Do you think the people of the pokemon universe consider Yveltal and other destructive pokemon evil? Affection for legendary pokemon works the same way it does for others, should we have to earn their trust in a different way? And they still do things like play minigames with you and make cute faces when you pet them. Why?
I don’t get the impression they do. They might be scared of certain Pokémon that have dangerous powers or that humans don’t know much about, but I’m trying my hardest to think of anyone who says a Pokémon is “evil” and I’m really not coming up with much (not counting phenomena like the Shadow Pokémon from Gale of Darkness and Pokémon Go, who have been transformed by an external force and can be “purified” to return them to their peaceful natural state). Individual Pokémon can certainly be evil, like the Malamar from the X and Y anime or Meowth from Team Rocket (maybe Meowth is debateable as he has several redeeming qualities, but he certainly self-identifies as “evil”), but species of Pokémon aren’t inherently evil. When Yveltal appears in the games, it’s a pawn of Lysandre, and in the Diancie movie, it’s treated as extremely dangerous but not really malevolent, more like a living natural disaster than a villain. Tyranitar and Hydreigon are much the same, destructive forces of nature more than evil beings. Mewtwo is, I think, intended to be more complex than just outright “evil”; Necrozma is destructive because it’s diminished and broken; most Dark Pokémon that are mischievous or violent are treated as being dangerous in an animalistic way.
The only ones I can come up with, the only Pokémon that I think are ever implied to be by nature actively and deliberately malicious, are a few of the Ghost Pokémon that literally represent “evil spirits” – Banette and Spiritomb and the like. And even then, the inspirations behind Spiritomb’s design imply the possibility of redemption: the 108 demons of Water Margin become heroes; the 108 temptations that lie between mortals and Nirvana can be overcome. For Spiritomb, the same has to be possible. We’re told by the Ultra Moon Pokédex that Banette’s curse can be broken by treating it with kindness. And I suspect that this should be the default assumption – that even when Pokémon are violent or destructive or malevolent in nature, there is a way in. And that way in commonly involves macarons, doughnuts and/or curry.
I think fundamentally, Pokémon are animals, and Pokémon the series takes the view that humans have a responsibility to be the enlightened stewards of the natural world. We’re supposed to show them the difference between right and wrong (or, in some cases, accept that they are beyond our understanding of right and wrong). What we’re not in a position to do – what I don’t believe the series ever endorses us in doing – is judge them.
Except for Drapion; Drapion’s a piece of $#!t
How tf is phione a legendary but not Volcarona, Rotom or Spiritomb????
Well, there is no real definition of what a legendary Pokémon is, other than “the ones we say are legendary Pokémon.” It seems to me like the distinction has two parts. There’s a real-world reason, related to how you, the player, go about obtaining the Pokémon practically, and there’s an in-universe reason, roughly related to how well-known the Pokémon is.
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You mentioned that, in gens 1 through 4, all of the “archaeologists” in the Pokemon games were either glorified grave robbers or hobbyists (with the latter category being pretty much entirely represented by Cynthia and maybe Eusine). Has there been any improvement in the portrayal or archaeology since then?
I think so! I mean, a lot of the archaeologist-as-adventurer-and/or-grave-robber stereotypes are baked into pop culture in a way that it’s difficult to get away from, but I actually wrote an article about this for PokéJungle not long after Sword and Shield came out, which you can read here. I think Sonia’s storyline in those games presents an attitude to the past, and the study of the past, that is kind of unique in Pokémon so far and much more representative of what history and archaeology are actually like: a process of negotiating and reshaping our understanding of the past and our relationship with it. All Pokémon games since Gold and Silver have cared at least a little about the ancient past, but I think Sword and Shield really “get” it, more so than any of their predecessors have.
Is there a Pokémon version of Christmas? Is there, like, Arceus-mas or Arce-easter where people celebrate Arceus instead of Jesus? I’m pretty sure there was a winter festival about gifts or something in the anime.
Well, the Kanto series of the anime had a literal Christmas episode – like, they met Santa Claus and everything. So the easy answer is yes, Christmas exists, takes place during the northern hemisphere’s winter and is associated with gift-giving. Therefore, Jesus, St. Nicholas of Myra and the Christian faith all exist, therefore the Roman Empire existed and the date of Christmas was fixed at December 25th at some point during the reign of Constantine I in the 4th century (probably by the logic of that date being nine months after Passover, which was thought to be the date of Jesus’ conception, which in turn means that both Egypt and the Jewish people exist); in addition, if the birth of Jesus was a significant event we have to assume that his death was likewise significant and that Easter therefore also exists… and so on.
