Alolan Raichu, Marowak and Exeggutor

The regional variant Pokémon we’re looking at today all evolve from Pokémon that do not have regional variant forms of their own – a Pikachu, Cubone or Exeggcute caught or hatched in Alola will look much the same as a Pikachu, Cubone or Exeggcute caught or hatched anywhere else.  In fact, they don’t just look the same, they are the same; an Alolan Pikachu that is sent to Galar will evolve into a standard Raichu (even though Sword and Shield do know what an Alolan Raichu is, and Pokémon games do track each individual Pokémon’s region of origin), while a Pikachu that arrives in Alola from anywhere else will evolve into an Alolan Raichu.  That’s weird, because other regional forms don’t work this way (with the exception of two Galarian forms, Weezing and Mr. Mime); you can take an Alolan Rattata to any region of the world and keep it there for as long as you like, it’ll still evolve into an Alolan Raticate.  Let’s see if we can figure out what’s going on here.

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Regional Variant Pokémon: Alolan Golem and Dugtrio

Alolan Geodude

In the second instalment of my exploration of regional variant Pokémon, we’re going to deal with two Pokémon whose regional forms are related to Alola’s geology: Alolan Geodude/Graveler/Golem and Alolan Diglett/Dugtrio.  Geology, like archaeology and ecology, has always been in the background of Pokémon, but these games have never been the kind of stories that need a whole lot of scientific verisimilitude in those areas – or, to put it another way, who really gives a $#!t whether or not there are actually Cretaceous fossil deposits in the part of western France that corresponds to Ambrette Town?  I could tell you that I care, and you’d probably believe me because, frankly, I give off a certain vibe, but the truth is I haven’t looked it up, and I’m not going to.  Alola, in my opinion, cares more about the fact that it is Hawai‘i than any of the previous Pokémon regions cared about being each of those places, and at a guess maybe half of Alola’s new Pokémon are in some way influenced by that, but there are still limits – no one cares that there aren’t actually toucans or koalas in Hawai‘i, for instance, because Alola is also just a pastiche tropical paradise that should have whatever Pokémon, locations, characters and rocks seem fun.  Today we have one Pokémon that cares a lot about having a specifically Hawaiian inspiration, and another that takes a somewhat more casual approach – let’s talk about that.

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Regional Variant Pokémon: Alolan Raticate, Persian and Muk

I think we should talk about regional variants, don’t you?  I was going to do the Alolan forms at the end of generation VII, and the timing got so tight at the end, but now that we’ve got a bunch of Galarian forms as well, it seems like something we could do all at once.  So here’s the plan: Alolan forms first, Galarian forms after that, and I dunno if I have all that much to say about each one individually but I could certainly take ‘em three at a time, trying as far as possible to put them into groups that are in some way thematic.  Sound good?  Okay.  We’re going to begin with the Alolan Rattata and Raticate, Meowth and Persian, and Grimer and Muk – not because they are all Dark-types, which is a reason, but not a very good one; we’re putting them together because all three forms exist in Alola as the result of human intervention.  Let’s discuss.

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Zeraora

Zeraora.

Eighty-four Pokémon down… three to go.  Today we’re looking at the Thunderclap Pokémon, Zeraora, the third of generation VII’s  mythical Pokémon.  As with Magearna and Marshadow, Zeraora doesn’t do anything of note in the games, but unlike them, its TV and movie appearances don’t hint at legendary origins or cosmic powers or forbidden ancient secrets or anything like that.  It’s really just a powerful and extremely rare Pokémon that kinda gets caught up in some $#!t, like Heatran, or (to some extent) Latias and Latios, or even Lucario in its movie debut.  Today we’ll look at how that happens – but first, a few words on Zeraora’s design and inspiration.

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Magearna

Magearna

I feel like I’ve said this multiple times already, but I really am finally on the home stretch of generation VII now, with just four Mythical Pokémon remaining: Magearna, Marshadow, Zeraora and Meltan.  In stark contrast to the last few Pokémon I’ve had to deal with, who have had critical roles in the plots of the seventh-generation games, as well as the accompanying seasons of the anime, these four mysterious Pokémon are pretty absent from the games and don’t have much impact on our own journeys through Alola (Meltan doesn’t even show up until we return to Kanto for Let’s Go).  With the exception of Meltan, they do each get their own keynote appearances in movies, though, so we’re going to be drawing fairly heavily on the events and histories presented in those, and as usual the testimony of the Pokédex.  Today we’re looking at Magearna – the aptly-named Artificial Pokémon.

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Necrozma

Necrozma

Today we’re going to look at… probably the closest thing that Ultra Sun and Moon have to an antagonist: the mysterious, sinister light-devouring Pokémon, Necrozma.  With an all-black colour scheme, a name that incorporates the ancient Greek word for corpse, a mysterious extraterrestrial origin, and the ability to blast everything in sight with frikkin’ laser beams, this is clearly a Pokémon to run away from very fast.  But what actually is it?  Let’s discuss.

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Cosmog, Cosmoem, Solgaleo and Lunala

Cosmog

Time to tackle the sun and moon Pokémon of Pokémon: Sun and Moon!  Today we look at the Nebula Pokémon, Cosmog, the Protostar Pokémon, Cosmoem, and their two final forms, the legendary Solgaleo and Lunala.  This is, I warn you now, going to be a long and treacherous journey through complicated blind alleys of astronomy and mythology.  My position on the big version-mascot legendary Pokémon is usually that they aren’t supposed to reference any one specific mythological character or tradition (obligatory link to me ranting about the “Norse mythology” interpretation of the XYZ legendaries).  Instead, they’re attempting to tap into general mythological archetypes that the designers think will be meaningful across many cultures (hence, the version mascots are some of the very few Pokémon whose names are more or less constant across all translations of the game).  This means that interpreting them is… kind of as simple or as complicated as you want to make it, and… well, when have I ever made anything simple?  As with the four Tapu, I’m going to forgo any discussion of the competitive merits of these Pokémon, partly because they’re both crazy powerful and it’s just hard to go wrong with them, but mostly because just scroll down and I think you’ll agree that I have more than served my time here already.  So let’s get into it – starting with why these Pokémon are the types that they are. 

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Tapu Koko, Tapu Lele, Tapu Bulu and Tapu Fini

So… I guess it’s time to learn about native Hawaiian mythology, huh?

Tapu Koko

We’re on the home stretch of seventh-generation Pokémon now, and today we’re talking about the four guardian deities of the Alolan islands: Tapu Koko, Tapu Lele, Tapu Bulu and Tapu Fini.  These four are deeply woven into Alolan culture and identity, and they have a special relationship with the Alolan trial system and its administrators, the four Island Kahunas.  They’re also the pièce de résistance of generation VII’s unprecedented level of interest in taking inspiration from the culture, ecology and history of the real-world region its setting is based on.

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