Bowman Baseball’s 1955 Bowman Anime

Insert Set Behind the Design

Date: May 7, 2024
Author: Greg Bates, Senior Writer
Topics: 1955 Bowman Anime, 2024 Bowman Baseball, Behind the Design, Greg Bates
Length: 947 Words
Reading Time: ~5 Minutes

Each year, when Bowman Baseball is released, new insert sets are introduced to collectors.

One of this year’s special sets is truly one-of-a-kind. The 1955 Bowman Anime line combines two great concepts: the unforgettable 1955 Bowman Baseball TV set design and anime-style illustrations.

“It’s giving that nostalgic feel of the ’55 design, but also making it modern with the anime,” said Topps Brand Manager Coby Kerr, who came up with the insert set.

“I’ve been looking at the Pokémon sets that have been coming out, and I took inspiration from there where they’re popping out of that box that everybody knows where the Pokémon stands. I envisioned that iconic TV design and having these top players coming out of the TV anime style. It was a no-brainer. It came out pretty cool.”

The set features 15 of MLB’s top veterans, rookies, and prospects. It’s a great mix with Elly De La Cruz, Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Druw Jones, Jackson Holliday, Henry Davis, Mookie Betts, Marcelo Mayer, Corbin Carroll, Ronald Acuña Jr., Jackson Chourio, Masatake Yoshida, Julio Rodriguez, and Jasson Dominguez represented in the Japanese-style designs.

Kerr calls it a “loaded set.” The anime cards are inserted into the product as case hits. Along with the base version short prints, each player has numbered cards — gold out to /50, orange out of /25, red out of /5, and a 1-of-1 Superfractor.

“I’ve always liked the classic ’55 Bowman TV design. It’s iconic,” Kerr said. “A close friend of mine is a huge One Piece fan, so I started getting into the series. What drew me in immediately was that one of the characters shared the same name as me, and Micah voiced him.”

Micah is Micah Solusod. He is a well-known anime voice actor, a freelance artist, and a baseball fan.

Kerr contacted Solusod to see if he was interested in designing the artwork for the insert set. Ironically enough, Solusod had recently mentioned to a friend how cool it would be to illustrate trading cards. The stars aligned, and a partnership was formed.

“It’s something I’m very familiar with,” said Solusod, who collected Pokémon cards growing up. “Anime’s kind of my life.”

Solusod has voiced characters in a couple of anime series that revolve around baseball: Big Windup! in 2008, and MIX in 2019.

Solusod Sketching Big Names

When Solusod started the project, he wanted to make sure each player was recognizable within the anime realm.

“I did a lot of reference studying and a lot of rough drafts,” the 33-year-old said. “Character designs, I would sketch out each player and try to figure out the balance between how much anime and realistic style I put into each card.”

Solusod included action lines popping in the background of each card — pure anime-style artistry.

“I usually start by sketching several ideas on paper and sending them to Topps for approval,” Solusod said. “It’s always fun to bounce ideas back and forth at this stage. Once the card layout is set, I’ll move to digital inks and colors for the finished piece.”

Solusod chose to start by drawing De La Cruz. He focused on attention to detail for the flashy Cincinnati Reds rookie with his gold chains and flowing dreadlocks. How well the De La Cruz card came out set the tone for the rest of the set.

That led to the Ohtani card. It was special for Solusod to illustrate Ohtani since they share Japanese heritage. Before putting pencil to paper, Solusod had to decide if Ohtani was going to be featured as a hitter or pitcher. It was an easy choice to go with Ohtani having a bat in hand after coming off of a 44-homer season in 2023

With a determined face through his patented swing, Ohtani launches a ball that becomes oversized as it escapes the TV set and into your living room.  

“We wanted it to look dynamic,” Solusod said. “Make it feel like they were almost breaking the fourth wall to give it an action-packed sort of feel.”

Solusod also likes how the cards of a couple of Yankees — Judge and Dominguez—came out.

“Dominguez was fun to draw because he’s a beast on the field, and we got to show off his Debut Patch,” Solusod said.

Picking favorites

Solusod and Kerr concur that the Ohtani and De La Cruz cards are their favorites in the set.

“I really like the Elly,” Kerr said. “But I think the Ohtani is going to be iconic.”

That card could garner the most attention because of Ohtani’s worldwide appeal in the sport.

“This makes sense, especially because of how big baseball is in Japan,” Solusod said. “It seems like anime and baseball go hand in hand.”

Solusod hopes collectors can take away plenty of positives from the insert set.

“I hope it is bridging that gap between people who are anime fans and people who are baseball fans,” Solusod said. “It’s finding that space where they can express both aspects of their fandom.”

Kerr believes the unique insert set will be a hit with collectors for many different reasons.

“Topps hasn’t really released an anime-style set like this,” Kerr said. “I think that’s really what’s trending now in the card industry. On television, it’s all anime. It’s manga. I think bringing this into the Bowman set could do really well. Maybe it will be a year after year set — this is just the kickoff.”

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