Long time reader; first time questioner asks:

You like baking right? How do you feel about the various ‘food’ pokemon? What food do you think deserves a Pokemon adaptation?

Well, how many even are there?  Vanillite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe, Swirlix and Slurpuff… I think that’s kind of it, unless you count Grass Pokémon based on fruit and mushrooms and the like, which personally I’d class as a separate thing.  I have kind of mixed feelings about them, because I’m not fundamentally opposed to the idea of food-based Pokémon like some people are, but actually developing that idea in any moderately interesting way is something Game Freak would probably be uncomfortable with.  That’s why Vanillite isn’t really an ice cream Pokémon at all, just a fairly generic ice-and-snow Pokémon that happens to be shaped like an ice cream for obscure reasons of its own.  Swirlix does better, but still runs up hard against the awkward question – “do we eat Pokémon?” – that the Pokémon games have no intention of ever firmly answering.  So Slurpuff end up working for human pastry chefs, constructing grotesque effigies of themselves, whose flavours are inspired by the taste of their own sugary flesh, for human consumption.  And then you also run up against another problem that I tend to have with Pokémon based on modern culture generally, which is “are we supposed to believe that the Pokémon inspired the cultural phenomenon, and what on earth is the timeline with that?”  It’s easy to make that work with Pokémon based on myths and folklore because you can just push everything back into the misty past of “thousands of years ago” but if you have, say, a hamburger Pokémon or something, we eventually have to ask: what kind of colossally fµ¢&ed up soylent-green-ass cultural moment caused people to suddenly decide, in the last couple of generations, to start modelling meat sandwiches after these intelligent creatures that they’ve been living and working alongside since time immemorial?  Who does that?

Continue reading “Long time reader; first time questioner asks:”

Bradley asks:

Hi Chris! I’ve been a big fan for years and you’ve been super informative on the history of Pokemon. I too am a big fan of drastically overthinking how the Pokemon universe actually *works* and recently went on a big tirade trying to explain it all. You were a big influence on certain parts of the theory so hopefully you’ll enjoy what I came up with! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0_3ButdKzw

[Warning: the following is far too long and contains copious italics for emphasis, in order to create the illusion that I am in the room with you, gesticulating wildly at my own string diagram]

Okay, let me say first of all I am genuinely flattered and I am sorry this has had to sit in my inbox for almost two months on account of my being a lazy piece of $#!t

In the grand tradition of overthinking pop culture on the internet, I’m going to apply my standard method of engaging with anything I find even slightly fun or interesting: passionately disagreeing in excruciating detail (for other examples, see: this entire blog; my life as an academic).

Arrrright. *cracks knuckles* Let’s break this $#!t down

Now, to begin with, this whole “figure out the Pokémon world’s cosmology and all the relationships therein” thing is a project I kind of have mixed feelings about, because on the one hand, it’s exactly my type of nerdy bull$#!t as a lifelong mythology geek and strange person, but on the other hand, I think there’s basic reasons any such project is doomed from the start.  But it’s still bloody impressive that anyone ever does it, because frankly I’m too scared to, although I might give it a go if I have any time left between finishing up generation VII and the release of generation VIII.  The general problems, then.  These days, I have this sticking point with a lot of other Pokémon fans, where people tend to point at some piece of Pokémon’s mythology and say “there, it’s in the games; it’s canon” and my response (other than to explain that I don’t even like the word “canon”) is “well, no, it’s canon that this is their mythology”; we should take these as stories told by people who understand no more about the Pokémon universe than we do, and possibly much less.  Arceus says he created the universe, but, well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?  The ancient Sinnohans wouldn’t know the difference.  There’s probably other historical cults in the Pokémon world that once worshipped Rayquaza, or Xerneas, or even Celebi as creator gods.  Further to that, all these different legendary Pokémon are from different regions of the world with different mythological traditions, so even expecting to be able to fit everything into one consistent mythology might be a stretch.  We’re not talking “Zeus, Poseidon and Hades,” who have a “canonical” relationship based on the traditional stories about their family history, respective powers or domains, and forms of worship.  We’re talking “Zeus, Freyja and Nü Wa,” who not only have nothing to do with each other, but aren’t even really the same class of entity, because their cultures of origin have incompatible ideas about what a god even is.  But let’s put all of that firmly aside, and talk about Bradley’s analysis on its own terms: on the assumption that there is a single consistent cosmology, elements of which are recorded more or less faithfully by the myths referenced in the games.

Continue reading “Bradley asks:”

Albert pokeEinstein asks:

Please build a world of alternative physics to run the Pokemon world on!

