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.

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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.

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Anonymous asks:

Legends Arceus finally retconned the Indian elephant from Raichu’s dex entries into Copperajah, so I guess real world animals are now completely removed from canon

well, that’s true, but they are also now insisting that Pokémon takes place in an extremely convoluted multiverse, possibly to the extent of every player’s individual save file representing a branched reality… so maybe there are some Pokémon universes where real animals exist and some where they don’t. Maybe Indian elephants are in a quantum state of existing and not existing, and the only way to collapse the wave function is to hit one with a Thunderbolt.

I have thought for a long time that Game Freak, the Pokémon Company and other creators of official Pokémon media have been gradually erasing real-world non-Pokémon animals from their “canon” as they stopped thinking of the Pokémon world as being a version of the real one and began conceiving of it as a more independent fantasy world, this change to Raichu’s ‘dex entry being the latest step in that campaign. But I do also think that they have written themselves into a position where it will never actually be possible to truly erase or retcon anything that has ever appeared in official media out of “Pokémon canon” even if they want to, which is extremely funny to me.

Seronimo asks:

Since Gen 7, the Pokedex has been getting more liberal in talking about predator/prey relationships between Pokemon. However, they’ve stopped making sure these relationships are reflected in type effectiveness. Before, you had Heatmor being 4x effective against Durant, and Zangoose with its two poison-related abilities. But now, we’ve got Talonflame preying on Wingull, both Gabite and Sableye chasing wild Carbink, and the Poison-type Mareanie devouring the Rock-type Corsola. Idk, how do you explain that?

I’d imagine that – much like predators in the real world – predatory Pokémon go out of their way to make sure that any fights they get into with prey are deeply unfair.  Just like Pokémon with a type disadvantage against their prey, a lot of real predators are genuinely kinda fµ¢£ed if their target manages to fight back.  Think of, for example, big cats, who go for the throat at the first opportunity, preferably from ambush, and usually back down pretty quickly if that fails because they can’t afford to expend the energy, or sharks, who famously tend to retreat if you give them a good punch in the snout or gills, because they’re just so stunned at the concept of food that tries to hurt them.  You want to stack the deck.

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a people asks:

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

whatever asks:

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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some random person asks:

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. 

[Yes, I know it’s January] asks:

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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Mr F asks:

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.

Larry asks:

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.

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