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:”

VikingBoyBilly asks:

Are ultra beasts legendaries or not?

I’m not sure it matters?  Being considered “legendary” doesn’t really imply any particular status, and they don’t follow a consistent set of rules.  But… sure.  There are certainly legends about them in Alola, and they seem to have been unknown outside of those legends until fairly recently, so in that sense they are literally “legendary.”  They aren’t one of a kind, but then again, neither are Heatran, Lati@s, Manaphy, etc.  In game terms they certainly have stats commensurate with being called “legendary.”  I think probably a much more interesting question is whether they are Pokémon or not, and as far as Game Freak is concerned the answer seems to be “yes,” but I suspect that this implies some less-than-straightforward further questions about what a Pokémon is.

Anonymous asks:

You’ve been asked about the Pokémon that you think should be retyped. What about Pokémon that should be re….Abilitied? (???) Gens VI and especially VII have been switching up a lot of old Pokémon’s Abilities, so this seems a more feasible change to happen rather than retyping, no? So, with our hopes up, which Pokémon would YOU like to have one (or both) of their Abilities changed, and to what?

Well, honestly the possibility that leaps most immediately to mind for me is the one that’s probably least likely to happen – namely, giving all the starter Pokémon different abilities.  I understand as a design choice why we have Overgrow, Blaze and Torrent, because they’re abilities that, as a new player, you don’t have to think about very hard, if at all.  But gods they’re boring.  In the same vein, a lot of legendary Pokémon, particularly from the earlier generations, just have Pressure as a kind of default ability, which is actually really weird because, despite being an okay fit thematically, Pressure is a super-niche ability to actually use; most Pokémon don’t get very much out of having it.

Anonymous asks:

You seen this? imgur.com/7zvyE0H

I have not…

I like the idea of trying to put all the pieces together, and I’m certainly always impressed by the effort, but to be honest I’m a little iffy about these attempts to create big schematic maps of the whole cosmology because I’m not totally sure it’s all meant to fit together in a consistent way. Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”

vikingboybilly asks:

Do you think the pseudo-legendaries could be nerfed? I think it’s weird that dragonite’s BST is higher than the legendary birds.

I think it’s very unlikely.  Game Freak almost never directly nerfs Pokémon, and the base stat totals of those particular classes of Pokémon have been regularised for so long that it’s pretty obvious they don’t think it’s weird.

Xerneas and Yveltal

Xerneas.

To my amazement, we’re already coming quite close to the end.  Only a handful of Pokémon from eastern Kalos remain, then I’ll have to think of something else to pass the time until I pick up Alpha Sapphire or Omega Ruby (at the moment it’s looking like I’ll finally do that series on the rival characters that I’ve been putting off forever).  Meanwhile, my unfathomable whims decree that now is the time to take on the flagship Pokémon of X and Y: the divine guardian of life and the terrifying shadow of death, Xerneas and Yveltal.  I’m not even going to bother talking about stats or moves or any of that nonsense; I know I usually do, but you really don’t need me to tell you that these things are godlike, right?  Stick some attacks on them and go commit brutal murder; whatever.  I’mma talk about themes and stuff.

I will admit, I was not terribly inspired by these two when they first appeared in the teaser trailer for X and Y last year.  “Wait, so they’re… based on the letters X and Y?” I asked myself.  “What?  Why would you- what does that add?  What is the point of that?”  I’m still not really sold on the alphabet thing, and only partly because it led to that ridiculous line where Professor Sycamore says the only thing he knows about Xerneas is that it “resembles the letter X.”  No, it doesn’t; it resembles a massive f#%$ing stag.  I suppose there doesn’t really need to be any point to it, though – there was no reason for Palkia to associated with pearls and Dialga with diamonds, and Xerneas and Yveltal have plenty of other significance to them.  It’s just rather strange, after the previous generation used the titles Black and White to tie in with the Yin-Yang ideas and the themes of balance and duality that those games were so insistently pushing, that the best anyone can come up with for X and Y is that Game Freak and Nintendo were just really proud of their 3D graphics.  It wouldn’t exactly surprise me, and it even makes some sort of sense with Y conventionally representing the vertical dimension (Yveltal can fly) while X and Z are the two horizontal dimensions (Xerneas and Zygarde have two different modes of earthbound movement), but it’s not really a satisfying conclusion.  Maybe it was just coincidence that the titles and associated legendary mascot themes of Black and White worked so well – or maybe there’s something tremendously dramatic planned for Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby (which, of course, also include letters of… well, an alphabet) that will make sense of everything; I don’t know.  In any case, that’s not what I most want to talk about here, and again, I don’t think it matters.  Their curious alphabetic structures do nothing to detract from Xerneas’ obvious majesty or Yveltal’s palpable malice.  These are Pokémon who know which notes they want to strike, and do so quite effectively.  What I really want to do with this entry, for the most part, is take apart the Norse mythology interpretation of Xerneas and Yveltal that seems to have so thoroughly convinced the internet.

