Cassidy Arnold asks:

how do you feel about the new region being based on Spain?

it also seems like it has a “past” / “Future” motif which you may be interested in.

I am going to continue to insist on saying “Iberia” rather than “Spain” because, y’know, there is a name for that whole region Paldea is based on, which actually contains countries not called Spain – not that anyone’s told either Game Freak or the fandom that.

Although, on the other hand, I do think it would be extremely funny if Scarlet and Violet somehow recognised Andorra but not Portugal, and would be prepared to endorse this course of action.

Anyway.  I’m not sure that it occurs to me to feel one way or another about it.  I don’t think it’s a bad choice, nor is it exactly what I would have chosen.  If the last few generations are any indication, we can expect a significant fraction of Paldea’s Pokémon to draw inspiration from Iberian flora and fauna, as well as regional history and culture; we’ve already seen Smoliv (can’t have a Mediterranean region without olives, after all) and Lechonk (the black Iberian pigs that produce ibérico ham).  I suppose I am also curious how the games’ depiction of Paldean culture might be influenced by the history of Iberia.  I think in general the Pokémon games tend to reference real-world history in ways that are pretty oblique and allegorical, on account of how actual history is so often a bit of a downer.  They’ll put a little Roman soldier Pokémon in Galar and give Circhester the same Georgian neoclassical architecture as Bath, but they won’t imply the existence of a Roman Empire, if you see what I mean. If there are any references to the role of Spain and Portugal in colonising the Americas, for instance, we can expect them to be heavily sanitised; there might be some pretty buildings here and there inspired by Moorish architecture, but only vaguest possible allusions to the religious conflicts that have characterised so much of Spain’s history. I do wonder whether they might somehow work in a Galarian connection with Gibraltar (and even if they don’t, there are plenty of vacation spots in Spain and Portugal beloved by British holidaymakers); Pokémon does like implying historical links between different regions, like the Kantonian cultural influence on Alola. Speaking of Alola, actually, the malasada is originally a Portuguese dish, and one of Oricorio’s forms is a flamenco dancer – I’d be interested to know whether there’s a Paldean connection in either of those.

Past/Future does seems like something that would interest me, but “that seems like something that would interest me” is kinda all there is to say about it so far.  I’m of the opinion that Past/Future (or its cousin, Tradition/Innovation) is at least a minor theme of almost every Pokémon game in the “core” series, so when Scarlet and Violet say explicitly that it’s going to be a primary theme… well, yes, I’m interested, but that’s because I’m usually interested whenever it comes up in a Pokémon game, which happens pretty often, and the fact that these games are labelling it as a core aesthetic motif doesn’t necessarily mean much.  X and Y have some interesting things to say about tradition, lineage, individual responsibility, collective good and redemption, but they don’t really say anything particularly insightful about life and death – nor, in my opinion, are the merits of Diamond and Pearl’s story in their ideas about space and time, nor are Black and White at their best while talking about “truth” and “ideals” (words which are, in those games, close to meaningless).  So I guess what I’m saying is “we’ll see when we see,” which is something I try to say about every Pokémon game, but seems to get harder and harder every time.

Further Opinions are to be found here and here, in case you haven’t already seen those.

Leo M.R. asks:

I’ve a couple of questions about Cassandra, the Trojan princess/seer:

1) Were the conditions of her curse known to other people? I assume not – otherwise it’d defeat the purpose of the whole ‘will never be believed’ thing – but you never know.

2) How *did* her prophesizing work, anyway? Was it involuntary like she’d get pseudo-possessed à la Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter (which I imagine contributed to her madwoman status)? Or did she actively divined like she had to read the movement of birds or something (in which case, couldn’t she have just… *not*?)?

So, part of Cassandra’s deal is that, although we think of her as a character from the Trojan War, which we associate with the Homeric epics, the major surviving texts where she actually does anything are all tragedies (in fact, Cassandra is such a minor character in the Iliad that I don’t think Homer ever mentions her gift/curse of prophecy – it might even have been a later addition to the myth, although of course I can’t prove that). And Greek tragedies are all about mortals rushing headlong into terrible fates that they could easily have avoided if only things had gone a little bit differently. I think we’ve gotta see Cassandra’s prophecies as the same class of Thing as, like, Oedipus’ prophecy about killing his father and marrying his mother: even when you know it’s coming, you’re powerless to stop it, because that’s just the kind of thing Fate does to mortals who know the future.

Continue reading “Leo M.R. asks:”

Katiecat asks:

Why do you think Pokemon is still so damn popular? I work with kids and they’re *still* obsessed with the damn things. It feels like so many trends have come and gone but Pokemon is weirdly enduring. And what’s weird is a lot of the kids today like the original Pokemon best- I talk to kids I work with and almost all of their favorite Pokemon are from the original 151. If it were like, mewtwo or mew it might make sense but there are kids I know whose favorites are tauros and jynx!

