What do you think is up w/ types and “life energy” these days? Like, if you had to sum up what your theory is on Dragon, Psychic, and Fairy types and how those relate to the nebulous concept of “life energy” in Pokemon?
y’know what, I may as well revisit this one, yeah
listen, for the record, I’m about to go way too into depth about this $#!t because I’ve tried to answer this before and I change my mind practically every time there’s a new Pokémon game, and I am chronically incapable of addressing a problem without recapping everything I’ve ever thought about it. Really what I should do is research it properly and actually write up A Big Long Thing, but that sounds hard so I’m not going to. If you read on you have only yourself to blame.
What I always went back to was this line, originally from Gold and Silver, where one of the gym trainers at Clair’s gym in Blackthorn City describes Dragon Pokémon as “Pokémon that are overflowing with life energy” (or something like that; I’m quoting from memory). In that original context, it seems like this is an explanation for how Dragon-with-a-capital-D Pokémon – at the time a very exclusive club, consisting of only Dratini, Dragonair, Dragonite and Kingdra – are different from Pokémon that are dragons, like Charizard and Gyarados. Dratini and Dragonair are kinda the emblematic Dragon Pokémon at that point, and they have this snakelike ability to shed their skin and “rejuvenate” themselves (which is exactly why snakes are often linked with immortality in real-world mythology). My mind also always goes to the Victini and Reshiram/Zekrom movie(s), where the plot revolves around a character’s attempts to manipulate something called the “Dragon Force,” an underground stream of life energy that has some vague connection to the legendary Dragon Pokémon of Unova. Similarly, in Jewel of Life, Arceus creates the titular jewel, which has the power to invigorate living things and restore damaged ecosystems, from its plates that correspond to the elements of Water and Ground (basic necessities of life), Grass (the foundational life represented by plants), Electric (a “spark” to get things started) and Dragon (because… y’know, you can’t have life without dragons?). Legendary Dragon Pokémon are prominent in the lore of generations III-V and often seem to have those big “cosmic keystone” roles. So it sounds like Dragon Pokémon are special precisely because they have this unique connection to some kind of abstract universal “life force” that other Pokémon obviously need (because… y’know, they’re alive) but aren’t directly linked to.
But then generation VI happens, and now we have Fairy-types, and in particular we have Xerneas, who is very closely linked with the idea of “life” as an abstract force that flows through the world and can be shared or given (or, for that matter, stolen). Then again, we also have Zygarde, and Zygarde is a Dragon-type who is also mixed up in the same forces as Xerneas and Yveltal, and is supposed to serve some kind of balancing role between the two, and is particularly linked with the balance of ecosystems – of the “web” of life force. Meanwhile, we’re learning about Mega Evolution, and that’s apparently fuelled by the same energy that Lysandre was going to siphon off from Xerneas and Yveltal to power the Ultimate Weapon, and the same energy source is supposedly the basis of all of Devon Corporation’s technology (which is an absolutely insane revelation that Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby just casually stick in the mouth of a minor character during the epilogue and then scarcely ever mention again, as if the games themselves have no idea what a wild thing they just said). And Mega Evolution, at least in Kalos, comes from this power and is somehow linked to the Ultimate Weapon, which suggests that the very different celestial origins of Mega Evolution in Hoenn are somehow connected to the same form of life energy.
And then generation VII happens, and now we have Tapu Lele, the Tapu of Life, as a Psychic-type (Tapu Lele is also a Fairy-type, but so are the other three Tapu, so it’s Psychic that ought to be related to Tapu Lele’s specific role in the Alolan religion and cosmology). Mew in generation VII has a unique Z-move called Genesis Supernova, which the name implies is… somehow something to do with Mew’s supposed status as the ancestor of all Pokémon, and which has the same effect (creating Psychic Terrain) as Tapu Lele’s Psychic Surge ability. And Necrozma, whose light is supposedly the original source of all life in Alola, is also a Psychic-type (and a Dragon-type, in its true form). So maybe it’s Psychic-types now that we think have command of life energy?
Generation VIII largely has not had legendary Pokémon with these kinds of greater-scope tutelary roles. Everything is tied to more specific events and place: Zacian and Zamazenta with the Darkest Day and the origin of the Galarian monarchy; Calyrex and its noble steeds with its local role as the ruler of the Crown Tundra; Kubfu and Urshifu with the martial arts traditions of the Isle of Armour. But there is also Eternatus, who is a Dragon-type and the source of… something. Whatever power allows Pokémon to Dynamax. You’d think it would be at least similar to the power that fuels Mega Evolution and Z-moves, and like Hoenn’s Mega Stones it appears to have a celestial origin. On the other hand, Galar has Stonjourner, who is a Rock-type, BUT, because it’s based on Stonehenge, has a connection with the idea of special places, with this British idea of “ley lines” that is also (I think deliberately) evoked by the special places where Pokémon can Dynamax, and Stonjourner’s unique ability, “Power Spot,” has the same name as those special places (in Japanese as well as in English, I checked; both are パワースポット, just a katakana transliteration of “Power Spot”).
And, and, and, generation IX is going to have sparklification as its flagship mechanic, which has an aesthetic connection with gemstones and apparently draws upon energy from special rock formations and crystals, but can grant the powers of any Pokémon type. So, between that and Stonjourner, does the Rock-type – one of the types most alien to our real-world conception of what “life” even is – have a claim on a special connection with fundamental life force now?
(also, I will never not take the opportunity to claim that Carbink, not Mew, is the true ancestor of all Pokémon because Pokémon originally evolved from rocks; it was kind of a $#!tpost when I first said it but it just gets more and more plausible to me with every passing year)
so here’s the thing
What I would like to think now (and I have no supporting evidence for this, other than that it seems like an elegant explanation for all the apparent contradictions and I think Pokémon’s creators would prefer not to put one type above the others) is that every Pokémon type, along with all the trainers who specialise in them, think that they’re the ones who really “get” how life force works in the Pokémon universe. They all believe they have the purest connection to this mysterious “life energy,” but all of them are blind men describing a multicoloured cosmic elephant. They’re all manipulating exactly the same source of power, but they all have different ideas about what it means and interact with it in different ways. Dragon-types and Dragon Tamers think they know best what life force is because Dragon Pokémon are long-lived and supernaturally healthy and perhaps in some cases can perceive the “flow” of life within ecosystems; Fairy-types and Fairytale Girls think they know best because they can manipulate and bestow life force; Ghost-types and Hex Maniacs think they know best because they understand how life force ultimately leaves this world; Rock- and Ground-types think they know best because they’re linked to the world itself, which is the medium that life force exists in and flows through; Fire-types and their trainers think they know best because life is nurtured by warmth and fire is nurtured by life; hell, even Poison-types think they’re onto something because all life is chemical reactions. I’m also thinking here of Necrozma, who is a prism, an object that bends many colours of light into one, or one into many. Necrozma’s shards, the Z-Crystals, come in many different colours corresponding to the different Pokémon types and have different effects, but all of them channel the same cosmic light. When you get Pokémon that are the same type despite apparently being unrelated to each other, it doesn’t mean that the “essence of Grass-type-ness” or whatever has evolved multiple times, it means that their different relationships with the same universal “life force” have converged to something similar enough that they end up sharing similar powers and weaknesses.
Of course, that does also now mean that I have no idea what a Dragon-type is, other than “a Pokémon that interacts with life-force in the particular way that Dragon-types do, whatever that is.” Y’know, win some, lose some.