What are, in your opinion, the most baffling worldbuilding incoherences of the mainline Pokémon games? For me, it’s the presence of Bananas (as is, the real-life fruit) in Sword and Shield, when Nanab Berries, which are based on bananas, also exist.
That’s a tough one… See, this is hard because a big part of
my schtick normally is looking at inconsistencies and figuring out why they
actually might not be inconsistent.
“This is a baffling worldbuilding incoherence” is normally my last
resort, after “unreliable narrators” and “differing creative visions” and
“fiction has no sense of scale” and “myth and history are really complicated”
and “biology is also really complicated” and “there are more things in
heaven and earth, Horatio” have all failed.
Actually pegging something as fundamentally inconsistent in a way that allows
no more interesting interpretation is almost an admission of defeat for
me. Like, take the Nanab Berry
thing. That doesn’t even strike me as a
problem; that’s just two fruit that look similar and have similar names, which
may or may not be related (Jim the Editor pointed out that we have grapes and
grapefruit). Cheri Berries and Cherubi
also exist in the same world; I think one is probably named after the other.
My first thought for an actual answer here was “they never really explain how Pokéballs work, and none of the characters seem to think that’s weird” but I don’t know if that qualifies as an inconsistency, so much as something that’s just never explored. Something that really is worth wondering about is how food works – not just whether we eat Pokémon, but whether Pokémon eat each other. I actually suspect there may not be a firm party line on this within Game Freak, because the games definitely mention hunting and predation from time to time, but when you directly ask them they’re reluctant to talk about it. We finally get to eat Slowpoke tails in Sword and Shield, but they’re always careful to mention that Slowpoke tails grow back. You sort of have to assume that we eat Pokémon and they eat each other, because a world with no predation whatsoever just wouldn’t have creatures that resemble real ones, but if even the lowest Pokémon are of roughly doglike intelligence and many species are superhuman, the idea of killing them for food – or of them killing each other for food, when they could easily have been friends on some trainer’s team – does make one a little bit… queasy. And that’s just not something Pokémon’s optimistic worldview can process in a nuanced way.
I enjoyed your PokéJungle piece on Galar. Do you think Sword and Shield might touch on the darker sides of the Industrial Revolution (the immiserated working class, poor environmental conditions, colonialism, etc) as well?
I’m glad you liked it; it’s one of the more… I guess “meaningful” things I feel like I’ve written in a while, and some of the ideas it touches on are, I think, important. (Here it is, for anyone who hasn’t read it)
So… might they? Well,
would they? Could
they? I might have said no, that Game
Freak just isn’t prepared to touch serious real-world stuff like that. They’ll put you into a high-stakes battle
against reality-warping entities for the fate of the world, sure, but learning
that you and your society might be the things putting the world at
risk? That’s another kind of
serious. It’s not even that it’s a more
adult kind of serious, because a lot of adults don’t enjoy stories like that
either. Not even Black and White
go there; N asks the questions, but we’re always framed as the good guys, and
in the end he sees that we’re right.
Then again… a different kind of storytelling, where social ills are as
important as “villains,” if not more so… that sounds a lot like the Team Skull
plotline of Sun and Moon. It’s
always baby steps with this stuff; Pokémon is always an escapist fantasy
that imagines an idealised world of harmony between humanity and nature, and
we’re not going to see a really “gritty” story that gives a “realistic”
portrayal of the evils that came with British industrialisation. If we see things like poverty or
environmental damage, they’ll be things that we the players can fight and fix
by doing typically heroic things, however unrealistic that might be, because
Pokémon is always hopeful. I also don’t
think the aesthetic of the presumed “villains,” Team Yell, has much thematic
resonance with those ideas. But those
societal forms of “darkness” might not be totally off limits anymore either.
uh oh so [SWSH spoilers fwiw)
galarian ponyta just got Officially Announced and it’s described as having been “exposed to the overflowing life energy of the forest over many generations, and this is why their appearance became unique in this region”
it’s a psychic type
does this do anything to or for your Fairy-is-life-energy theories? or does it still also just kinda feed into “typing is nonsense”?
While we’re here, this will also serve as my answer to the question from another reader who gives their name simply as “Getting Shield!!!”:
Galarian Ponyta, thoughts?
So… I think it’s fine. Unicorns are an emblem of Scotland, so it certainly fits Galar as a Pokémon inspired by the culture and history of Great Britain. It’s quite pretty. It’s a point in favour of a prediction made by my esteemed PokéJungle colleague Jon that suggests we can guess which Pokémon are getting Galarian forms on the basis of new egg moves given out in Ultra Sun and Moon, so that’s quite nice if you’re interested in the prediction game. Psychic is a weird type to choose, in my opinion, for something as obviously “fairytale” as a unicorn – back in the X and Y era, Jim the Editor and I actually thought it was a bit weird that the base Kantonian Ponyta and Rapidash hadn’t been promoted to Fire/Fairy, because it would have made perfect sense and produced an interesting unique dual-type. But that brings us to…
Continue reading “hoennian asks:”
So how much of the mythological capabilities of a given legendary Pokémon DO we actually believe in, anyway? (If you can’t get into that question there, get into it here! I’m curious!)
