One lunatic's love-hate relationship with the Pokémon franchise, and his addled musings on its rights, wrongs, ins and outs. Come one, come all, and indulge my delusions of grandeur as I inflict my opinions on anyone within shouting distance.
Today’s Galarian variant Pokémon, Yamask and Corsola, are both Ghost-types, and they have some pretty different ideas about what that means. One is an ancient curse, supposedly the twisted remnants of a long-dead human corrupted by mysterious dark magic; the other is older still, the revenant of a prehistoric extinction event whose lasting effects on the Galar region we can only begin to trace. This piece might feel a little different from the others in this series, because it’s difficult to talk about Pokémon “adapting to the environment” of a new region when those Pokémon are dead and the environment is literally magic. But Ghost Pokémon consistently have really interesting lore, and there’s some cool stuff to dig into as we investigate the inspirations of these Pokémon. Let’s take a look.
Yamask and Runerigus
Unovan Yamask are tragic Pokémon, with some of the saddest backstories in the Pokédex. Yamask are supposedly the spirits of dead humans, and each one carries a clay mask which is said to represent its human face. They retain memories from their human lives and weep for their loss, their masks a constant reminder of their eternal sorrow. Which is, as the expression goes, a bummer. Once it evolves, Cofagrigus has a pretty different attitude, becoming a spiteful tomb guardian who devours grave robbers with a crazed grin on its face. Although its mask is still there, set into Cofagrigus’ forehead, according to its new Pokédex entry in Sword Version, “people say it no longer remembers that it was once human” – as if its curse has overtaken it completely. Now, Galarian Yamask… don’t have masks. Instead, a Galarian Yamask’s tail is embedded in a chunk of what looks like carved stone but might in fact be clay, since its Pokédex entry makes reference to “a clay slab with cursed engravings [that] took possession of a Yamask” (this mention of clay is the only reason I can find for Galarian Yamask to be Ground/Ghost rather than Rock/Ghost, since from every other angle these Pokémon appear to be rocky). In the case of the evolved form, Runerigus, we get a troubling line about “absorbing the spirit of a Yamask” to animate the painting on the surface of its body. Just like Unovan Yamask eventually succumb to the curse that strips away the last of their remembered humanity and transforms them into Cofagrigus, something has taken over this Yamask spirit and is gradually turning it into a malevolent force… but what?
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.
Before we begin, I want to point out, for the benefit of people who might not usually pay attention to this kind of thing, that Palossand has one of the best French names I’ve ever seen for a Pokémon: Trépassable. It’s a portmanteau of trépas, demise, and sable, sand, but it also sounds like très passable – “good enough,” which is a phrase that everyone who has ever built a sandcastle has uttered at least once.
Anyway. Haunted sandcastles!
Haunted castles make perfect sense to anyone with even a vague familiarity with 19th century gothic horror or its 20th century cinematic inheritors. Beginning with Horace Walpole’s 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, any gothic horror worth the name has a menacing castle on a windswept crag in the middle of a dark forest in Molvania or some similarly dismal place, and said castle is regularly infested with a range of “local colour” including but not limited to bats, vampires, mad scientists, werewolves and, of course, ghosts. Ghosts and castles go hand in hand right down to contemporary fiction, with the entertaining spiritual population of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series, and ghosts in the haunting business are commonly depicted as pursuing “unfinished business” or grudges left over from their lives. But a haunted sandcastle might be something of a new one… Continue reading “Sandygast and Palossand”→
Jim the Editor and I had an American friend once who, while on an archaeological dig in Italy, famously infuriated an old Italian man to the point of explosive outrage by repeatedly addressing a dog “ciao, burro” – burro being (as our friend well knew) the Spanish word for donkey, and therefore already a rather silly thing to say to an Italian dog. Even worse, though, burro is also the Italian word for butter, so an onlooker could forgiven for thinking that someone saying “ciao, burro” to a dog is completely insane. Years later, this event has only two substantial legacies: first, that Jim now feels compelled to address all dogs “ciao, burro,” and second, that my Mudsdale now has the dreadful misfortune of being named “Butter.”
