Today I’m looking at the second of Black and White’s legendary trios, the ogre-like genies Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus. Why do these games have so many legendary Pokémon, anyway? Every set of games always introduces more of the things than the last (compare five in Red and Blue to thirteen in Black and White), and at some point you have to wonder how many we actually need… but I should judge them all on their merits, shouldn’t I? So, without further ado: the legendary genies, Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus.
As their astonishingly inventive names attest, Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus are spirits of wind, lightning and earth; Landorus is a Ground/Flying dual-type, Thundurus an Electric/Flying dual-type, and Tornadus the only single-typed Flying Pokémon in the entire game. Tornadus and Thundurus are chaotic and sometimes destructive storm spirits who zip around frying people, blowing them away, playing tricks, ransacking things at random, and occasionally beating the hell out of each other and laying waste to a few neighbourhoods in the process. Landorus, in stark contrast, is a benevolent figure associated with protection and fertility, whose role is to keep the other two in line and to encourage crops to grow healthily. When Tornadus or Thundurus (or both) makes trouble for the villages of Unova, Landorus shows up to settle things. Indeed, in order to summon Landorus to fight him in the game, you need to bring both Tornadus (who only appears on Black) and Thundurus (who only appears on White) to Landorus’ shrine, which will provoke him into descending to fight. This is actually a similar pattern to one we’ve seen before – that of Kyogre, Groudon and Rayquaza. Groudon is the embodiment of the earth and constantly surrounded by parching sunshine, while Kyogre is the embodiment of the sea and brings rainstorms with him wherever he goes. The two of them sleep forever, deep beneath the earth but in ancient times they battled ferociously, raising continents and sinking oceans in the process. In the storyline of Emerald, they are woken up and have to be calmed down by Rayquaza, the embodiment of the sky, before they cause any permanent damage to the planet… so we have two quarrelling weather guardians who have to be controlled by a third, slightly more powerful, one to protect humanity from the fallout of their feud. And you know what? I think Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus do it better. Well, ‘better’ is a very strong word; the genies do it differently, and I think that their smaller scale and the mischievous personalities of Thundurus and Tornadus are a better fit for the setting than the world-changing powers of Groudon and Kyogre, who really belong in an epic – and that is not something I would discourage at all, but it’s something that Pokémon keeps gingerly dipping one toe into, and epic is not something that can be done by halves. Thundurus, Tornadus and Landorus have more of a folktale feel to them, which I think is a better fit for the general atmosphere of the Pokémon world as the games present it (although I should take a moment to mention that this is one of those designs where my deep ignorance of Japanese culture is probably interfering with my ability to comment properly on the influences at work here).
In terms of their physical appearance as well, I think the inspirations for some of the genies’ traits go over my head a little. Their ugly fanged ogre faces are definitely the faces of monsters from Japanese folklore, although I’m not sure about Landorus’ ludicrous hair, which reminds me of nothing so much as a huge mallet. I suspect that the tentacle-things arcing around their bodies are actually tails, because their Pokédex entries reference releasing energy from their tails and there’s nothing else in their designs that fits the bill, but they look quite odd. Odd isn’t necessarily bad though and this doesn’t make the genies look ridiculous. Also, it’s a small detail, but it amuses me somewhat that they each have a different number of horns – Thundurus has one, Tornadus has two and Landorus has three. Overall, I like the effect they produce; the grotesque visages are in line with their folklore origins, the cloud bodies and tails keep them from looking too human for my liking, the spots and swirls on their skin break up the design a little and make them less monotonous, and they manage to cut a fairly imposing figure… Landorus’ quirky afro aside.
Like all legendary Pokémon (well, almost all… excuse me for a moment while I chuckle condescendingly at Phione), Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus are very powerful and effective. All three are very fast; Landorus less so than the other two, but he makes up for it by being tougher all around (Tornadus and Thundurus are quite fragile for legendary Pokémon). They also have very powerful attacks at their disposal; Tornadus and Thundurus prefer special attacks while Landorus prefers physical attacks, but all three have wide enough movepools and high enough stats to throw together good movesets using either. They all excel at fast damage-dealing – Thundurus, in particular, is very dangerous because he can use Nasty Plot to raise his already excellent special attack stat to absurd levels and Landorus can do the same for his physical attacks with Swords Dance. Tornadus and Thundurus are both especially dangerous during rain storms because their Hurricane and Thunder attacks (respectively), which are normally annoyingly unreliable, become perfectly accurate in heavy rain, while Landorus is absolutely devastating in sandstorms, where his Sand Force ability powers up his Ground- and Rock-type attacks. All three are capable of great mobility with U-Turn, doing damage and switching out in the same turn while also delaying your switch until after you’ve seen whether your opponent is switching or not. As far as uniqueness goes, Thundurus steals Zapdos’ thunder a bit (no pun intended) by being stronger and faster, but Zapdos can still pull off defensive movesets much more effectively with his superior defences and Roost for healing, Landorus is geared very differently to Gliscor, the other Ground/Flying-type, who is also defensively oriented, and Tornadus has a special place as the only pure Flying-type (as well as having, I think, just about the most powerful Hurricane in the game).
I wasn’t initially very fond of the genies but they are growing on me. I like their character, their designs strike me as a bit odd but I think they’re in keeping with their initial inspiration, and I think that their role in the world is a good example of where legendary Pokémon ought to sit in the grand scheme of things. I’m actually struggling now to think of anything I particularly dislike about them… other than, once again, Landorus’ hair. These are well thought out legendary Pokémon that make sense and add to the atmosphere of the Unova region; a good addition to the pantheon.
I hereby affirm this Pokémon’s right to exist!