Today we’ll be following up Oranguru by looking at his opposite number. Oranguru is only available on the Moon and Ultra Moon versions of the game; in the same part of Alola, the Lush Jungle of Akala Island, the Sun and Ultra Sun versions instead get Passimian. They’re opposites in some fairly obvious and superficial ways – both are based on primates, but Oranguru is an intelligent Psychic-type while Passimian is a physically powerful Fighting-type, a classic brains-and-brawn pair, and in battle, Oranguru amplifies his partner’s powers while Passimian uses his partner’s powers to make himself stronger. There’s more going on here, though – a lot more, to be honest, than I realised when I first met either of them.
Fighting-type Pokémon are often heavily influenced by a human martial art, but sometimes (as in the case of Poliwrath) they actually owe more to athletes. Passimian is one of these slightly more unusual Fighting-types, and is made of references to, of all things, American football – most of it is fairly subtle; the only dead giveaways are the translations of his name in French (Quartermac) and German (Quartermak), which reference the important quarterback position in American football. This is where Passimian gets his round, coconut-like helmet, broad shoulders and muscular arms, as well as a pronounced teamwork theme. Members of Passimian troops stick colourful leaves to their fur in distinctive patterns to show their allegiance, and are known for executing complicated group manoeuvres. And, of course, they throw balls – or at least, they throw coconuts, or whatever the Pokémon world equivalent is (probably, like, a “Nutcoke Berry” or something). Like American footballers, they pass the “ball” back and forth to keep their opponents off balance, until one of them spots an opening to strike. Unlike American footballers, they hurl their coconuts with great force to vanquish their enemies, and (according to the Sun and Moon website) also have special techniques with soft berries that blind their targets, presumably by covering their faces in sticky pulp.
The black and white colours, striped tail, and primate proportions with a doglike snout and quadruped stance place Passimian squarely in the lemur family, a group of large Strepsirrhines (the wet-nosed, or “lower,” primates) native exclusively to Madagascar. Specifically, the tail points to the ring-tailed lemur – one of the most intelligent and social of the lemurs, certainly the most recognisable because of its distinctive tail, and the only one that is entirely diurnal (Passimian is exclusive to Sun, after all). The typical troop size for Passimian, 20-30 individuals, is also in the right area for a troop of ring-tailed lemurs – although the size of a Passimian foraging party, a leader plus 10 of the strongest members of the troop, seems like a clear reference to the 11 players an American football team can field at one time. Lemurs are Madagascar’s only native primates, so they have grown larger, more intelligent and more diverse than the lower primates of the African mainland, which stick to specialised ecological niches where they aren’t outcompeted by monkeys. Madagascar’s a long way from Hawai’i, of course, but hey, big tropical island with unique wildlife, we’re more or less on theme – or close enough for Pokémon’s fairly unsubtle purposes, anyway.
The strange thing about Passimian’s combination of lemur influences and a football aesthetic is that, to my knowledge, lemurs do not throw things. The ability to throw objects with both force and accuracy is a very specialised adaptation that’s only found in the “higher” primates – monkeys and apes – and no other primate is even close to being as good at it as humans, who can kill with a thrown rock, or with a weapon like a spear. Accurate throws require some sophisticated cognitive architecture, because you need to be able to intuit some fairly complicated geometry and physics, calculations most of us wouldn’t actually be able to perform if we tried to do it consciously. There’s also, weirdly, a major hypothesis that the evolution of humans’ ability to throw things is closely linked with the evolution of language, since the two activities seem to use similar structures in the left hemispheres of our brains (most humans throw things with the right hand, which is controlled by the left hemisphere, and yes of course it’s more complicated than that but no one ever warned me neurology would be on the required skill list for a goddamn Pokémon blogger), and chimpanzees who are better than average at throwing things are also better at communicating. And on a normal day I would totally write this off as just Game Freak not knowing much about primatology or the difference between monkeys and lemurs, because let’s be honest, the distinction is fairly academic; hell, even the word for lemur in Japanese is a compound that literally means “fox-monkey.” The problem is that I CAN’T because Passimian is the version-specific counterpart to Oranguru, forms a brain/brawn Psychic/Fighting pair with him, and has a teamwork theme that contrasts Oranguru’s hermit-like nature, and Oranguru has another important theme that needs a parallel in Passimian’s design.