Let’s talk about Mudbray and Mudsdale.
To start with the obvious: Mudbray is a donkey, and Mudsdale is a horse. The two species are actually about as distant from one another as horses are from zebras (which get to be their own Pokémon), but I suppose donkeys are not exactly among the most fascinatingly exotic animals in the world, so it’s understandable that for Pokémon’s purposes they would get lumped in with horses as a “close enough.” Donkeys are proverbially known as stubborn animals, because they have very different fear responses to horses – horses bolt when frightened, but donkeys freeze, and usually give very few external cues to express their discomfort, so someone who only knows horses will often think a startled or cautious donkey is being “stubborn” by refusing to move. You could probably ask, fairly, whether the same might be true of Mudbray, who merits a description by the Pokédex as “stubborn” and “individualistic” (unlike horses, donkeys are not naturally herd animals) – maybe that reputation comes from inexperienced trainers who haven’t been taught how to handle them. Mudbray’s… honestly quite disturbing… blank-looking round eyes are probably meant to reinforce this aspect of her personality, making her look a bit vacant and detached – although the unnerving oblong pupils seem to be based on the appearance of a real equine eye. On account of the rough terrain of their natural habitats, where strength matters more than speed, donkeys are actually stronger for their size than horses. In Mudbray’s case, this translates to a carrying capacity of “50 times its own body weight” – over 5 tonnes. As usual, it’s probably best to think of numbers in the Pokédex as more illustrative than literal – even if a Mudbray might not actually be able to support the weight of a fully grown African elephant, after seeing one in action you might believe it.
Today I’m looking at the second of Black and White’s legendary trios, the ogre-like genies Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus. Why do these games have so many legendary Pokémon, anyway? Every set of games always introduces more of the things than the last (compare five in Red and Blue to thirteen in Black and White), and at some point you have to wonder how many we actually need… but I should judge them all on their merits, shouldn’t I? So, without further ado: the legendary genies, Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus.
As their astonishingly inventive names attest, Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus are spirits of wind, lightning and earth; Landorus is a Ground/Flying dual-type, Thundurus an Electric/Flying dual-type, and Tornadus the only single-typed Flying Pokémon in the entire game. Tornadus and Thundurus are chaotic and sometimes destructive storm spirits who zip around frying people, blowing them away, playing tricks, ransacking things at random, and occasionally beating the hell out of each other and laying waste to a few neighbourhoods in the process. Landorus, in stark contrast, is a benevolent figure associated with protection and fertility, whose role is to keep the other two in line and to encourage crops to grow healthily. When Tornadus or Thundurus (or both) makes trouble for the villages of Unova, Landorus shows up to settle things. Continue reading “Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus”→
Today on Pokémaniacal I’m looking at Tony Stark, better known as Iron Man, a Marvel Comics superhero who made his debut appearance in 1963 and has since-
…I’m sorry, I seem to have wandered into the wrong blog. Normally I do Pokémon stuff.
Oh, really? Huh.
*Ahem* Today on Pokémaniacal I’m looking at Golett and Golurk, the automaton Pokémon. These two are based on golems (as distinct from Golem, the evolved form of Graveler), humanoid guardian creatures from Jewish folklore originally associated with the city of Prague, which have since worked their way into a number of high fantasy settings as the magical equivalent to robots. Nowadays golems can be constructed from just about any material you care to name, the more outlandish the better, but as Ground-types Golett and Golurk seem to follow the original in being made primarily out of clay. They are likewise believed to have been created by ancient people to act as protectors (goodness knows how the things are still around after all this time). So far, so good. Continue reading “Golett and Golurk”→
This one is tricky; I’m not sure whether to love it or hate it… Today I’m looking at Stunfisk, the trap Pokémon, a flat-bodied bottom-dweller with a penchant for frying anything unlucky enough to step on him. My first thought was that Stunfisk is pretty clearly based on a perfectly ordinary flatfish like a flounder or plaice, but with added lightning because everything is better with lightning (kind of arbitrary, but also fun). I have since learned, however, that there are actually fish, called stargazers (so named because their eyes, like a flounder’s, are on the tops of their heads), which behave in more or less the same way as flounders – they spend most of their time half-buried on the seafloor, waiting for prey to stumble across them – but can also produce electrical current in much the same way as an electric eel. Continue reading “Stunfisk”→
I could go either way on this one, really. Let’s see.
