There are a lot of Grass Pokémon out there – it’s currently the fourth most common type in Pokémon, with almost one hundred representatives. It’s slightly curious, then, that there are so few Pokémon based on fruit. Tropius sort of counts, with fruit dangling off his neck, and Cherubi shifts into cherry blossom upon evolving, which has its own cultural significance in Japan, so arguably the only Pokémon wholeheartedly based on fruit are Ferroseed and Ferrothorn – assuming you do in fact classify the durian as a fruit and not as a sort of spiteful biological land mine. It’s possible that fruit Pokémon make Game Freak nervous since they draw attention to the old “do we eat Pokémon?” dilemma, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from cranking out mushrooms, or harvesting cast-off Crabrawler claws – or, for that matter, creating Swirlix and Vanillite. In any case, it’s time to break out your recipe books, because our next potentially edible Pokémon is here: Bounsweet, and her evolved forms Steenee and Tsareena.
Maybe because “edible Pokémon” makes the designers a bit squirmy and “food Pokémon” have gotten them mixed reviews in the past, everything else about the physical design of these three is pretty safe, even boring. “Vaguely humanoid flower-fairy” is, if I’m going to be perfectly honest, a design form that is a little bit played out. Steenee and Tsareena hit a lot of the same notes as Bellossom, Roselia, Lilligant and Florges. Tsareena has a great deal of personality, though – some might even say an excess, with her penchant for cackling madly as she kicks you in the face (yes, the Pokédex really says that) – and they do some interesting things with their wholehearted embrace of the fruit they’re based on. Bounsweet’s physical design is based on the mangosteen, a tropical fruit native to Malaysia that has been introduced with moderate success to Hawai’i. Mangosteens have a thick, tough plum-coloured rind that can be broken open by hand to reveal segmented white flesh that looks a little like a bulb of garlic. The rind is inedible, but some health food companies nonetheless process it into edible or drinkable forms just in case it turns out to somehow be a superfood, because of course they do. In Bounsweet we see a mangosteen with the bottom third of its rind broken off to reveal the juicy white flesh, and its tough stem and sepals still attached to the top. Steenee and Tsareena continue to work with the same colours and similar shapes, but rearrange them into humanoid forms, with the white fruit segments coming to resemble flounced skirts and the sepals lengthening until they resemble long, flowing hair. Tsareena also gets a little plum-coloured “crown” where her stem used to be.
I, regrettably, have never tried mangosteen, but it is said to have an intense and delicious sour-sweet taste. Bounsweet… uh… sweats a juice whose sugary flavour is so potent that humans simply cannot drink it, and have to water it down in order to avoid instantly contracting diabetes. Actually biting into one would presumably send a human into a state of catatonic bliss from which they would never awaken – but Pokémon can tolerate more powerful flavours than we can, and birds like Trumbeak love Bounsweet’s smell and taste. Luckily Bounsweet, according to the Pokédex, is “not intelligent enough to care.” Real fruits, of course, often “want” to be eaten because it means their seeds will be… “deposited” somewhere far away by the animal that ate them; unfortunately for Bounsweet, this is probably not the case for them (though admittedly, we don’t actually know how Bounsweet reproduce in the wild, since they’re an all-female species). We are also told that Bounsweet will try to keep bird Pokémon from swallowing them by spinning their sepals. The Pokédex claims, apparently with a straight face, that “it’s usually a fruitless attempt.” This is where Tsareena comes in: according to the Sun and Moon website, the most powerful Steenee in a colony will, with the “blessing” of her comrades, evolve into Tsareena in order to gain the power to protect their Bounsweet, who are frankly a bit rubbish. Tsareena has a regal bearing appropriate to her little fruity crown, as well as apparently a deep instinct for punishing evil, as any beneficent monarch should. The royal aesthetic actually doesn’t come out of nowhere, though: there are some interesting reasons for it.
