James Crooks [Patreon cultist] asks:

Now that you’re at the end of the Alolan Pokédex, can you tell us your favourite Pokémon, least favourite and one that you liked more after reviewing?

Tricky.

Spending more time on each Pokémon and each review tends to make me appreciate almost all of them more, because I come to see the references and the meaning in each design, and my feelings about the Pokémon itself come to be bound up with anything interesting I’ve learned during the process I generously call my “research.”  The exception, of course, is when there seems to be simply nothing to find, but I think those are rare in Alola.  And in another direction, over the course of doing the Alola reviews I’ve started trying to incorporate the anime’s portrayals of each Pokémon a bit more, so even if a design is ‘meh,’ I can develop some positive feeling towards it if that Pokémon’s episode is a good one.  I just put out my Zeraora article, and Zeraora’s frankly not a very interesting Pokémon, but it’s one of the stars of the 21st movie, The Power of Us, which I am not going to stop talking about because I think it’s easily the best one (aside from Detective Pikachu), and there is a certain degree of affection that just… well, rubs off on Zeraora.  Having said all that, of course there are winners and losers.  With some designs, I feel “rewarded” for the extra work I do in trying to break them down, because I feel like I’ve solved a puzzle that the designers have left for me; other times it just seems like there’s not much to find.  So there are Pokémon for whom my opinion of them, or at least my affection towards them, increased a lot as I reviewed them, and I don’t know if I can pick just one, but some good examples are Celesteela, Oranguru, Tsareena and Minior.

My favourite Pokémon of generation VII is a tough one, because there are a lot that I’m generally well-disposed to, but few that really stick out to me as brilliant.  It may actually be just one of the Pokémon I’m attached to because I used them on my first playthrough of Moon, probably Golisopod, Salazzle, or my starter, Decidueye.  Other than that… well, actually Dhelmise sticks out to me as a really weird and creative design that speaks to me on a kind of “what even is this?” level, and Wishiwashi has an interesting concept that creates a great moment in the game’s story.  As for least favourite… I’m sure I’m being very predictable here, but I’m still very down on Togedemaru, and to a lesser extent Gumshoos, for not doing enough to break free of Game Freak’s persistent habit of template-based Pokémon design (as Talonflame and arguably Diggersby did in generation VI, and as I think Toucannon more or less does in generation VII).

Wimpod and Golisopod

250px-767Wimpod.png
Wimpod

One of Pokémon’s grand traditions is Pokémon who are very difficult to train on account of their weakness, but evolve into very high-statted and powerful beasts. Magikarp is the classic example, practically unable to fight at all, with Feebas following very closely in the same mould. Larvesta and Noibat are better able to fend for themselves but take a very long time to evolve and are pretty pathetic until they do. It’s one of the most powerful expressions of Pokémon’s theme of nurturing leading to growth. Alola’s most traditional contribution to the list is really Cosmog, who is even worse than Magikarp until he suddenly isn’t, but we can also count the Turn Tail Pokémon, Wimpod, and its fearsome evolution Golisopod.

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Pokémon Moon, Episode 11: In Which I Perform an Exorcism

With no other clear direction obvious to me, I leave Malie City and wander south.  The southeast coast of Ula’ula Island is dominated by extremely rough, rocky, arid scrubland.  Although the Z-Crystal that I earned in Sophocles’ trial gets me through the Island Challenge barricades on the southeast road, it doesn’t take long before the rocks become totally impassable.  Fortunately, Hapu (who is almost certainly very important, though I’m still not sure why) is on hand to offer me the solution: she allows me to freely summon her Mudsdale as a riding Pokémon.  Mudsdale is slow compared to the other Tauros and Stoutland, but can move effortlessly over rough terrain that would reduce them to uncoordinated stumbling.  Hapu points me in the direction of Tapu Village, at the base of Mount Lanakila, for my next trial, then bids me good luck and farewell.

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Pokémon Moon, Episode 10: In Which I Am Recruited To A Cultural Revolution

Among the major selling points of Malie City is its library, the best in Alola.  I mean, not that that’s saying much.  The Alolans still worship a cabal of fickle and wrathful Pokémon as deities, and their leading Pokémon researcher is secretly a part-time luchador; believe it or not, they aren’t exactly a global centre of knowledge and literature.  They are, however, the world’s leading experts on one field in particular: their own traditions and mythology; Alolan myth basically isn’t taught or studied at any university I’ve ever heard of outside the region itself.  Lillie, who arrived in Malie City ahead of me and Hau after coming directly from Heahea City, claims to have need of this esoteric knowledge in order to help Nebby.  She asks me to come to the library with her to check it out – so of course I brusquely refuse, send her scurrying away in terror, and then follow her anyway at an inconspicuous distance.  Gotta stay one step ahead of this crafty b!tch and her freaky living nebula-bomb, or the whole island chain could be a smoking ruin by Tuesday afternoon.  The moment I manage to get into a proper stalking rhythm, though, I run straight into… Professor Oak?

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