I said that was the “easy” answer, didn’t I…?
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Do you think the Pokémon games would be well-received in the Pokémon world?
Y’know, I think they would be. The real world has plenty of very popular and successful video games that simulate real sports: soccer, American football, basketball, wrestling, golf, skateboarding. Most people can, in principle, learn to do those things for real, but very few can learn all of them, and very few can do them at the highest levels of skill. Even people who are top-tier professionals sometimes enjoy relaxing with a simulated version of their sport. I think the same would probably apply to Pokémon training and Pokémon battles. Not every Youngster Joey with a Rattata can travel the region, earn eight badges, meet legendary Pokémon, defeat Team Badguy and become a League Champion, y’know? I think it would be a compelling experience for people who are too young to become trainers for real, or don’t have the time to give to a pro battling career, or just don’t like the idea of their Pokémon getting hurt.
What are your thoughts on Pokémon evolution as a biological process instead of as a gameplay feature?
Larry has no shortage of his own thoughts so I’m gonna break this up.
Most evolutionary lines are very clearly meant to be not only progressions of power, but also of physical maturity and aging. There are outright “baby pokémon”, but it’s not like those are children and the rest are all adults. Most first stages in three stage lines, and some in two stage lines, are made to look and act like children, small and playful.
Right, but at the same time, most unevolved Pokémon are viable on their own, which is interesting. Pidgey can survive and reproduce without evolving into Pidgeotto; you can have a whole community of Pidgey without a single Pidgeotto and they’ll probably manage. With the exception of “baby” Pokémon, who can’t lay eggs (presumably because the designers saw them as “too young” to reproduce – it’s weird that Gold and Silver didn’t extend this restriction to a few other pre-existing Pokémon, like Caterpie), an unevolved Pokémon is a “complete” organism. So I think in a lot of cases it’s not just maturity as such but maybe a social and/or hierarchical thing. More evolved Pokémon might need more space and more food or other resources, so maybe it’s advantageous to the whole community if only a small number of them evolve.
Continue reading “Larry asks:”
Knowing what we do of Pokémon and Trainer culture in setting do you really think modern armies like what Lt. Surge seemed to be apart of would actually make sense in the Pokémon world? I figure any kind of military they’d develop would be more warrior-like than soldier-like given the strength a single skilled trainer can wield with their team.
This has sort of come up a little bit before, and the short answer is that my take on it is… very different. Mostly, I don’t think we should underestimate the degree to which one powerful Pokémon could be fµ¢£ed up by many weaker Pokémon with intelligent leadership and strategy. It seems to me like warfare is basically a thing of the past in the utopian setting of the Pokémon world (except in Ransei, the setting of Pokémon Conquest, which is, like… somehow canonically contemporary with all the other Pokémon games, even though Ransei is clearly based on sengoku-era Japan and uses mediaeval technology; look, I don’t fµ¢£in’ know), and I honestly doubt they’ve ever had a large-scale war with truly “modern” technology (i.e. post-World War II, because Lt. Surge is definitely a WWII veteran and definitely came to Kanto during the post-war American occupation of Japan, which is another whole… thing). I also truly don’t know how Pokémon would stack up against, like, modern firearms and explosives. I think you probably could persuasively argue, depending on which sources and portrayals you look at, either that humans with modern weapons are more reliably lethal than Pokémon and would just shoot them, or that Pokémon would render all human weaponry obsolete. Like, can Psychic Pokémon use telekinesis to block sustained machine gun fire? Will a Steel Pokémon’s skin stand up to a bazooka? (If they could, would those weapons even be used?) I have genuinely no idea, but honestly… my instinct is “probably not.” What’s more, I think if you really pressed Game Freak on it, they’d probably say that it hasn’t come up in a long time because their world is now peaceful (like modern Japan is), and that modern trainers wouldn’t put their Pokémon in harm’s way like that anyway. The point is, I don’t think we’ve ever had a good look at what mass combat involving Pokémon trainers is actually like (again, except Ransei, which honestly seems more like Pokémon trainers LARPing warfare than an actual war – I think deliberately), so anything we say is going to be extrapolation. But let’s assume we’re thinking about war being fought mainly between Pokémon trainers, using Pokémon attacks rather than human weapons. I think the actual rules of the games probably give us reason to be fairly pessimistic about the odds of super-elite Pokémon trainers taking on large numbers of mid-level chumps.
