Y’know, we’ve hit the biggest, most important questions already now – whether it would be a good idea to make Pokémon real, and what Pokémon’s core themes are. Since I’ve so recklessly squandered this format’s potential by clearing up the grandest conceivable questions in the first two instalments (and, in so doing, settled those questions in perpetuity and throughout the universe), I’d like to move on, for the third One of These Things, to something much more detail-oriented.
How do all the “genderless” Pokémon work?
Pokémon that are “genderless”/“gender-unknown” presumably must reproduce, because they don’t all immediately go extinct as species. Some of them might just be functionally immortal, but I have to imagine that most of them reproduce in some way that (for whatever reason) we just don’t see in the “day-care” environments we have in the games, some way that’s different from whatever the “standard” male/female Pokémon are doing. For instance, I like to think that Magneton reproduce by fission – that at the end of its life a Magneton will break down into several Magnemite, and there is some chance of either a new Magneton forming from fewer than three Magnemite or an old Magneton breaking down into more than three, such that their population can gradually increase to make up the difference when some of them inevitably explode or get eaten by bears.
What can you come up with? What’s a “genderless” Pokémon that you think might reproduce in an interesting way? Or (related) what do you think “gender-unknown” might really mean for some of those species (3+ genders that don’t neatly map to male/female? Fluid gender? Truly genderless?)?
[EDIT: I should clarify here I’m using the word “gender” because that’s the games’ word for the property that seems to dictate which Pokémon can successfully breed with each other, which is… eh… let’s just try to overlook the obvious issues there.]
15 thoughts on “Open Discussion Topic 3: Return of the Jedi King to the Last Crusade of Azkaban: With a Vengeance”
Arceus… well, last I checked we’ve seen him reproduce asexually.
Diancie is probably infertile because we can kick the question down to Carbink.
Mewtwo should probably also be infertile but I like the idea that he isn’t for no other reason than to explain the second one from the Genesect movie without resorting to another group making the exact same stupid mistake.
The trick with Zygarde is that the cells reproduce to maintain their fixed numbers, and we just never get ahold of him during the periods where he needs to do that.
Maybe there’s actually only the one Celebi, who avoids times of strife because it knows that it’s an endling. If it doesn’t recognize you then your previous encounter hasn’t happened yet from its perspective. Or it just forgot. Lots of irons on the fire.
Most of the other legendary/mythical ‘mons probably give live birth. Heatran and the Latis are so well-documented as such that they get explicit genders in the game even though you still can’t breed them.
Cryogonal can learn Attract, so it probably has the same problems as Nidorina… if that isn’t just another case of live birth.
Ditto quite possibly isn’t creating eggs in quite the same way as everyone else. Shapeshifting is a hell of a drug.
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I mean, since most Pokémon don’t have any clear indicators of gender aside from the little ♂️or ♀️in their menu, and even the daycare workers seem baffled at how Eggs come to be. Maybe Pokémon just straight up DON’T have genders or genitals like people do, similar to how people assign gendered traits to their dogs and get mad when you get them wrong, maybe humanity just went “this 1 shows behavior patterns we have societally decided are female” and worked from there, there are exceptions to this, like how only male kirlia can become Gallade or only female Salandit become Salazzle (we can talk about the inherent misogyny behind Gallade’s existence another time) but maybe genderless Pokémon are just ones that don’t exhibit behavioral traits of either gender.
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So Pokemon reproduction in general can’t function like real word reproduction. I’m sorry, it just can’t. Egg groups? Pokemon of entirely different species are not only compatible, their offspring seems to share next to no genetic information with the “father”, and so already this question requires even more layers than the previous ones.
We aren’t here to discuss any of that and I don’t feel like writing a dissertation on Pokemon reproduction as a whole. For that I’m going with what I think was your theory anyways (unless I’m misremembering) – Pokemon gender is just that, gender, and not sex, while the process of reproduction isn’t entirely biological, at least not how we’re familiar with it.
That leaves genderless Pokemon as… non-binary? Maybe not the best term here, as it likely ranges from truly alien biology to just a lack of any concept of gender. I don’t really wanna leave it at that though, as this seems to be about reproduction too. On that regard, “it’s complicated”. Ignoring the game mechanics, I’d imagine it varies from Pokemon to Pokemon. Examples:
Electrode. I still like to think that neither form of Electrode that we’ve seen is it’s “true” form and it’s something inside the ball, which is like a shell? Some truly weird “mimic”, and fittingly I think we simply don’t even know how gender or reproduction works for it – the entire point is it’s unknowable.