No.

…do… do I have to say more…?

…fine.

If I were supposed to completely rebuild Pokémon from the ground up, creating a coherent magic/“physics” system would be high on my list, because frankly I would like it if there were some underlying logic to the way the special powers of different Pokémon interact with each other and the world, and we didn’t have to have conversations like this.  But to do a halfway decent job at something like that, well, for one thing we’re talking weeks of work, so unless Game Freak has decided to hire me for the purpose, I can’t be bothered; and for another, it would require trampling all over vast swathes of Pokémon’s existing lore that was created without an overarching behind-the-scenes rulebook.

And… well, frankly, if Pokémon made sense, you wouldn’t need me anymore, would you?

Tony the Tiger asks:

You like old stuff, right? What are your thoughts on fossil pokemon?

In general archaeologists take pains to point out that we do not study fossils (it’s a surprisingly common mistake).  Not all “old stuff” is similarly old (unless you listen to certain ill-advised religious sects); I deal in the hundreds/thousands of years range, not millions/tens of millions.  Fossils are about as much my professional area of expertise as the moons of Jupiter are an airline pilot’s.

…as it happens, though, I am independently a layman dinosaur nerd with a basic knowledge of evolutionary biology, and I was a sufficiently weird kid that, when I started school, I wanted to be not a fireman or an astronaut but a palaeontologist.  So LET’S TALK FOSSILS.

Continue reading “Tony the Tiger asks:”

[Don’t worry, you’re the ONLY Chris the Pokemaniac] asks:

I saw your recent post…and with that being said:. Seeing how regular and….. irregular Pokemon can be found in other universes…could it be that Pokemon could be descendents of ultra beasts? Or is this something Chris the pokemaniac doesn’t want to get into?

So, I’ve had this suggested to me before, and it doesn’t strike me as wildly unlikely, but I’m also not sure I can think of any good reason to actually believe it.

I think Pokémon as a franchise likes to keep some things intentionally mysterious, and the origin of life on its version of Earth is one of them.  However, it’s at least somewhat amenable to something like the panspermia hypothesis – the idea that very simple life, or its chemical precursors, might be commonplace in the universe and could have spread to Earth from extraterrestrial sources rather than developing here spontaneously.  I doubt Pokémon are descended from Ultra Beasts as we know them, but from some microorganism that emerged from Ultra Space a billion years ago?  Sure.  Or, from some microorganism that arrived on an asteroid a billion years ago?  Sure.  Or, and I think this is what people actually mean when they make this suggestion, from some ancestral Ultra Beast that wandered through to Alola in ancient times?  That one seems to me less likely but yeah, whatever. Continue reading “[Don’t worry, you’re the ONLY Chris the Pokemaniac] asks:”

Ty asks:

I’m familiar with your thoughts on how the games try and paint Mew as the ancestor of Pokemon and how backwards their logic is claiming it’s due to Mew having the DNA of all Pokemon. That, as you’ve pointed out multiple times, is not how ancestry works.

I wanted to share with you an idea I’ve had about how I’d handle the Mew situation and what your thoughts about it are. For me, since Mew is the only Pokemon barring Ditto that can learn transform, I really like the idea that Mew could be the ancestor of all Pokemon, or at least the Mew species. In how I’d handle it, Mew would be #1 in the Pokedex and would be the original Pokemon that could change shape at will. As the curious creatures as they are, mews explored endlessly, tackling any environmental challenges by changing shape into the various Pokemon species we’re familiar with to suit that environment. Over time, those mew who grew older and decide to settle in their areas in whatever shape they were in, over thousands of years, lost the ability to transform and remained in that shape as whatever new species they were. Because so few environments are comfortable for Mew’s natural form, and/or so few mew continued to travel endlessly, modern day mews are fairly rare, hence their legendary status. This would really help explain a lot of artificial Pokemon since the mew that originally became that species took on an artificial form for one reason or another somewhere down the line, rather than Pokemon like Klinklang, Electrode, and Klefki existing and being able to breed in some degree for no particular reason.

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Jim the Editor asks:

How does the use of pokeballs by oranguru and their inherent empathy impact the pokemon training as enslavement argument?

So this is something that came up while Jim and I were proofing the Oranguru review, and frankly that was long enough already, so we decided it would be better to publish this separately in question-and-answer format. I haven’t talked directly about the whole Pokémon-and-slavery “thing” in a while, so to summarise my “standard” views on the subject (which are, of course, anything but standard): Continue reading “Jim the Editor asks:”