Gensoumaden Saiyuki Tarot Deck Review

The Gensoumaden Saiyuki Tarot, complete in box.

The Gensoumaden Saiyuki Tarot, complete in box.

The Gensoumaden Saiyuki Tarot by Minekura Kazuya

Status: Rare; Not reading with it.

Best for: Fans

Favorite cards: Don’t have any.

The Gensoumaden Saiyuki Tarot deck was a rare find that I scored for a mere $15 on eBay back in 2005. A full 78 card deck in a hard plastic case (possibly the best tarot box I’ve ever seen a deck come in) in full color. The cards and book are in Japanese but at the time I didn’t care because while I was fairly mediocre at understanding Japanese I had the patience to sit through my dictionaries and find the meaning of the words I didn’t know. I’m severely out of practice right now to the point of uselessness so the deck just sits and is loved from a distance. (I’m relearning Japanese but it is slow going and myriad in heartbreaking nostalgia.)

A card by itself. This image is from manga.

A card by itself. This image is from manga.

The Gensoumaden Saiyuki is primarily useful for only fans of Minekura’s work. The art comes from all sources from manga splash pages and covers to art books she’s produced. There’s also a mix of characters from other manga she’s produced. I didn’t mind this surprise since I’m a fan of her work as a whole but it’s something to note. For those completely unknown to the series. It’s a retelling of the Chinese classic Journey to the West (which I’m also a fan of) and is not only a fairly long-run manga but also an anime. There’s also at least one novel running around too and several audio CDs.

The deck compared to your average sized Sharpie.

The deck compared to your average sized Sharpie.

The series itself holds a special place in my hear and I’d say was a catalyst for how I matured into an adult. It never bordered on pop culture paganism or magician status but still held incredible importance to me at one point in time and will have lingering affects throughout the rest of my life to be sure. That being said, I don’t really involve myself in the series anymore outside of keeping up with new updates as a whole.

The deck compared to a standard size Tarot deck, here the Chrysalis Tarot. You can even see how the cards arch in the box to the left.

The deck compared to a standard size Tarot deck, here the Chrysalis Tarot. You can even see how the cards arch in the box to the left.

The deck itself is a full 78 card deck. The cards are small though and very narrow. Length-wise, there’s the same height as a standard tarot deck but they’re almost half the size width-wise. The card stock’s OK. The backs are smooth and slick, coated perhaps in a plastic covering not unlike playing cards but the reverse side with the card image feels like the card stock of an average greeting card. My deck also as little flaws like a remnant at the top where the cards were once connected and there’s a mar on the card backs from the printing.

The largest physical flaw is the cards do not lie flat. You can see that plainly in the photos. They could be pressed into being flat if one cared to do so. I didn’t bothered. I believe it would be a futile struggle. I think the shape of the cards help facilitate the curve. Shuffling’s pretty much a nightmare due to the curve and I don’t think the card would last long under constant usage.

Look how the card curve and arcs here. That's  due to the shape and card stock rather than usage which is more typical in tarot card curving.

Look how the card curve and arcs here. That’s due to the shape and card stock rather than usage which is more typical in tarot card curving.

The art isn’t entirely consistent either. As I mentioned, the art for the deck was collected from various sources over the course of Minekura’s career. The art quality varies accordingly. This is good for fans of her artwork and story telling as a whole because they can see often forgotten series showcased a bit (sadly, not my favorite Stigma which is gorgeous but I digress). You can see some of that in the photos but it’s fairly random what’s featured. I’m fairly certain the images were just grabbed from her artbooks which is A-OK as far as I’m concerned. This wasn’t specifically a project she set out to make but rather something that was produced in her series’ name.

The booklet that comes with the deck. (LWB)

The booklet that comes with the deck. (LWB)

Inside the booklet. Yup, still Japanese.

Inside the booklet. Yup, still Japanese.

It comes with a LWB that comes with spreads in it. However, I recall the book itself being a generic printing from the publishing company. Still, I remember being rather surprised the deck was even standard and had a book. It was fairly rare to run across at the time (from my experience).

As mentioned above, the deck and book is written in Japanese. However, don’t let that deter you if you want to use it oracle style. It could be easily done. But it is meant to be a tarot deck with the fairly traditional meanings. Would I crack open Waite’s A Pictorial Key to the Tarot to read these cards? Nope. I’d rather just go with what feels right. It has that kind of feel to it.

This is the kind of case you can toss in your bag with no worries about your cards. Perfect.

This is the kind of case you can toss in your bag with no worries about your cards. Perfect.

The best part of the deck in my opinion is the card box. I mean, the cards are great, especially for fans but the box can withstand some serious damage. Hard clear plastic, it’s divided into two size and fits perfectly. I do think the plastic box doesn’t help with the card shape however which is something to keep in mind.

However, this is a great box and I wish more companies produced boxes like this! It keeps the cards nice and safe, secured. Not only that, this box can take some damage. It’s not the easily cracked plastic that CD cases are made out of but not the super hard acrylic that baseball cards are kept in. it’s somewhere in between. Absolutely great for storing cards or tossing them in your bag where you know for sure that they’ll be safe from all kinds of damage like pen tips and even dampness.

A selection of cards from the deck. Note the art variations and even characters.

A selection of cards from the deck. Note the art variations and even characters not from the Saiyuki series (third from the right). Some of the cards aren’t even a north to south oriented card (second card from the left).

The deck also is lacking in soul. Decks that are created with divination in mind tend to have a more noticeable and outspoken soul to them. As an animist, I think anything can develop a soul and mine certainly have but you may feel a curious emptiness when handling the deck at first. This happens when decks are cobbled together and mass produced. (This isn’t to say mass printed decks aren’t good. Almost all of mine are mass printed and are perfectly wonderful. It’s just something I notice with decks that have the aforementioned criteria combined.) I actually doubt Minekura’s aware of the deck any more than she’s aware of her other series-related products. However, that doesn’t remove the personality from the art itself and the more you know of Minekura and the worlds she creates with her stories, the more the deck speaks to you. (Also, my heart goes out to Minekura. She’s had terrible luck with her health and I’m always hoping that she heals swiftly and surely.)

It does read well, however. As mentioned above, I tend to side more towards oracle style of reading than full tarot for this deck because of what I know about the series in question, the artist, and color symbolism. That’s just me though. I find it offers a clean, “no bullshit” sort of reading. Careful for word traps. The deck also tends to linger on self doubts and traumas more than you’d expect given the card images. (That relates more towards the deck’s subject material than anything else, in my opinion.)

Would I buy the deck again? Absolutely, if only for sentimental value and the fact that I haven’t run across it again online or in person. Would I use the deck? No. The cards won’t last long with usage. It’s one of the view decks that I’ve only used a few times for personal readings and won’t likely do so again. An updated version wouldn’t go amiss, especially since Minekura’s back to drawing and creating. However, this deck’s fun and worth picking up if you see it around, you’re a fan, and you read Japanese.

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