If I had to guess, I’d say that I think it plays to desires and values of the 90s that have only gotten more important in the decades since.  There’s the desire for a lost connection with nature in a modern urban world, the consumerist impulse to collect, the search for companionship through electronic media that was originally behind Tamagotchi, the promise of definite bounded knowledge and learning in a world growing steadily more and more complicated… I think a lot of Pokémon’s more escapist promises have more allure now, not less.

Anyway that’s very much a guess based on my personal observations of how I and other people seem to relate to Pokémon; this next part is even more of a guess.

As for the gen 1 Pokémon still being the most popular… well, I’m not an authority on what younger people like or what draws anyone to a specific Pokémon, nor am I in possession of any relevant stats, but I honestly kinda think it might be mainly exposure.  The Sacred 150 are still pretty front-and-centre in a lot of marketing, as well as many side games.  More importantly, older Pokémon fans know them better and create more art and fiction that uses them, and memes about them get more traction – in the 90s, we mostly consumed official Pokémon media because that’s what existed, but kids using the internet today are also getting a lot of unofficial material that was made by… well, us.  Official merch also skews towards what marketers think we will buy, either for ourselves or for our children, and we recognise and respond to the old designs.  That’s probably not the whole of it, but that’s all I can offer without making a bunch of unsupported assumptions about what kids are thinking.

I can’t think of a joke name asks: 

What do you think about the death of the queen

Well, it proves that Her Queenship’s original body was not biologically immortal, which actually shoots down several theories I previously considered fairly plausible. Jim the Editor and I are currently working under the assumption that, after a brief and decisive spiritual struggle, she took over the body of the Lesser Liz during their first official meeting as monarch and PM (no British Prime Minister since Thatcher could possibly have had the sheer evil resolve to resist her, but Truss may have been especially vulnerable because of their shared name). Now inhabiting the body and office of the new Prime Minister, and with her loyal son ruling as Charlie 3, she will seek to establish a new Holy British Empire by conquering the EU and Brexiting each of its member states, one by one. The Second Elizabethan Age has ended, but the reign of the dread Eternal Queen is only just beginning!

Other than that, I’m mostly concerned by what this might mean for the great Prophecy of the Queen of Pentacles in my ongoing Kingslocke of Heart Gold. I mean, I just posted the episode where I defeat the Champion this morning and I didn’t have either of the True Queens of Johto in my party; could that have been the final straw? Are these events symbolic of the final death of monarchy itself? What will happen if we don’t fulfil the Prophecy?

Also, does this mean Charlie 3 will be on all the money by the time I get home in December? That’s going to be weird.

K asks:

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?

so

y’see

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.

Continue reading “K asks:”

Pink Fairy Armadillo asks:

If you could have one Pokémon help you with your PhD thesis right now which one would you want? Like not to help you directly write it but help with other things related to it?

I like to think about things like what Pokémon would make good service animals and stuff. Pretty much any Pokémon work, the least obvious ones are more interesting!

To be honest, at the point I’m at, directly writing it is pretty much the entire remaining task; I don’t have any more travel to do, or objects to examine.  So… the real answer to this question is none of them, and nothing, because there is nothing else – just my brain, the scholarship and some Word docs.  And… I’d be pretty nervous about using a Pokémon’s abilities to try to augment my brain (my mind always goes back to the cautionary tale of that anime episode where a bunch of aristocrats use Drowzee and Hypno to help them sleep and accidentally scramble the brains of a dozen local children).  I’ll assume Victini’s power to make its trainer always succeed at everything is off the table.

In a hypothetical world where I were still travelling to visit archaeological sites or working on physical objects, I suppose there’d be a lot more options.  I’ve always thought a Claydol’s combination of psychic senses and control over earth and soil would be really helpful in carefully digging through dirt one layer at a time.  Castform’s ability to manipulate the weather would be great during a dig – you can get a bit of cloud cover to avoid the worst of the summer sun, but also make sure it doesn’t rain on your open trenches.  Failing that, I’d take anything that can produce drinkable water; I’m not 100% clear on whether humans can safely drink water from a Pokémon’s Water Gun attack, but if you can, the possibilities are endless.  Pokémon seem to have at least some ability to comprehend human speech regardless of the actual language being spoken, so a Pokémon that can also imitate speech, like Chatot, might have some potential as an interpreter (alas, street signs would probably remain out of reach – I can read French, Italian, German and Greek with a certain… very limited degree of competence, but I can’t even sound out a single written word in Hebrew or Arabic).  In terms of some more specific archaeological problems… well, Stakataka might have some very niche use if you could train it to simulate the collapse of walls and structures in different field conditions.  I wonder if you could teach a Muk to run some form of microdestructive chemical analysis…?

I suppose a Metagross’s supercomputer brain would be good for the statistical processing of my chemical data that I actually do still need to finish, but I think there’s a solid argument that that would be cheating.  And there is also Xatu’s ability to see into the past… but to be honest, if that vision could be reliably/safely shared with humans, it would instantly make a good chunk of the current methods and practice of archaeology and history obsolete, so if I had access to that, I probably wouldn’t be writing this thesis at all.  Not that I wouldn’t still be interested in studying the past, but I’d be asking completely different questions.