Starmie. Fission. It’s a sea star. Easy. Next? …okay fine, the species is implied to be more alien, and I don’t know how the core reproduces. Maybe, like a sea star, it sifts food through the sandy ocean floor, but part of its diet includes minerals, which it uses to form an additional core… and then fission (more or less). Also gender isn’t that relevant when it’s fission all the way down.
Must I do Porygon? It’s man-made. Though honestly, they appear to exist in the wild now so they must be self replicating… actually, that could work, what if all Porygon come from PorygonZ – computer viruses are absolutely capable of replicating (just in a different sense), which is how they spread. It’s self replicating code. …how? I don’t friggin know, how does Porygon even have a physical form?? Code doesn’t have gender though unless you give it that.
Lunatone and Solrock… ugh. Well they’re usually by meteor sites, so maybe they can imbue space rocks with pieces of their “conscientiousness” that split off, and that psychic power forms them into that shape? That’s so alien that, if gender exists, we wouldn’t grasp it. Maybe the genders are literally just Solrock and Lunatone, but we see them as entirely different species.
One last one. Falinks. You can’t put a single gender on five organisms, and the group is always mixed gender. You can’t breed them because they are so tightly knit they only breed within their own group of five. Just a big mess of weird Roman Kirbys breeding.
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I want to approach this question by taking Pokemon not at their intentions in translation, but at their word. So, most Pokemon have a gender identity. Not all Pokemon have one it seems, they are genderless, but many do, and this is fluid. This is fluid within one game universe (Azurill, before X/Y, have a 1 in 3 chance of going from female to male when evolving to Marill), or across universes (I have found forum threads were people have found Pokemon transferred between games, particularly games of different generation) change gender.
I think it’s just more interesting to look at this fluidity and conclude that gender in Pokemon is one of self identity. Pokemon are smart enough to do that, are they not? I think it tidily explains all the weirdness that could come if you tried to assign “biological sex” to most of the Pokemon we have (how exactly does a Trubbish express physical sex characteristics?). And it makes the explanation for genderless Pokemon as simple as, they just don’t feel the need or want to have such an identity.
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(this was posted by Jamie, who hit enter too early)
I personally think Carbink reproduce by removing one of their gems and ‘planting’ it in some mineral-rich stone that allows them to generate their iconic rocky shells. Their child phase is basically what you’d call the head of the grown pokemon, and the development of the shell marks their age. You never see the children in games because the places that the Carbink use for nurseries require the ability to manipulate stone and rocks that is endemic to the species.
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My personal headcanon
Animal-like Pokémon reproduce in ways analogous to how real-life animals reproduce. Genderless Pokémon are generally Pokémon far from analogous to animals, and for many of them, I think they simply don’t reproduce, but come to life in a ~tsukumogami fashion (eg Baltoy) or simply spontaneously manifest for whatever reason (the Pokédex mentions some specific cases, I think Cryogonal among others?). I guess the implication is that these Pokémon may function within an ecosystem – they might be part of a food chain – but are basically non-evolving (as in actual evolution), since they don’t reproduce. Or perhaps traits are still passed on, but only culturally?
And other genderless Pokémon do reproduce – they’re simply analogous to *googles* non-gonochorous(?) life forms.
(Whatever’s going on in the Day Care is a different matter entirely – the elderly couple, in fact, don’t have any idea how that Egg got there. The Egg of course is not an egg but a cradle. The Day Care-breeding “parents” may not even be genetically related to the Pokémon that hatches. Perhaps the stork delivered it? Perhaps it’s similar to how childless couples in fairy tales find a Protagonist on their doorstep, brought about by the deep, sincere wishes of the “parents” – or even the trainer? Pokémon (the franchise) loves sappy BS like that.)
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GENDER IS A CONSTRUCT INVENTED BY BIG-DAYCARE TO SELL MORE PAYMENTS.
I choose to over-interpret the fact that “gender” is used, not “sex”. M/F breeding pairs are because Pokemon use *some* form of two-party breeding for genetic purposes and humans have assigned them as Masc and Fem because that’s what us dorks understood.
