whatever asks:

How tf is phione a legendary but not Volcarona, Rotom or Spiritomb????

Well, there is no real definition of what a legendary Pokémon is, other than “the ones we say are legendary Pokémon.”  It seems to me like the distinction has two parts.  There’s a real-world reason, related to how you, the player, go about obtaining the Pokémon practically, and there’s an in-universe reason, roughly related to how well-known the Pokémon is.

To us, Phione is a legendary – or, more specifically, “mythical” – Pokémon because it’s impossible to get it just by playing the core games of generation IV on your own (you need to get Manaphy from an external source, namely a copy of Pokémon Ranger, or in later generations from any of several event distributions).  Other legendary – but not mythical – Pokémon are available entirely in-game, but usually only one of each per save file.  Even single-encounter Pokémon like Volcarona, Rotom or Spiritomb can later be bred to get more than one.

To people in the Pokémon world, Phione is a legendary Pokémon because of how little they know about it – which I think is an interesting distinction, and one that feels a lot weirder than it once did because of how Pokémon’s successive titles all relate to each other.  Back in Red and Blue, there were four “legendary Pokémon”: Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres, the “winged mirages” whose existence was kind of known but hadn’t been scientifically confirmed, and Mewtwo, a one-of-a-kind genetic experiment who was created recently in a project that was not public knowledge.  And then there was Mew, who was a very special case, because Mew wasn’t even supposed to be in the game at all.  But we know a lot more about all of those Pokémon now – and not just us, characters all over the Pokémon world.  They’ve now been able to study Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres and to a lesser extent even Mewtwo for a very long time.  Because the core Pokémon games are very averse to changing things that were established by previous titles, those Pokémon are all still “legendary,” but… well, why would they be?  They’re still very powerful, certainly, but I’m not sure that’s all that being a “legendary Pokémon” was ever supposed to mean.  I think it would make a lot of sense if more information about those Pokémon had gradually come out of the domain of myth and folklore and into the domain of science over the years – which you could even represent mechanically, if you wanted to.  For instance, maybe we understand how the legendary birds’ mating habits work now, and we can breed them when that wasn’t possible before.

Which leaves us with Phione.  Obviously Volcarona, Rotom and Spiritomb are all the subject of a lot of mythology, folklore and/or rumour, just like Manaphy and Phione.  There’s just some invisible line somewhere where there’s just a little bit more information about Volcarona, Rotom and Spiritomb that we know for certain, just enough to bring them out of the “legendary” category and into the merely “very mysterious” category.  Thinking again about the fact that Manaphy doesn’t naturally exist in Sinnoh, we could suggest that maybe these distinctions even vary by region; Manaphy and Phione might not be truly “legendary” to Fiore, but Sinnoh’s scientists have never seen one, so they’re much less confident in their information about them.  Which is fine as it goes, in Manaphy and Phione’s original context of generation IV – but intuitively, surely we know a lot more about them by now?  Surely Phione can’t still be more “mythical” now than Volcarona was in generation V.  And so the disconnect gets wider and wider over time…

5 thoughts on “whatever asks:

  1. Huh. Both the existence of this question in and of itself and your answer here confuse me.
    Like, there seems to me as though there exists a rather extensive difference between regular pokémon and mythical/legendary pokémon, and albeit I can admit some mythicals (looking at you, zarude) blur the line, I don’t think any ordinary mons do so. Being mythical isn’t just being rare and powerful…

    Legendaries and mythicals are, in most cases, magical spirits. Most legendaries are functional (if not literal) nature deities, ageless, connected to the land around them, bearing ethereal and spiritual power. Mythicals are about the same, but usually in less focus. (There never was a reason for the distinction in the first place, imo…)
    Look at, say, Celebi: not only does it have ridiculous time-travel powers, it also has its own domain in Ilex forest, it seems to have full understanding of human affairs in the event with Giovanni, and appears to just read your mind or something to decide to show you that. Much like how Mew is claimed to only appear to the pure of heart.

    Tbh, legendaries remind me of how My Neighbor Totoro treats its wood spirits.

    Phione and Manaphy breed, but they’re not just a part of the food chain or rare local fauna. You can’t just ask someone in Fiore about where to find one.
    Rotom, volcarona and spiritomb, though? Those are absolutely just rare fauna that are high on the food chain. Cynthia having a spiritomb? Alder having a volcarona? That’s impressive, and those animals are understudied, but that’s no more than rare. But catching a phione, I think that’d make news.

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    1. Reminder that Chris is on record as not taking claims of godhood seriously. Not even his own.

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      1. I mean, they may not be creator deities, but they sure are something. I don’t remember his exact words, but I remember that he’s gone on record especially against the roles assigned to legendaries in myth, such as Arceus creating the world or Groudon the earth and Kyogre the ocean. That I can get behind. But what I can’t get behind is the legends just being animals on another power level, because it just feels odd for Johto’s entire belief system on Ho-oh, for example, to worship what’s essentially a powerful chicken, instead of a creature that has mystical powers even without being a creator deity.

        I don’t think any of the legends fit into a food chain, have a reproductive cycle, or any of the sort. They seem too important. I don’t think that’s contradictory with them not being all of what pokémon religion assigns to them.

        Apologies, I have a tendency to text wall looking for the right words and not get much across.

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        1. I definitely think you can argue this for *some* of them. I think it’s pushing it to say it’s *obviously* true of *all* of them, or useful as a categorical distinction for “legendary” vs. “non-legendary” Pokémon. Like, to go back to Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres – yeah, there’s the second movie where they seem to be super-important nature spirits, but there are also examples of all three birds elsewhere in the anime being… extremely *not* that. And now in Galar we have regional variants of them, who very much seem to be just really rare birds with no special mystical or spiritual significance, or at least none that the game cares to illustrate. And, well, this question was about Phione, and say what you want about Manaphy, I’m not aware of any evidence we have that anyone, anywhere, gives two $#!ts about Phione or regards it as anything other than an ordinary Pokémon despite its theoretically “legendary” status.

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