Guzzlord

Guzzlord

We now come to the final Ultra Beast of Sun and Moon (though not the final one of generation VII as a whole), Guzzlord, a.k.a. UB05 Glutton, a.k.a. the Junkivore Pokémon.  Guzzlord consumes all, drawing everything into itself and growing ever larger, and in just the same way it has engorged this entry to a truly unreasonable size – so without any further preamble, I’m just going to jump into it.

Guzzlord eats, and eats, and eats – it eats constantly and it eats everything.  Most of its body is just a huge cavernous maw.  The two claw-like appendages that extend from inside its mouth are, based on the Pokédex’s description, actually a pair of prehensile tongues; its actual arms are fairly small and look pretty weak and useless.  After all, why would Guzzlord bother with arms, when it can use horrifying mouth-appendages?  It isn’t planning to do anything with objects it encounters in the world other than shovel them straight into its infinite void of a digestive system; a highly-evolved tongue is just more efficient.  The rest of Guzzlord’s body is all spikes and sharp edges; its head is a tiny boxy thing with horns perched on top, and resembles nothing so much as a squat mediaeval great-helm with a crown of spikes.  Its tail ends in a spike-covered ball like the head of a morningstar, a mediaeval weapon designed to puncture plate armour or deliver a crushing blow that won’t be absorbed by chainmail.  The aesthetic is what we might call “dark knight grotesque,” hence Guzzlord’s Dark typing, and could be meant to invite comparisons to the rapacious greed of feudal landholders – notice the element “lord” in Guzzlord’s name, paralleled by “king” in the Japanese Akujiking, “tyrant” in the French Engloutyran, and so on.

Game Freak designer James Turner’s drawing of Guzzlord with a black hole in its throat.

Despite its focus on eating everything, both Wicke and the Pokédex make note of the fact that no one has ever found Guzzlord droppings.  Wicke proposes that Guzzlord converts everything it eats completely into energy – its metabolism is so efficient that it produces no waste at all.  Food (and… not-food) goes in, but nothing comes out.  As if to illustrate this strange property, Guzzlord’s throat is a jagged-edged “portal” that glows with an eerie blue light – a mysterious threshold that brings about the irrevocable destruction of everything that crosses it.  In short, Guzzlord is a mostly-black creature in a series of sci-fi/space-related Pokémon that consumes all matter and apparently never lets anything back out (it’s also one of the heaviest Pokémon in the game, at nearly 900 kg).  Does this… remind you of anything?  A couple of weeks ago, Guzzlord’s designer even celebrated the release of the first ever photographs of a black hole by tweeting a drawing of Guzzlord with the black hole at the back of its mouth.  Like other Ultra Beasts, it isn’t a normal Pokémon, or even a normal life form – Guzzlord is more like a force of nature, the universe’s ultimate consumer, devouring until nothing remains but void.

Guzzlord in the Ultra Ruin.

In Ultra Smoon, we have the opportunity to travel to what seem to be the homeworlds of most of the different Ultra Beasts.  Guzzlord’s is… an interesting one.  The location in question is referred to as the Ultra Ruin – a post-apocalyptic ruined city, characterised by destroyed buildings, piles of rubble and debris, a smog-filled yellow sky, and hints of a familiar past.  The architecture of the ruined buildings looks like it would not have been out of place in a modern city.  The viewscreen on a damaged video terminal shows clear blue skies and a scene reminiscent of the Hau’oli waterfront.  Most troubling of all, a faded sign reads “…oli…ity Ha… Servi… …ity’s… …need” – a damaged version of the sign outside the Hau’oli City Hall back in Alola, proclaiming the motto “serving the city’s every need!”  Even the garbled, haunting music of the area is Hau’oli City’s theme played backwards.  It seems clear that we’re supposed to interpret this place – whatever it is, however it’s possible – as some alternate version of Hau’oli City.  All this destruction has apparently been caused by Guzzlord itself, whom we encounter feeding on chunks of brick, plaster, rebar and other construction materials from the ruined buildings.

The last human resident of the Ultra Ruin.