so… what I was alluding to there is that I would eventually
like to do a series on legendary Pokémon, where I look at everything we know
about each of them (core games, TV show, movies, even spinoff games and the TCG)
and decide “well, what actually are this Pokémon’s powers and how does
it fit into the world?” And in
particular, I would like to take seriously the idea that characters in the
games and anime don’t know the truth either. Because I’m not convinced Arceus
created the universe, and I’m not convinced Kyogre created the oceans,
and I’m not convinced Yveltal can destroy all life on earth, and I’m certainly
not convinced that Mew is the ancestor of all Pokémon. As far as I’m concerned, all we know is that
there are people who, rightly or wrongly, believe those things. But there isn’t a simple answer to this question,
because… well, that word “given” is important. The answer’s not the same for all of them,
because we don’t have the same information about all of them. And I don’t even mean, like, some of them
have appeared in a larger number of movies or episodes of the TV show; I mean in-universe
the sources and reliability of the information are not the same. Like, in Arceus and the Jewel of Life,
the unreliability of history and legend is a theme of the story; in my
opinion, that movie kind of invites us to disbelieve stuff the
characters tell us about Arceus, in a way that isn’t really the case for, say, Manaphy’s
role in Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea, which seems pretty
clear-cut (although the nature of the titular Temple is less so). You kinda have to look at everything we know
about each one – or at least each duo/trio/quartet. And the truth is, I don’t know when I’m going
to be able to do that properly. My
schtick is the Pokémon reviews and, wouldn’t you know it, there’s gonna be a
whole bunch of them that need doing in about two months, and I feel like more
people care about those. You can see why
I might be interested in maybe coming up with a shorter format for them.
This is a slightly odd question (or set of questions), but I’ve been thinking lately about how Pokemon perceive or relate to their own type, and whether type distinctions induce some kind of cultural difference among Pokemon. Are Pokemon aware of their own type? Do type distinctions arise “naturally,” or are they simply human-created terms used to organize and taxonomize Pokemon by their salient features? Do Pokemon feel culturally closer to Pokemon who share their type? What about Pokemon from “allied” types, like Water and Ice, or Rock and Ground? Is a Pokemon like Abomasnow who has two types that are fairly “far apart” from each other able to “code switch” to an extent– to “lean in” to his Grass-type features when he’s hanging out with other Grass pokemon, and to his Ice-type aspects when he’s up on the mountain with the other Ice-types?
What do you think about this?
I tend to think that the world makes more sense if
Pokémon type is a construct created by humans in order to understand how
Pokémon fight and predict which Pokémon will have advantages against certain
others. If Pokémon type is a natural
thing that exists independently of humans, then you need to do a lot of work
explaining what it is and how it arises (especially considering that Pokémon of
the same type do not usually seem to be related species), and this is work that
Game Freak has not done. I think it
would probably imply that each type corresponds to some metaphysical source of
magical power that Pokémon can tap into – and honestly I think that might
be true anyway for some of the more mystical types like Dragon and Fairy, but for
most of them there simply isn’t anything that hints at it in official sources. Of course, because this is something that Pokémon’s
creators probably haven’t thought about, there are a few stray things that do
strongly suggest Pokémon types are in some way natural and absolute, like
Arceus having forms for every type, and Hidden Powers existing for every type
(except Fairy), and there being no exceptions to the type chart. So… basically, I know what the answer would
be if I were in charge, but I’m not confident in anything given the
world as we actually see it.
Continue reading “Osprey asks:”
Have you seen this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVO8QrGAPHs) Battle Royale of Legendary Pokemon yet? If not, congrats! Now you have!
Anyway, the question is: Which Legendary Pokemon do you think would most likely win in a Battle Royale scenario where Pokedex Entries are assumed to be true (i.e. do you agree with the video), and also in a scenario where they aren’t true (because the Pokedex really doesn’t seem like a reliable source of information) and you’re just using their in-game combat capabilities?
…I think I might love this
But yeah, to answer the question… well, I don’t think I need
to agree with the video for it to be great, because it’s supposed to be funny
and not, like, a watertight argument for a position in a “who would win”
debate. But let’s talk about it anyway.
Continue reading “Ty asks:”
I recently thought of something, though you may want to save this for the inevitable review. Considering it’s propensity for “absorbing all the light in the universe” and basically being the ends of said universes, is it possible that Necrozma is Pokémon’s equivalent to the phenomenon astrophysicists call the “heat death of the universe?” That being entropy inevitable cooling down every single particle in the universe until there isn’t a bit of useable light or energy left and everything decays until there’s nothing left so that there’s basically nothing left except complete darkness?
I will indeed talk more about
Necrozma when I get to the review, but I don’t know that this works with the
way it’s portrayed in Ultra Smoon, or for that matter in the anime. Necrozma used to be a being of light, a creative
and generative force. Its dark form that
steals light is a result of some kind of damage it suffered in the past, but
that damage is supposed to be fixable, resulting in the restoration of
the radiant form we know as Ultra Necrozma (which sort of clashes with the feeling
of inevitability that the whole “heat death”/entropy theme would be trying to evoke).