Deck Name: Kawaii Tarot
Creator: Diana Lopez
Publisher & Year: Sterling Ethos, ©2018
Availability: Find this deck on Sterling Ethos’ website. It is also available in bookstores.
Why did I pick up this deck? Because I wanted something minimal but effective. A dose of sweet to counterbalance some internal sour (season changes usually bring out my worst behaviors + habits for some reason…). Sure, you could use this deck to get a sugar rush — which is perhaps what initially drew me to it — BUT it’s so much more than 1st appearances might suggest. The bold, graphic lines ground images against the white canvas-like backgrounds of the cards. Everything floats here. The characters appear disembodied — like heads bobbing — but they are no less enlivened. No less full of vitality + essence. It is interesting to see something so soft & sweet also be so sparse, minimalist, and willing-to-go-there. The Kawaii Tarot’s 10 of Swords could stand next to any other deck’s, and though speaking quieter, it would still ring clear.
The clamshell box opens to reveal the trump-sized deck nested on the right; while the accompanying booklet slides into a jacket sleeve designed to hold it securely in place. The imagery on the box replicates the colors and imagery that appear in the deck, but resist the temptation to judge this book by its cover. It is a veritable wonderland of sweet and light, but it can also take you into the depths. And the inclusion of the scythe, representing the Death card, on the lid is the proof in the rainbow sprinkle pudding.
In the accompanying booklet you will find many resources for deciphering this deck, specifically the first 13 pages form a foundational praxis of Kawaii Tarot. Including, but not limited to: an introduction by the author, a quick key words list of all the Major Arcana, how to incorporate numbers in your readings, explanation of the suits, and several spread options with illustrations. The cardstock is very smooth and feels thinner than 300gsm, but since this information is not available, I cannot verify. If you will be using the deck on-the-go, I highly recommend transferring it to a deck-bag. The clamshell box can flap open and the deck could spill out in your bag; there is no clasp to keep it secured. Otherwise, the box is sturdy and interestingly designed.
It is utter Kawaii heaven. This is the tarot deck that Hello Kitty will pick up when they decide it’s time to start doing some internal work + self- reflection. I LOVE the back of these cards; so much so that they’re probably my favorite card-back ever! They’re white canvas with 5 pointed stars of alternating colors + sizes. The creator, Diana Lopez clearly understands color theory — or at the very least, has worked with it in an extremely intuitive way in this deck. On page 6 of the booklet, each of the main colorways are described, and how they are used in the deck is explained. The color choices: Marzipan (yellow tone), Aqua (pastel blue-green), Thistle (lavender), and Blush (soft red) work exquisitely well together as they form pairs of complementary colors. Complementary colors are those that sit opposite each other on the color wheel. The pairs here are: Marzipan + Thistle, and Aqua + Blush. When used together in a composition they balance and enhance each other — both colors stand out more vividly.
Color is also used interestingly for skin tones — the same pastels that delight our eyes and run throughout the deck are used to represent the human figures in the Court Cards. Combined with gender fluidity and androgyny of the Court Cards, this deck aims to represent every body. The figures are disembodied, just faces against a white canvas, and they are illustrated with rounded graphic lines — so no one type of person makes an appearance here, but animated versions of people from everywhere.
The Major Arcana are represented with various associated symbols, and no humanoid figures are included. Which is something I have not really encountered in many other decks; the only human representations are contained in the Court Cards. I enjoy this stretching of the archetypes, and I appreciate how it allows the reader the freedom to work with what shows up in the cards differently. This deck is more symbolic and less representative + narrative driven.
In the introduction to this deck, Diana Lopez writes,
“I created Kawaii Tarot because as beautiful as the decks I had were, something in them was not clicking for me. I struggled to find the true connection I wanted with my cards. I realized eventually that intricate art has never been my thing. As a young girl, I began learning Web design and development through Kawaii forums with other girls my age around the world. We would create pixel art and illustrations based on cute characters, and that’s how I fell in love with art in this modern world. Kawaii Tarot is very much part of me,” (Lopez, 1).
The seeds of this deck were planted in Lopez’s youth, as were her first interactions with tarot lore. As a young child, her mother introduced her to “witchy” spaces and a blend of interactive tools like crystals, herbs, and veneration of Catholic saints. Diana reports feeling overwhelmed by these experiences, but also very curious. She later drew on those initial interactions and found the courage to pick up her own deck (a Rider-Waite) and begin searching.
What appears at first to be a fluffy, pastel bunny of a tarot deck, is in fact something much more multi-dimensional and deep. With this trumps-sized, relatively affordable (average $15 in U.S.), and vividly colored minimalist deck, you can get swept off your feet and land in the middle of your own first-person live-action video game. Welcome to the wonderful and contrasting world of kawaii — it is soft and sweet, but stands its ground, and will not be taken advantage of. This is a unique vision of tarot archetypes that relies on symbolism more than embodiments + narrative structure. With that being said, I recommend some familiarity and semi-regular interaction with tarot — otherwise you may find it difficult to connect with this deck. But, it’s more than worth the investment if you want to take a bite of this sugary delight.