehow I think it just might be this Ninetales. The whole scene looks like it’s descending to a whole different plane of existence, so much so that its hovering stance doesn’t feel out of place at all, but is instead even elevating the immersive potential of the artwork. Now we have Kanda to do similar (however slightly different) things, but I’m actually not sure if there are any other OG illustrators that accomplished comparable results. So yeah, at least in this very moment of my life, outisde of the obvious OG e-Series cards. these are my favorites (with tons of runner-ups!).

Brendan, your continuous presence in my collection thread is seriously one of the best features it has. Period. Your way with words is simply unmatched.

No one else does it like him. In fact, the man doesn’t even do it like himself (mic drop)

You’re the Bob Dylan of Pokemon talk (or David Bowie if you prefer that… or maybe Lou Reed? Choose one you like most! ;)).

Never change, my friend! And I’m eager to see the (probalbly monumental) updates on your collection thread!



I’ve lost count of how many Milotic 034s I’ve purchased lol. I got back into the hobby in 2019 and found it by chance just browsing through artworks. It put me onto Kusajima’s brilliant works and also became my favorite. I’m sure it’s obvious how much I like the card :sweat_smile:

Glad to see it’s one of your favorites by him as well. I’m also a huge fan of that Ninetails artwork!

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Good. =D

Oh gawd that steelix indeed! Yep, those are all in whole undeniably phenomenal, but I just loved setting you up for the hardest questions life that can throw at ya!

But yes! Those are dreamy super atmosphere ones. It’s almost like those top 3 he illustrated back to back, even though one is in a different era. Excellent choices. And excellent answer, I expect no less. Tons of runner ups indeed. It was just a funny thought, really the best of the best are all best, know wadda mean? Except that correct answer. It’s too correct.

Haha, Lou Reed that’s a good one! Love him. Bowie would be way too much of a pretentious answer even though I worship his music, so we can pick 'ole Lou. Satellliiiiiiiiiiiiite! Much obliged amigo, your collection inspires the hell outta me, what can I say?! It’s your fault!

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Thanks for sharing this amazing collection achievement. As a fellow Kusajima enjoyer I’ve thought about making a binder and having this as a reference will be a big help. I think he’s the one that sparked my interest in artist’s styles. After collecting so many cards just for the artwork I started to realize so many my cards were his. Its nice knowing that my natural gravitation towards his style of art makes me already over half way done collecting his pre-Gen 4 stuff.

The main thing I struggle with is that I enjoy organizing by set, and so artists binders really get in the way of that as I can’t really justify buying duplicates, especially of certain cards :sweat_smile:


Hey I love the wall of text! Not only did it answer my question but made me think about my own reasons for finishing the binder one way or another. And it’s clear you’ve also thought about this yourself quite a bit.

Sometimes it seems like these rules we place for ourselves may be arbitrary because at the end of the day you piece together an artists collection for their art; language, rarity, versions are all secondary to that goal. But in a way I feel it can also make the journey even more personal and enjoyable and probably more challenging if you choose certain guidelines. As long as we’re all having fun and enjoying the ride. :slight_smile: Thanks!