Today I’ll be talking about the desert crocodile Pokémon, Sandile, Krokorok and Krookodile. They are… well… crocodiles that live in the desert. That’s a good start, but it does seem to me like the designers have been reusing a formula again – and I’m not talking about the older crocodile Pokémon, Totodile, Croconaw and Feraligatr. What Game Freak have done is take a North African river animal, shift it a few hundred kilometres west, turn it into a Ground-type with a wave of their magic wand and said “eh; good enough.” Sound familiar?
I don’t want to review these Pokémon. I really don’t. Sadly, they’re sitting there in the Pokédex, right after Timburr, Gurdurr and Conkeldurr, and I don’t exactly have much of an excuse not to. So… with as little ado as possible, let’s get started on the vibration Pokémon, Tympole, Palpitoad and Seismitoad.
Understand that I do not think these are terrible Pokémon. They are not… badly designed, as such. I think Tympole and, yes, even Palpitoad are kind of cute. Seismitoad may be ungainly, but as he’s a toad Pokémon I think that’s intentional. No, the crux of my problem is that they are just rather dull. They’re not even interesting enough for me to hate properly, which makes this business of writing a blog post about them rather a trial. Nonetheless, I shall persevere. Tympole, Palpitoad and Seismitoad are tadpole and frog Pokémon, obviously. “Tadpole and frog Pokémon,” unfortunately, is an idea that was already done way back in Red and Blue by Poliwag, Poliwhirl and Poliwrath (Poliwhirl, incidentally, is the favourite Pokémon of Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of the franchise, which is something of a difficult legacy to live up to when you think about it). The Pokédex continues to classify Poliwhirl and Poliwrath as “tadpole Pokémon,” but let’s face it, they’re clearly fully-grown and looking more like frogs than tadpoles, and there’s really no question about Politoed, the alternate final evolution for Poliwhirl added in Gold and Silver. I suppose you could make the argument that Palpitoad and Seismitoad are toad Pokémon, not frog Pokémon, what with the bumps that are meant to represent a toad’s “warts,” but since the only thing that really makes a toad a toad and not a frog is that they can live happily out of water, and Seismitoad is still a Water-type, I think that’s splitting hairs a bit (yes, all right, he’s a Water/Ground dual-type; big deal). Continue reading “Tympole, Palpitoad and Seismitoad”→
Okay, what’s next in the Pokédex after Conkeldurr?
…oh, gods. No, I’m not doing that. Not right after Gigalith and Conkeldurr. I can only take so much idiocy. They will live, for now.
Hey, look! I missed one out! Yeah, I’m doing that one instead.
Meet Drilbur, the mole Pokémon. Okay, I know the Pokédex says we already have a “Mole Pokémon” but be honest; none of you out there ever actually thought that Diglett looked anything like a mole, did you? If anything, Diglett and Dugtrio are actually equivalent to earthworms, not moles, since they apparently play a role in maintaining soil fertility by turning and mixing it, whereas real moles are regarded as pests. Drilbur and the evolved Excadrill can be pests too in the wrong place because their burrows can interfere with whatever the human population is trying to accomplish underground, like building subway lines, but since they’re also brilliant at building tunnels for humans they tend to be forgiven. I quite like how the two Pokédex entries for Black and White illustrate how the same Pokémon’s abilities can both help and hinder; it strikes me as quite a nice touch. I also like Drilbur’s design; he’s cute but no pushover. You’re not exactly going to run screaming, but this is clearly still not a Pokémon you want to mess with. Continue reading “Drilbur and Excadrill”→