There is one human left in the city, a man dressed in an environment suit that seems to have been modelled after Guzzlord itself.  He greets the player as they enter the area and explains some of its backstory.  All the other former inhabitants have relocated to a different planet – whether by spacecraft or through an Ultra Wormhole, he doesn’t say.  There are many Guzzlord on this planet, but their numbers have recently been declining, maybe because there’s just not much left for them to consume (note: the Ultra Sun Pokédex calls Guzzlord “a common organism in the world where it normally lives,” but first, this is a boilerplate line that appears in at least one entry for all seven of the original Ultra Beasts, and second, we have no idea whether this is really Guzzlord’s homeworld).  Apparently they’ve been there since before our new friend was born, and he doesn’t seem to know very much about what the world was like before most of it was… well, eaten.  Among the topics you can ask him about is a weathered old poster in the city that proclaims the virtues of a new power plant; he doesn’t know much about the power plant itself, and just likes the poster because it’s cheerful, but he hints that it was a taboo subject when he was growing up.  Most of the posters were burned, and people of his grandparents’ generation were never comfortable talking about the power plant.  I’ve seen it argued that Guzzlord are mutants created by toxic waste from the power plant, but that seems to me like a bit of a stretch from the available evidence.  It’s also possible that the power plant itself caused the destruction (maybe through a nuclear meltdown?) and the Guzzlord emerged through an Ultra Wormhole and muscled in on what was already a dying world.  The anime has a variation on the second possibility, which we’ll get to later.  Considering all that, this guy is weirdly affectionate towards Guzzlord.  He’s given it a nickname, “Mr. Glutton,” he dresses up like Guzzlord, and he implies that the reason he still lives there is because he wants to keep it company – maybe he’s even a little sad about the apparent impending extinction of this bizarre, unique species (that… may have brought ruin to his entire civilisation).  Although it may look like a black knight who violently oppresses the serfs on his land, Guzzlord is no more evil than a black hole – endless consumption is just in its nature.

This area presents one of the best arguments for thinking that the worlds of Ultra Space have to be either parallel universes or, perhaps even more worryingly, different points in time (could this be Hau’oli City’s future, and if so, is that future inevitable?).  We can contrast this with Celesteela, which seems like it belongs in a universe where it’s possible to travel to these different worlds through normal space; we can add to that the game’s UI, which insistently tells us that we’ve travelled a certain number of “light years” to get to each world.  However, the anime has a rather different interpretation.

Ash and Pikachu get their bearings in the wasteland.

The Guzzlord episode is a two-parter that sees Ash and Pikachu mysteriously transported to the world of the Ultra Ruin and forced to fight against Guzzlord alongside a lone trainer named Dia, who remained in the ruins after his people evacuated.  As in the games, Ash is eventually able to identify the wasteland as an alternate version of Melemele Island, though in this case it seems that the destruction is limited to just one island, not the entire planet.  Guzzlord appeared from an Ultra Wormhole shortly after a period of massive industrial development, which brought significant pollution to this version of Alola.  It completely destroyed Hau’oli City and devoured buildings, forests, even entire mountains all over the island, despite the efforts of a specialised task force that had defeated multiple Ultra Beast incursions in the past (compare this with Sun and Moon, where Looker tells us that a Guzzlord was responsible for the death of a former member of his team – a fairly shocking thing in a Pokémon game).  Dia seems to regard the devastation brought by Guzzlord as a punishment for the rising industrial pollution, which is… sort of true, from a certain point of view.  I don’t think the pollution directly caused Guzzlord to attack, but it does seem like it led that world’s version of Tapu Koko to abandon Alola.  It’s only with the aid of Tapu Koko, who returns at the last minute, that Ash and Dia are eventually able to force Guzzlord back into the Ultra Wormhole it came from.  I think the implication is that our Tapu Koko would have intervened as soon as Guzzlord arrived, preventing the situation from becoming so dire.  Therefore, in a roundabout way, Guzzlord stands symbolically for the rapaciousness of human growth and industry, and the harm they cause to the environment.  Tapu Koko declined to help Dia’s people because they were already ruining Alola – Guzzlord just did it faster.

The ruins of the Pokémon school where Ash studies.