There is a story (widely repeated, but almost certainly apocryphal – the evidence, or lack thereof, is discussed in detail at http://mangosteen.com/historyandfolklore.htm) that Queen Victoria once promised a knighthood, or some similarly lavish bounty, to anyone who could bring a fresh mangosteen back to England for her to taste. This would have been a difficult task, in an era in which sea travel between Malaysia and England could take over a month and refrigeration technology was in its infancy (even mangosteen seeds are acutely perishable). Bounty or no bounty, in 1891 Queen Victoria was in fact presented with a mangosteen, which she is said to have pronounced “quite excellent.” Mangosteen later came to be called the “queen of fruits,” an epithet given to it by the great American botanist David Fairchild, who considered it the finest of all the fruits he had ever tried (and he had tried… well, basically all of them). If you’re wondering what the king of fruits is, well, one contender is our friend the durian, but Ferroseed and Ferrothorn could hardly be less regal if they tried, so… I guess put me down as predicting an all-male mango counterpart to Tsareena in generation VIII (…India region confirmed??)? Whether or not Queen Victoria actually was secretly a mangosteen fiend, the name and the association with Her Imperial Majesty have both stuck, and Tsareena has inherited an imperious bearing, her royal “crown,” her position of leadership among Steenee colonies, and the signature ability Queenly Majesty. Finally, there’s an important extra detail about the fruit itself. Mangosteen trees come from the genus Garcinia, whose members are dioecious – a fancy botanical word meaning that there are separate male plants and female plants (most plants are monoecious, producing both male and female flowers). The mangosteen itself, however, probably because it’s a hybrid (and has undergone some of the same kind of chromosomal acrobatics we saw with Salazzle), seems to be an all-female species that only reproduces asexually. As a result, mangosteen expresses almost no genetic variation, making it difficult to breed new strains; some work has been done, to try to back-cross mangosteens with other Garcinia species in order to fix that problem – so far with limited success.
So in fact we have compelling cultural and botanical reasons for Bounsweet, Steenee and Tsareena to be an all-female species, and an interesting story behind the royalty theme. And of course Queen Victoria was well known for punishing the wicked and the guilty with her splendid high kicks. Speaking of which…
Like most of generation VII’s Pokémon, Tsareena has a signature move, and like most of those signature moves, its applications are a bit narrow. This move is Trop Kick, a physical Grass-type attack that makes up for its suspect base power of 70 by reducing the target’s attack stat. This might be interesting on a very tanky Pokémon whose main alternative Grass attack is something like Seed Bomb, which isn’t much more powerful. Tsareena, however… well, Tsareena is hard to describe because her best stat is attack, but her defences are decent and her movepool kind of pushes her towards a hybrid support role. She’s slightly tougher, and much faster and stronger, than Lurantis, but lacks Lurantis’ power combo of Contrary andLeaf Storm. What she does have is a much better Grass-type physical attack than Trop Kick, namely Power Whip (note that she will learn this at level 53, but only on Ultra Sun and Moon). The accuracy of Trop Kick is nice, and the attack debuff is cute, but sadly it’s very hard to argue for using it over an alternative with almost twice as much power. But never fear: Tsareena also has a signature ability. Sort of.
Queenly Majesty is… what you might call a signature ability by technicality. Tsareena is the only Pokémon with an ability called Queenly Majesty, but Bruxish’s ability, Dazzling, does exactly the same thing. Both abilities make it impossible to target Tsareena, Bruxish, or their allies with any attacksthat have speed priority, even attacks that have been given priority by an ability like Prankster or Gale Wings. Pokémon can attempt such attacks, but will fail. It’s not that hard to outrun Tsareena fairly, unless you put a Choice Scarf on her, but some slow Pokémon do have their matchups against her changed significantly for the worse. Not many Pokémon commonly use a priority move as one of their primary attacks, though Linoone’s Extremespeed, Abomasnow’s Ice Shard and Azumarill’s Aqua Jet are notable, and a Pokémon like that can really be screwed over quite badly by Tsareena (it’s unfortunate that Talonflame can just set her on fire if she blocks Brave Bird). Prankster Pokémon will also find many of their customary tricks blocked. Starting in generation VII, all Dark Pokémon can stop Prankster like this, and many Pranksters are not Pokémon Tsareena should be trying to counter anyway, but it’s something. Tsareena’s other abilities also provide situational immunities; Leaf Guard grants immunity to all status conditions, but only during the effects of Sunny Day, while Sweet Veil grants immunity to sleep, and provides the same benefit to allies in multiple battles. Queenly Majesty is more powerful when it does work, and does more to define a niche for Tsareena, but Leaf Guard is probably at least decent in a sun team.