Leo M.R. asks:

Oh hey, we’re back to questions time? Awesome! I’ve got a linguist-y question I’ve been mulling about for some time: do you reckon mute Trainers exist in the Pokémon world? If so, how do you suppose they give out commands to their Pokémon in battle? Would using sign language be effective in commanding Pokémon in real-time? Do you think Pokémon could even *understand* sign language? What about sightless Pokémon like Roggenrola?

Interesting. Pokémon is historically not great about disability representation. The only named disabled character I know of in any official Pokémon media is Howard Clifford from the Detective Pikachu movie, a paraplegic whose evil plan is explicitly motivated by his desire to overcome his paraplegia, which… y’know, I wouldn’t mind that if Pokémon had lots of other disabled characters, but when he’s the only one it’s a “yikes” from me. Searching on Bulbapedia I have found exactly one semi-canonical minor character who is deaf: an unnamed trainer who battles Ash in the 2000 stage musical Pokémon Live! His partner Pokémon is a Jigglypuff, and he’s immune to its enchanting song, which is traditionally a major hazard to friends as well as foes. And I think that’s a good example of the cool $#!t Pokémon is missing out on by not having more characters who are blind, or deaf, or use wheelchairs, or have prosthetic limbs, or really anything else that reflects the diversity of human physical capability.

Continue reading “Leo M.R. asks:”

Lupina Howls asks:

Wait, you’re using this again? Neat. Well thoughts on Tarastalization? (The Crystal hat thingy in Scarvio)

No-one sent any questions in for, like, six months! There were, like, one or two comments, but nothing that seemed worth posting a response to. This question-and-answer routine is a terrible system for two complementary reasons: one is that if no one asks any questions for a while, people forget it’s an option or think I’m not doing it anymore, and continue not asking any questions (to be honest, until last week I was beginning to suspect that perhaps it had finally died a natural death); the other is that if I get a lot of questions in a short time and manage to answer them, people get excited about it and send in more than I have time to write proper answers to, and then sometimes if I’m busy in real life it starts to feel overwhelming and I actually do give up on it for a while. It’s an extremely bad system that I only have in the first place because it was there by default on Tumblr, but hey, it means sometimes I talk about topics I wouldn’t have thought to talk about, without making it a whole thing that I have to have a researched and sober opinion on.

sorry, what were you saying?

oh yeah, sparklification

Well, I’ve never been one to get super enthusiastic about the big flashy mechanics like Mega Evolution or Z-Moves, but I have to admit, the strategic possibilities of being able to set up a Pokémon to change its type are interesting. The way it’s described, it sounds like sparklified Pokémon get a sort of double-STAB, so they’ll certainly have raw power on tap, but it seems like something that will take a bit more finesse and forethought than Dynamax or Mega Evolution. To be honest, I think the sparkly hats look pretty goofy, but I suppose they’re a reasonable compromise in this dilemma Game Freak seems to keep facing, where they want the flagship mechanic to be something all Pokémon can participate in (rather than a small minority, as with Mega Evolution), but also want it to be something visually striking that isn’t practical to tailor to every Pokémon in the game. I actually quite liked how Dynamax was part of the regional battle culture of Galar; I don’t think we’ve seen yet how/whether Scarlet and Violet plan to work sparklification into Paldean culture, but it seems clear that the phenomenon is tied to the land and perhaps the geology of Paldea itself, and I don’t believe any of the trailers or promos have claimed it’s a recent discovery, so I have to imagine there’ll be some kind of local tradition around it.

K asks:

Is your Legends Arceus playthrough dead? Are you planning on doing reviews for the Galarian pokemon/the Hisuian variants?

Now, I know you’ve asked me two very specific things here, but they kinda touch on some bigger issues of What I Do And Why that I probably should talk about, so – and this, K, is not a reflection on you at all, this is not your fault – instead I’m going to drink heavily and shout at you.

(also the context of everything else that follows is that I have a few months left to finish my PhD thesis or die trying, so I’m trying to avoid committing to anything big at all until next year; I am not going to touch Scarlet/Violet at all until mid-December at the very earliest, no, I’m serious, K, I mean it; it’s okay not to play things on launch day, for goodness’ sake, it’s fine, calm your tits, K)

Continue reading “K asks:”

Pixel3r asks:

If Vileplume got a gigantamax form, would you prefer it be a giant body with a tiny flower, or an even larger flower with a tiny body?

I dunno if I need Vileplume to have a Gigantamax form, honestly. I think if it did get one, though, the aesthetic of Gigantamax is all about exaggerating whatever a Pokémon’s most prominent features are already. So: enormous flower, petals reach down to the ground, the Pokémon’s body dangling from the middle, legs waving in the air.