Ash notably doesn’t travel to this other world through an Ultra Wormhole.  Instead, he is sent there accidentally-on-purpose by his world’s Tapu Koko, and is able to get home by using the combined electrical powers of Pikachu and Dia’s partner (the mythical Pokémon Zeraora) to… rip a hole in space-time, I guess?  It’s also striking that Ash spends a day and a night in Dia’s world, but returns to find that he’s only been gone for a few minutes – only the Rotomdex even realised he was missing.  It seems like the writers of the anime were deliberately coming down on the side of “Ultra Wormholes do not do parallel universes,” insisting the Ultra Ruin plotline requires a distinct (albeit inexplicable) phenomenon that takes Ash out of not just normal space, but normal time as well.  The anime, then, probably thinks that the worlds of Ultra Space exist in our universe – a definite number of “light years” from Alola.  It’s also worth repeating that Guzzlord came to Dia’s world through an Ultra Wormhole, something that isn’t definitively the case in the Ultra Ruin of the games.  Its real origin is some third world we are never shown, which prompts the question “what the hell kind of ecosystem would naturally support this awful thing?”  I’d even speculate that Guzzlord is, in a sense, a creature of Ultra Space itself – its natural life cycle involves traveling through Ultra Wormholes to feast on other worlds, devouring like a black hole until the entire universe (or even the multiverse?) is left barren.

The black hole photo recently taken by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, a coordinated network of telescopes all over the world.

The games and anime both build up Guzzlord as the biggest and baddest Ultra Beast.  The Ultra Ruin is the most distant and hardest to reach of the different worlds we can travel to in Ultra Space, and it presents Guzzlord as the destroyer of Alola (which we then catch and bring back to our Alola, because we make good decisions).  Unfortunately… when you actually play with it, Guzzlord is not really a good contender for “strongest Ultra Beast.”  In fact, you could make an argument that it’s the worst one (in fairness to Guzzlord, this would make it the worst of a group of very powerful Pokémon, but still).  Almost all the Ultra Beasts have an extreme slant towards one stat or another, and in Guzzlord’s case that’s HP; it has the third-highest base HP stat in the game, after Chansey and Blissey.  There are a few reasons this doesn’t do much for it in practice.  First, its healing options are iffy.  It does get Drain Punch, which is not nothing, but Guzzlord isn’t a Fighting-type and has a more powerful Fighting-type attack, Hammer Arm, that it would rather use instead.  It also gets Stockpile and Swallow, which are thematically great and probably how we’re meant to heal Guzzlord, but setting up that combo is just too damn unwieldy in practice.  Guzzlord isn’t the worst Pokémon for a Rest/Sleep Talk moveset, though; it’s got that if all else fails.  Second, Guzzlord’s type, Dark/Dragon, isn’t a terrible defensive type, and comes with some very useful resistances like Water and Electric.  However, it does also have nasty weaknesses to Fighting and Ice, two of the strongest and most common coverage move types, and a crippling double-weakness to Fairy attacks.  Third, Guzzlord’s not actually brilliant at anything.  Most of the other Ultra Beasts can leverage their one or two outrageous stats into being the best at something.  Pheromosa is the fastest cockroach alive, Xurkitree’s Thunderbolts make Zeus feel inadequate, Kartana can kill with a paper cut, and so on.  Massive HP, though, needs to be combined with strong defences to be as useful as possible.  When you crunch all the numbers, Guzzlord is about as tough as Mew.  That’s good, sure, but Mew is a jack-of-all-trades, while Guzzlord’s monstrous HP is its one big selling point.  If it could use Wish, or combo a Substitute with Baton Pass, it could share that huge HP pool with other Pokémon, but it can’t.  The final insult is that Guzzlord doesn’t even have any good support moves, and I promise I’ve looked.

