[Asks: Asks: Asks: Asks:] asks:

How do you feel about the lack of single type Flying pokemon? I’ve always felt it was odd that there is only one pure Flying type.

I tend to think Game Freak’s notion of what the Flying type actually is has changed quite a bit since generation I, perhaps to the extent that no one has ever quite known what it’s supposed to be.  All the generation I Flying-type attacks are bird-themed – Wing Attack, Drill Peck, Sky Attack (in Japanese, Goddo Bādo, a transliteration of the English “God Bird”) – which makes sense, since we have reason to suspect, on the basis of MissingNo and other bits of stray game data from Red and Blue, that it was originally called the “Bird type.” This, of course, is why Flying is strong against Bug.  Gust was a Normal-type attack originally, and Whirlwind still is.

To me, that suggests that wind powers were not originally part of the Flying-type “package” – which is pretty striking since, by generation V, when we finally did get a single-typed Flying Pokémon, it was Tornadus, the legendary embodiment of the whirlwind.  Pigeotto’s wind powers might have originally been thought of as a feature of his Normal type, not his Flying type.  With the exception of Dodrio (who is still a bird and therefore has an excuse) and arguably Gyarados, “Flying” in generation I appears to mean simply “this Pokémon flies with wings.”  It’s also interesting that Flying is almost never a Pokémon’s “primary” type – that is, for dual-type Pokémon, it’s never the type listed first in the Pokédex (there’s no mechanical distinction to this, but it seems to reflect which of the two types is “more important” – Graveler and Onix are Rock/Ground, but Rhydon is Ground/Rock, for instance).  Noibat and Noivern, in generation VI, are the only Flying dual-types who have Flying listed first.  Flying is almost always something “tacked on,” not the essential core.

I suspect at one point Game Freak had an idea that Flying was almost not a type at all – where most other types signify some source of elemental power, Flying is just a thing some Pokémon can do.  If someone had thought of including abilities in generations I and II, it’s conceivable to me that “Flying” would have been one of those, rather than a type (and who knows how things would have developed from there?).  After all, what would a Pokémon even be if it consisted of nothing but the ability to fly, given that there’s an established precedent for ordinary birds being Normal/Flying?  Of course, once Flying exists as a type you have to keep using it, because Pokémon is never allowed to get rid of anything, no matter how pointless, but not even Game Freak wants to make that many generic birds.  Then you have to figure out what on earth the Flying-type means, so you inch away from “Flying = birds???” by adding Pokémon like Hoppip and Drifloon, who are associated with wind, or Rayquaza and Shaymin, who seem to represent the sky as an elemental force, until finally you feel justified creating a wind spirit as a pure Flying-type, even though wind powers were once demonstrably Normal-type. But in the meantime you’ve also added Roost, which allows Flying-types to stop flying and thus also stop being Flying, thus reinforcing that original idea that the Flying type is something Pokémon do rather than something they are.  And now, well, here we are in Alola, where all the seventh-generation Flying-types are either birds or from space, because Minior and Celesteela both needed other abilities that were more important than Levitate (although arguably there are also flavour justifications for the Flying-type on them).  No one planned for any of this, it doesn’t make sense, and it’s 20 years too late to do anything about it – but hey, that’s the type chart for you.

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