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Was Coalossal created for the industrial revolution, after the revolution, or did it inspire the revolution? Actually, did the revolution happen at all?
Well, the Pokémon world resembles the modern world in enough important ways that I think there has to have been an industrial revolution; like… they have mechanised agriculture, they have coal power, they have mass-produced textiles, they have modern urbanisation. Maybe those things didn’t happen all at once and in the same place, the way they did in 18th and 19th century Britain, though? I don’t believe that anyone at Game Freak – or indeed anywhere in Pokémon’s corporate structure – has a detailed idea of what the history of the Pokémon world looks like, outside of the explicit lore of each region (and even then, I’m not altogether convinced they care much about fitting the history of different regions into a single overarching narrative); maybe they used to, because a lot of early stuff suggested that the Pokémon world has the same history and geography as the real one, but much of that is overwritten or contradicted by later media.
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Really REALLY out of left field thought on my part… but I’m curious to see how you’ll respond or interpret my potentially mad rambling. Since USUM, I’ve never really gotten over the alien-humans from the Ultra recon squad. And as I have now been replaying Pokémon Platinum and stumbled across the ye olde Sinnoh myth of Pokémon and people being one in the same at one point. Which got me to think like “do humans in the various Pokémon multiverse have types?”. Which isn’t too far-fetched in some cases given normal and ghost for alive and dead people, or psychic for those few individuals like Sabrina. But now that there are technically canonical people that took a different offshoot of human evolution AND how some Pokémon types are based on humanesque myth critters. The idea of people in universe being like the fae or fair folk akin to Fairy types or other types could potentially be a viable canon thing given how darn big and infinite multiverse shenanigans actually are. Here’s hoping what I’m sending somewhat makes sense or isn’t too off the deep end!
So… to my mind that depends on what you think type actually is. If they’re somehow baked into Pokémon biology specifically, then the answer is obviously “no, that doesn’t even make sense.” Humans aren’t Pokémon, at least, not in any meaningful way; there are several things that all Pokémon have in common which humans don’t appear to share (I’m not convinced that we’re supposed to literally believe that Sinnoh myth; there are real-world cultures that have similar myths, and we don’t believe those; there are also compelling ideological reasons for a culture that relies on Pokémon training to create a myth like that).
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I know you have said India is ideal, but how would you feel if game freak made a Pokemon region out of scandinavia?
I guess predominantly “fine”? Like, I have multiple preferences ahead of that, and particularly if we’re thinking generation IX – that is, immediately following another northern European region – I don’t think it makes a lot of sense in sequence. But I’m not sure I can think of any place on Earth that I’d be offended or upset or even really disappointed to see as the setting of a Pokémon game. Scandinavia’s got a lot of affluent multilinguals who are part of Pokémon’s global community, it’s got distinctive modern aesthetics that fit in well with Pokémon’s distinctive blend of tradition and techno-utopia, it’s got Vikings, it’s got fjords, and what else do any of us really need in life, when we’ve got fjords?
Jim the Editor remarked on this that it could be interesting to have a very cold region, and it certainly would. On the other hand, the cynic in me says that Game Freak would shy away from creating a region with very few habitats for desert and tropical Pokémon, and especially from having to deal with the polar day-night cycle, in favour of just putting in a few more snowy areas than most games in the series, and otherwise keeping the climate mostly temperate. Which… I think is an issue not just with this idea in particular but more generally. There are things that the Pokémon games like to keep formulaic – say, having a variety of biomes to slot a large number of existing Pokémon into, or having a certain ratio of small towns to big urban centres – and if a region doesn’t obviously have those things, I kind of suspect they would get shoehorned in anyway, potentially at the expense of its unique character. Not that it wouldn’t be great just to see Poké-Stockholm and Poké-Copenhagen, but… y’know, I think if you want to have a Scandinavian region, you want the northernmost areas to experience midnight sun and polar night, and you want that to be mechanically and narratively significant somehow; you want big parts of the map to be sparsely populated like the Crown Tundra, and you want the player spending a lot of time in those areas and thinking about them; you want the ocean to be important as something you explore and learn about, not just travel through. Honestly, now that I’m saying all this, can we have, like… a sprawling Pokémon region based on the whole Arctic Ocean, something with big environmental themes, maybe some light survival mechanics? Can we just put that one on the list, after India and Brazil? I’ll just pop over and let Shigeru Ohmori know that I want that on the list.