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Pokémon Card Fervor Has An Artist Scared For His Safety

Some Pokémon cards are highly sought, especially by collectors and by resellers looking to make a quick buck off of rare cards, or cards with distinguishing characteristics that make them more valuable. For example, a card signed by illustrator Naoki Saito reportedly sold for over $100,000 in July 2023, which has had the unfortunate side effect of prompting folks to harass and stalk the artist in ways he recently said made him fear for his life.

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Saito is best known for his work as a contributing artist for the Duel Masters Trading Card Game, Hatsune Miku merchandise, and the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Saito has drawn over 280 Pokémon cards, with many of them hitting online resell markets for absolutely ridiculous prices, particularly if he emblazoned them with his John Hancock. This has made the combination of his art and his signature something of a collectible item for admirers and enthusiasts, and some folks will stop at nothing to get their hands on signed copies of his work. Now, though, Saito is so terrified by the fervor that he may never sign another card again.

Posting to Twitter in Japanese on February 24 (and translated by VGC on February 27), Saito said he’s repeatedly been “systematically ambushed and surrounded” by multiple people at once, all vying for his autograph. The situation got so bad that, at a recent event he didn’t disclose, Saito said he was “followed by a car for several minutes.” As a result, he won’t personally sign anything until things—and people—calm down.

“I have always been very happy to be asked for autographs, so I have always done my best to respond to all requests for autographs,” Saito wrote, calling the situations in which people ambush him in groups or while he’s traveling “very annoying.” He stated that at some events, people desperate for his autograph have “been making phone calls to the event management under false identities, trying to confirm my schedule.”

In a February 27 Automaton report, the editor and writer Shinya Kusaka, who was reportedly with Saito at the time of the car stalking incident, said that the pursuers were so skilled at chasing the artist that they followed Saito into narrow alleyways. Kusaka said that the relentless hawking has caused Saito “severe mental distress,” with folks apparently coercing him into handing out his autograph. Some people, according to Kusaka, even went as far as lying about their sick family members to get Saito’s signature, which just seems like a wild low for resellers.

Kotaku has reached out to Saito for comment.

I understand wanting a signature from your fave celebrity, whether that be an artist, musician, writer, or whatever else. That autograph can make for a nice memento and a fantastic memory worth retelling. However, harassing and stalking someone to essentially force them to sign something just so you can make a profit off it? That ain’t it, so hopefully, folks will learn to leave people alone. Saito is just trying to live.

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