However: I interpret there is one significantly more important third party in all breeds: Eggs.
By my count, Eggs aren’t eggs like we think of. Eggs are living, breathing Pokemon, with a unique power to evolve into *any* Pokemon they have close contact with. This is why the wording is always “we have no idea *where* Eggs come from”. Not “how they’re made”. Eggs appear in some form, beyond human comprehension. In certain spots in the world. And are raised by parental Pokemon who give their DNA to help the egg evolve “hatch” into that Pokemon’s baby form. If a species requires two parents, they are typically “gendered” by human professors. But genderless species like a Cryogonal? Maybe the Eggs only need to take DNA from one, or three, or a whole blizzard of Cryogonal.
and Eggs left to fester with no parental figure? They evolve into Ditto.
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Apparently we have confirmation from and early source, a Pokedex manual only released in Japan written by the original creators of the franchise, and it apparently mentions the Staryu has both “sex organs”. So yeah, apparently Pokemon have sexes, and Staryu is of both, which is probably why it’s classified as genderless (and may also discredit certain theories above about Pokemon not having sexes or sexual organs, assuming this lore hasn’t been retconned yet) and before you dismiss it, this same Pokedex book said that Nidorina and Nidoqueen are infertile long before breeding was introduced into the franchise, and those two remain unbreedable to this very day (and some of its other lore has also been recently reconfirmed in Legends Arceus) In any case, “genderless” I think just means Pokemon that don’t usually reproduce in the way typical male and female sexual reproduction happens. They’re usually inanimate objects come to life, living legends that likely have much more esoteric ways of continuing the species, creatures from other worlds, or creations of human science not meant to reproduce naturally. It’s shorthand for “other”, for concepts that don’t translate as well to game mechanics (though honestly, there probably should be a “both” option for Pokemon like Staryu and gastropods)
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I’ve always subscribed to some fan theory that legendaries have either the “hibernation for a bajillion long time” or “hatch from egg secretly reincarnating” thing… the very good fan fiction Pokédex one shots by Yssavryl goes into more detail about it.
For other genderless Pokémon, I think they reproduce differently in captivity then they do in the wild, therefore the eggs exist, because of some kind of human interference
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I’ve long held the theory that the whole “we don’t know where eggs come from” thing is true, and Pokemon breeding shares more with Pokemon evolution than it does irl animal breeding. The “male” and “female” that matters for this process gets conflated by humans with their cultural ideas of a gender binary but are analogous to male and female ends of a cable, qualities that allow for the connection and sharing of energy that produces an egg (nascent Pokemon) from seemingly nowhere. Eggs, notably, can be stored in the PC and take up a spot in your party, suggesting they can be “digitized” just like their parents.
As for genderless Pokemon, they’re the rare exceptions that don’t utilize this method of reproduction — often preferring to split some part of their body or “essence” off to form, essentially, clone babies. This can be seen in Falinks, Carbink, etc. Voltorb is probably the weirdest of the common genderless Pokemon, as it and Electrode will physically split open to allow their live young freedom.
“Gender unknown” is used in the English-language materials now, which is interesting and opens us up to the possibility that we just don’t yet know what other genders besides male and female are out there in the Pokemon world. (A nice parallel to the ongoing discovery of non-binary genders in human society, as well as in languages!) There’s room for them to be retconned in the future, once the appropriate gender designations have been discovered and named.
As for reproduction, for Voltorb, Magnemite, and other Pokemon that are essentially animated objects, I like to think that they impart a life force to the object in question (the coin, the gear, the snowflake, the meteorite, the Pokeball) in order to reproduce. How did Sporky come to life in Toy Story 4? Sea creature-esque “gender unknown” are probably hermaphroditic, like real-world sea stars. Staryu, Manaphy, and sure, Cryogonal too, it looks like a starfish anyway. Ghosts just clone themselves or undergo fission.
I don’t know what eggs are either, but I just read 1Q84, so I’m going to go with, they’re woven from invisible magic threads that only certain beings can grab out of thin air, essentially as a cocoon to protect what is inside while the baby Pokemon grows or the teacup becomes haunted or whatever.
I love this!!!
Some ghosts also implicitly reproduce through murder. Like how Phantump are formed from children who die in a way that Trevenant are uniquely suited to facilitate.