I just spent most of a review rambling about the things that make Oranguru weirdly humanlike, and now I’m presented with another primate Pokémon – a Fighting-type, the type that defines itself by the use of human-like martial arts techniques and imitation of human martial artists and athletes. What’s more, it’s a design whose main schtick – throwing things – is conspicuously out of place on a Pokémon that is clearly a lemur. I want to find a way for this to be a parallel to Oranguru, and if you’re willing to buy into that idea of throwing and language being related (which, to be transparent, is just one competing hypothesis) we have an easy way to get there, although it does mean making up more stuff than I usually do. Oranguru is on the verge of developing one set of abilities that were previously unique to humanity (Pokémon training) – why couldn’t Passimian be simultaneously on the verge of developing another? Why couldn’t this species of Pokémon with advanced throwing abilities also be developing the capacity for complex language? Language confers an advanced capacity for sharing information and planning for the future that fits Passimian’s existing teamwork theme perfectly. While Oranguru are cultivating the human ability to gain personal power through Pokémon training, maybe Passimian are evolving their cooperative and communicative abilities, and approaching the human ability to form tribes, societies, even civilisations. Sure, language isn’t something lemurs do either, but it keeps the “throwing” aspect of the design from being orphaned by giving it an additional tie to the “teamwork” aesthetic and making it parallel to Oranguru. If anything it works better in the Pokémon world because humans throw Pokéballs (as does Oranguru, apparently), so the ability to precisely throw objects is symbolic of humans’ unique capacity for leadership and cooperation. Of course, what we then have to raise is whether Pokémon in general already have the capacity for language. I tend to lean towards thinking that they can communicate feelings and immediate intentions very effectively, but don’t really have recursive syntax, or the ability to communicate abstract concepts or complex predictions. They can think those thoughts (or at least some species can – we know that because when Meowth in the anime learns a human language, he uses it the same way as we do) but they don’t necessarily have the tools to share them. Passimian, though… just might.
Finally, I want to wrap up the first half with something Jim the Editor wanted me to bring up in Oranguru’s entry, which got cut for time: you shouldn’t really see the evolution of large primates (very calorie-hungry mammals) on a landmass the size of Hawai’i’s “Big Island,” let alone Maui, which is the island Akala corresponds to. Huge islands like Madagascar or Borneo give large mammals space to evolve, but on small islands, mammals tend to get smaller (a phenomenon known as “island dwarfism”) and the biggest animals are cold-blooded creatures like reptiles, whose energy requirements are lower. Of course, paying attention to this sort of thing is frankly a greater level of ecological fidelity than anyone really expects from Pokémon, and it’s also not clear how big Game Freak thinks Akala is; Maui is less than 1/5 the size of the Big Island, but Akala is at least 2/3 the size of Ula’ula (in any case, it’s certainly no Borneo, which is about the size of France). But let’s be honest: if you’re reading this blog at all, this is exactly the kind of bull$#!t overanalysis you come here for.