To repeat, Tsareena’s go-to Grass attack should be Power Whip. She has a fairly wide selection of other physical attacks, including High Jump Kick, Play Rough, Knock Off and Zen Headbutt (those last two from the Ultra Sun and Moon move tutors). Knock Off will give you the best type coverage, since all the others share weaknesses with Power Whip, and it has the added benefit of… well, knocking off the target’s item. However, any given Pokémon can only be hit by Knock Off once at full power – it does 50% more damage when disarming a Pokémon, but is a weak attack without that bonus. Remember that it also can’t hit Mega Stones, Z-Crystals, Silvally’s Memories or Arceus’ Plates. High Jump Kick is the most powerful and scores the most super-effective hits, but shares three weaknesses with Power Whip (Bug, Flying and Poison). The two together will work decently on almost anything, and you can potentially take Play Rough or Zen Headbutt as well to be more dangerous to Dragon or Poison Pokémon, respectively. Tsareena does also get Acrobatics, which combines very well with High Jump Kick, but Acrobatics requires you to use no item at all, or a consumable item, and I just can’t see Tsareena as a Salac Berry sweeper. Finally, U-Turn lets her deliver a parting shot before disappearing back into her Pokéball – like a lot of Alolan Pokémon, she’s slow enough that it will often be safer to recall her normally, but U-Turn is just a really useful move, and particularly good with Choice items. The next question is how much of Tsareena’s moveset you’re willing to give over to type coverage. The answer may be “all of it,” since Tsareena has the raw stats and the powerful moves needed to make good use of a Choice Band or Choice Scarf. However, Tsareena is a Grass-type, and traditionally that means that some of the most compelling reasons to use her will be her support moves.
More or less expected in a Grass-type is Tsareena’s access to Aromatherapy. Healing status conditions is great; you can wake a Pokémon early after using Rest, you can give a new lease on life to a paralysed sweeper or a poisoned tank, you may even be able to do all three. Aromatherapy is worth considering on almost any Pokémon that gets it. Somewhat less expected is Rapid Spin. The ability to clear entry hazards (Stealth Rock, Spikes and so on) doesn’t often come up against AI opponents but is important in competitive Pokémon. Although Defog can do the same thing, it will blow away your entry hazards as well, so again, Rapid Spin is worth considering on just about any of the few Pokémon that can learn it. You could just take Aromatherapy, Rapid Spin and two attacks and have Tsareena be a really solid utility Pokémon. She can also heal herself with Synthesis and protect her team with Reflect or Light Screen. Aromatic Mist, once Aromatisse’s signature move, is worth mentioning because only two other Pokémon get it (Primarina and Tapu Lele), but it’s not a good move; raising a single ally’s special defence is not worth a moveslot, especially on a Pokémon that can learn Light Screen. Finally Acupressure is, again, not a good move, but it is a hilarious move, sharply raising… a stat, at random (including accuracy or evasion), and if you want to have fun messing around with it, Tsareena is one of only eight Pokémon who can do that for you.
It’s hard for me not to compare Tsareena to Lurantis, and although Bounsweet, Steenee and Tsareena have certainly found ways to make the idea of a fruit Pokémon interesting, I can’t help but feel that Fomantis and Lurantis are cleverer. It also bears repeating that there is little unique about the aesthetics of these Pokémon; plenty of Grass-types have the same kind of bright colours and fairy-like appearance (also, let’s face it, Steenee is a bit derpy, although references to her bouncy, excitable nature make me think this could be intentional). You have to admit, though, Tsareena’s pretty powerful, and in a way that’s fairly unconventional for a Grass Pokémon. It’s just a shame her unique ability… well, isn’t unique (I wonder whether that was an oversight?). I do like these Pokémon, but I can’t help but feel they’re not quite there.