2024 Pokemon TCG Illustrator Contest Under Fire for Apparent AI Entries

Last week Pokemon announced its top 300 entries for 2024’s Illustrator Contest.

But fan artists on social media and PokeBeach quickly pointed out anomalies in a few of the entries indicating the use of generative AI. These anomalies are not obvious to untrained eyes.

Furthermore, six of the suspicious entries come from artists with remarkably similar names. They all have the initials “V.K.” If these entries are from the same artist, it would be a violation of the contest’s rules.

The Pikachu illustration from Vigen Khachadoorian received the most scrutiny:

One of our commenters, qquakin24, explained:

The Pikachu stadium piece is the most telling one. The background and the audience have an unusual blurry abstraction. AI images are not smart enough to generate clear or detailed backgrounds. Humans can wrap our brains around what backgrounds are supposed to be and make clearer environments.

Another commenter, fourthstartcg, further detailed:

As with most AI art, the background is the giveaway. The “lights” in the stadium are all different sizes, with weird angles and no real coherence to their organization. The paneling above the lights is composed of multiple jagged shapes with no pattern or relation between each one. The “people” in the stadium are faceless and shapeless blobs. The “screens” in the upper level above the people also have jagged shapes and formless figures on them.

The Eevee drawn by Vigen K. features a Vaporeon in the background that does not stylistically match Eevee. The Vaporeon is similar to fan art drawn by @LaPumpkINK, who has publicly accused Vigen K. of stealing her artwork.

The same style mismatch appears on another Eevee illustration that also features a Vaporeon. It is illustrated by Vigo Khachadoorian. Both artists have similar names, demonstrating yet another link.

Fans could submit entries to the contest starting in October 2023, just as AI image tools exploded into public consciousness. As such, Pokemon’s judges may have been ill-prepared for what was coming. Reflecting this timing, the contest rules make no mention of AI.

Pokemon announced that there were 10,830 entries for this year’s contest. Strangely, this number is the exact same as 2022’s Illustrator Contest. This seems to indicate unusual sloppiness on their part.

Pokemon has not made a public statement about the accusations. Update (6/24): The company has issued a statement.

If AI was used, the six entries robbed other artists of some spotlight. As such, here’s some of our favorite entries from Twitter that did not make the cut:

Ultimately three winning artists will be announced in September. There will be one standard illustration winner, one Pokemon ex winner, and one grand prize winner (of either style). All three will be turned into real promo cards.