Passimian is another Alolan sledgehammer-type Pokémon, with excellent attack, a lot of hit points, good physical defence and middling speed. All things considered, he’s a fairly typical-looking Fighting Pokémon. The most interesting thing about him is his ability Receiver. Receiver, a little like Tsareena’s Queenly Majesty, is what you might call a signature ability by technicality – another Pokémon actually has exactly the same ability, but it goes by a different name, Alolan Muk’s ability Power of Alchemy. And… well, like a lot of Alolan Pokémon’s unique powers, it does nothing in a single battle and is hard to use even in a double battle. If Passimian is fighting in a double battle, and its partner is defeated, Receiver will copy that partner’s ability. There are a few things Receiver can’t copy, including anything that changes a Pokémon’s form (like Multitype, Stance Change or Imposter), as well as Trace, Comatose, Disguise and Wonder Guard (you didn’t really think they were going to let you get away with that, did you?). Making use of this ability is tricky, to say the least, since you need to both have a Pokémon with a really strong ability for Passimian to copy on your team in the first place, and have it be knocked out while it’s fighting alongside Passimian, without Passimian being defeated first. The challenge is further complicated by the fact that most of the best abilities are only available to a couple of Pokémon. Only a couple of abilities are likely to be worth the setup; for me, the main ones that come to mind are Huge Power and Contrary, from (for instance) Diggersby or Malamar. The appeal of Huge Power should be obvious; who doesn’t want to double their attack? Contrary works with Close Combat or Superpower to allow Passimian to continually buff himself as he lays waste to the enemy team. Time it just right, and Passimian could be a hell of a sweeper. Or your opponent could figure out what you’re doing and just gank Passimian first. But, y’know. There’s always Protect, I guess. Passimian’s hidden ability, Defiant, is not currently available, and it’s… fine. It sometimes won’t do anything, but it’s a nice boost when it works, and when it’s available it’ll be the default choice for Passimian in single battles.
Passimian’s strongest attacks are Close Combat and Superpower; both are really powerful Fighting attacks, and both reduce the user’s defence and one other stat, so your choice really depends on whether you care more about Passimian’s attack or special defence. Knock Off is especially useful because Dark covers Fighting’s offensive weaknesses to Psychic- and Ghost-types (but, as usual, bear in mind its weaknesses: it’s weak against Pokémon that have already been disarmed, or are holding special items like Mega Stones). Earthquake is on Passimian’s list, and practically obligatory as it is for most physical attackers. U-Turn is perennially useful for the flexibility it gives you in switching, and it goes especially well with a Choice Scarf, which is a good item choice for a Pokémon with Passimian’s stat profile. Iron Head and Gunk Shot are both good responses to Fairy Pokémon, which otherwise resist almost all of Passimian’s attacks; Gunk Shot is much more powerful and will also get Grass-types, but is less accurate. Finally, Rock Slide is there but lacking in both power and accuracy, despite covering your weakness to Flying Pokémon, and Seed Bomb is uninspiring because of its poor type coverage but admittedly a fantastic match on flavour grounds. Passimian doesn’t have Agility or any other way to increase his own speed, and his only priority move is Quick Attack, so there’s a good argument that a Choice Scarf is the best item choice for him, turning him into a high-powered revenge-killer. He does also get Bulk Up, and isn’t that slow, so if you forgo the greater strength of Close Combat and Superpower in favour of the healing provided by Drain Punch, you could build a reasonably effective physical tank that can steamroll slower opponents who lack strong special attacks. Passimian’s not necessarily the best Fighting Pokémon you could choose for that – I’d prefer something tougher like Hariyama or Conkeldurr – but it’s not a horrible idea. Finally, Passimian has surprisingly few strong utility moves, but Taunt is worth a mention, since he’s fast enough to make decent use of it. Unfortunately it doesn’t work on a Choice set, and even Passimian’s type coverage would be stretched thin if you tried to fit it on a Bulk Up set.
Passimian… feels to me like he’s missing something. More than most Alolan Pokémon, he makes me wonder “what is the point of using this in singles?” and “there are so many other Fighting-type Pokémon shaped like this; why this one?” And that in itself isn’t damning, but even in doubles he seems like such a weird Pokémon to use, with such contrived setup requirements. There’s something that’s not quite there – and the same is true of Passimian’s flavour and lore. There’s certainly enough detail there; he certainly has an aesthetic, but it’s the wrong one for a lemur, and although I can just about see an avenue to make it work, the language aspect is just a little bit too much of a stretch for me to think the designers meant it. So… he’s… fine, I guess – on the verge of being good, and interesting, and just… not quite there.