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We tarot lovers live in abundant times. Each year brings so many new tarot decks. Every deck created has something to offer: a certain artistic style, a specific symbol system, almost any theme you can imagine. Not all decks will appeal to all people and all the decks that appeal to you may do so for different reasons.
Many readers have decks that they use for clients, decks that are reserved for their own personal readings, decks for study, decks for meditation or journaling, decks for specific types of readings, and sometimes just for collecting and enjoying the beautiful art.
I don't know about you, but the decks that excite me the most are the ones that combine a theme and art style that appeals to me with readability. What makes a deck "readable" certainly varies from reader to reader, but we all know it when we see it. Sometimes we can recognize it just by looking at the cards. What clinches it, though, is when we lay the cards on the table in a spread. When a good, readable deck hits the table, the cards all come together and create an experience that is far more than the sum of its parts. Part of the magic of a good tarot reading is synthesizing the cards into a useful and relevant message rather than a disconnected string of individual card meanings.
The Mystical Manga Tarot is an excellent reading deck. If you like the Japanese comic style and Rann's artistic expression, you will probably love the way these cards tell stories and relay messages. The images of The Mystical Manga Tarot have that lovely modern balance of combining symbolic and evocative art. It would be easy to dismiss a manga deck as being merely illustrative but there is something special about so many of these images. The tilt of the figure's head and shoulders in the Five of Cups, for example, is so very expressive.
The Four of Swords expresses the peacefulness that is usually associated with this card. What makes this card more interesting it that there is also a slightly frenetic feeling around the edges, as if the peace is deep within the character's mind while the external world is still filled with challenges, questions, and activity. This latter aspect is a part of the meaning. The Four of Swords suggests taking a step back to relax the mind so that a solution can reveal itself. The implication is that the issue will still be there when we return our attention to it. It is this subtle but powerful addition to the image that makes this deck both modern and readable.
The Eight of Wands is usually one of the most simplistic images in the deck. Eight wands fly through the sky in an orderly formation. Really there is only so much an artist can do with this idea. However, Rann has discovered a simple yet incredibly relevant addition. She has added a pair of hands that ever so loosely surround the flying wands. Here again she has added something that expresses the meaning of the card more clearly. Yes, the Eight of Wands is about events moving forward swiftly. But this card means more than that. The events moving forward have been set in motion by someone and will reach their logical conclusion unless they are disturbed. Because things are moving so quickly, any small shift could create chaos. The hands in the image represent the person (usually the querent) who set things in motion and also maintaining that precarious balance of both protecting the formation and not touching anything. It is a testament to Rann's artistic skill that she so aptly captured this contradictory sensation.
This deck would be an ideal beginner deck, especially for a young person. For that reason, the accompanying guidebook is written for the complete novice. It is shorter than usual, so it may feel less overwhelming than a larger, more detailed book. Yet it still provides an excellent foundation for anyone just starting their tarot journey. There are several sample readings illustrating how the cards work together. For each card, there is a divinatory meaning, a reversed divinatory meaning, and advice or wisdom that the card offers. It is important to have both the divinatory meanings and the advice, especially for beginners because it makes it easier to give readings that accurately describe the situation and provide insight as well as empower the querent with useful advice.
The Mystical Manga Tarot is one of those rare decks that are a joy to look at and to use. It is pretty, fun, smart, clear, and sometimes beautifully and surprisingly subtle. Unless someone really dislikes the art, this deck is likely to find a place in almost any reader's regular rotation of decks.
Barbara Moore (Saint Paul, MN) has studied and read tarot since the early 1990s. She wrote the bestselling Tarot for Beginners and more than a dozen other books, and she has contributed to many bestselling tarot kits, ...