Okay, that’s enough $#!tting all over poor Guzzlord.  It is a pretty decent tank; it’s tough, its attack and special attack stats are both perfectly respectable, and it has several good moves on either side, so you can build it towards either or both.  As always for Dragon-types, Draco Meteor is the big draw on the special side, but Guzzlord also has Dark Pulse as a more consistent alternative that still has strong neutral type coverage, Fire Blast for Steel-types and Sludge Bomb for Fairy-types.  Outrage is Guzzlord’s strongest physical attack, but it locks you into repeating a Dragon attack, which just isn’t as safe as it once was, with Fairy-types in the world.  Dragon Claw, by contrast, is just generally unspectacular for a primary attack, as is Crunch.  Knock Off and Payback are both unreliable alternative Dark attacks, because each will hit at full power only under certain circumstances, but in multiplayer or the Battle Tree they’re probably still better choices than Crunch.  Heavy Slam is usually a very strong move for a Pokémon of Guzzlord’s substantial girth, and an excellent answer to Fairy-types, with the lone exception of Xerneas; it’s a good choice if you want to put one physical move on a special set, since it replaces the relatively lacklustre Sludge Bomb.  Hammer Arm, Earthquake and Stone Edge are all powerful coverage moves, and all worth consideration, while Drain Punch is a bit weak by comparison but does add some incidental healing.  It’s harder to see a full-physical moveset for Guzzlord than a full-special one, but by no means impossible.  Because it has that flexibility in attack options, you have a lot of room to do something unexpected with Guzzlord and keep your opponents guessing.  A wide range of items make sense on Guzzlord as well; Choice items, Life Orb, Leftovers, it’s even a good fit for Assault Vest, since its defences could use some shoring up and it’s unlikely to want any support moves.

I can definitely see how Guzzlord’s design might be a bit hit-and-miss with a lot of people; it has the same distinctly un-Pokémon-like feel of a lot of the Ultra Beasts, and its art is undeniably very busy.  I’m also… honestly not quite sure why it’s a Dragon-type, other than maybe a vague association between European dragons and greed or gluttony.  It definitely has an aesthetic vision, though; it’s a terrible all-consuming monster with a tyrannical streak, and it represents, on the one hand, the self-destructive consequences of unrestrained human greed, and on the other, the terrible, inexorable finality of the void.  The Ultra Ruin subplot throws up problems in how we’re supposed to conceive of Ultra Space, and personally I think the anime’s take on this (just relegating parallel universes to some other phenomenon outside the jurisdiction of the Ultra Wormholes) is relatively clear-headed, but in any case, none of that is really Guzzlord’s fault, and it plays its role in the drama perfectly.  I think I’ve almost wound up actually liking it – sort of like the survivor in the ruins.

4 thoughts on “Guzzlord

  1. I’ve honestly come to the belief that Ultra Wormholes aren’t necessarily connecting to points in time, space, or alternate realities… they can do any combination. I think some Ultra Worlds might be alternate realities, others might be great distances in space, others might be through time, and still others are a combination of those. It just makes more sense to me and I don’t see a reason why it must consistently always be the same.

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    1. I think it’s plausible that the designers of the games had something like that in mind – they’re mysterious and magic, could take you pretty much anywhere, and are under no obligation to explain themselves. The anime’s version of the Ultra Ruin storyline does seem like it’s deliberately rejecting that ambiguity, though.

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  2. Maybe I’m too attached to “naturalistic” designs, maybe it’s unfair to single out James Turner as the only British graphic designer in the Game Freak studio but I admit it irks me how his designs generally tend to be “busy” – “too many” spikes, too stylized, too many apendages, largely devoid of cultural inspirations implied in other species. After all, Turner also gave us the tragic Vanillite line, Golurk, Buzzwole, that amalgam Naganadel, & had final say on Bruxish’s design.

    Then again, it was Takao Unno who gave us the elemental monkeys (Simipour / Simisear / Simisage) & the oddly club-footed Cobalion / Virizion / Terrakion so yeah

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    1. Mmm; I’m hesitant to pile criticism on individual designers too much, if only because we don’t have all that much information about the internal process (and, for that matter, how much *any* Pokémon can be said to be the work of one designer). I think the only reason we know which ones are Turner’s is because he tweets about them? In any case, I reckon they must all have their hits and misses; I’ve always liked Golurk, actually, and I’ve kinda warmed to Mandibuzz (another one of Turner’s) over time. It’s going to take a lot to make up for Vanilluxe in my eyes though. Buzzwole is weird but honestly I think it’s a solid response to the *concept* of the Ultra Beasts; same for Naganadel. Maybe Galar could actually be Turner’s chance to shine on the “interesting cultural/folklore inspirations” side, since the region seems to be based on Great Britain.

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