 Yveltal.

At some point shortly after that first trailer, someone latched onto a variety of figures from Scandinavian myth, primarily inhabitants of the great ash Yggdrasil, as the most likely source of inspiration for Xerneas and Yveltal’s designs, and I think everyone’s just had trouble letting go of that idea – sometimes to the exclusion of all common sense.  Personally I struggle to find much merit in the interpretation.  It sounds really clever when you take it as a whole because it gives you an eagle, a stag and a snake that all have something in common (a tie to Yggdrasil), but the individual identifications make little to no sense.  The original argument seems to have wanted Xerneas to be based on a quartet of stags who live in the branches of the World Tree and feed on its leaves.  They are described in the Grimnismal (Sayings of Grimnir), one of the poems that make up the Poetic Edda, the major surviving body of pre-Christian Norse myth.  Nothing else is known about them aside from their names: Dain, “the Dead One,” Dvalin, “the Slumberer,” Duneyr, whose name’s exact meaning is uncertain but possibly something like “Murmur,” and Durathror, who is again obscure but perhaps means “Delay.”  These, of course, all make such perfect sense for a Pokémon whose raison d’être is to invigorate life, particularly “the Dead One,” that it’s hard to believe anyone could doubt there is a connection.  The idea also seems to have circulated that each stag had a different coloured gem in its horns – red, yellow, blue and purple, the colours of the glowing projections in Xerneas’ horns – but as far as I can find there’s actually… like… no evidence for that… anywhere… so yeah.  Yveltal, similarly, is linked to an eagle who roosts at the top of Yggdrasil, a figure to whom the Eddas do not even give a name, and spends his days insulting the dragon Nidhoggr (who lives at the bottom of the tree and gnaws on its roots), by way of a squirrel messenger named Ratatoskr.  Like the four stags, the eagle forms part of the scenery of the World Tree but is otherwise not a terribly important figure, and, also like the four stags, seems to be the subject of an erroneous detail that seems to have been concocted to make the whole concept seem more likely – namely, someone seems to have put it about at some point that the mythical eagle was blind (…it wasn’t) and suggested this as an explanation for Yveltal’s unsettling blue eyes.  Finally, again like the four stags, it’s difficult to see what the Yggdrasil eagle could have given to Yveltal other than simply being a mythical bird of prey.  He’s not really linked with death or destruction, any more than the stags are linked with life.

Bulbapedia offers related alternatives to each, which do little to improve my estimation of the idea.  Yveltal, in their view, might be based on Hraesvelgr, a giant who takes the form of an eagle and lives at the edge of the world; I think the main attraction is his badass name, which means ‘Corpse-Swallower.’  This guy is a seriously obscure character.  He’s attested in a poem called the Vafthrudnismal (or Sayings of Vafthrudnir), another part of the Poetic Edda, which is basically about Odin asking the giant Vafthrudnir stupid questions.  Odin’s ninth question is “where does wind come from?” and Vafthrudnir answers “there’s a huge f#$%ing eagle-giant at the edge of the world who flaps his wings really hard” (that is, of course, my own literal translation from the Old Norse, or whatever this stuff is supposed to be written in).  The later Prose Edda quotes this passage word-for-word, and that is the sum total of what Hraesvelgr does in the extant Norse texts; how he got his sinister name is never touched on.  You may as well just say Yveltal is based on a really big eagle.  Similarly tenuous links are drawn from Xerneas to the great stag Eikthyrnir, who stands on the roof of Valhalla chewing branches of Yggdrasil and distilling the sap into the water that supplies the world’s rivers.  This one, I will grant you, actually does make some degree of sense because Eikthyrnir, like Xerneas, is a sort of wellspring of life, in the form of fresh water, though I would rather expect Xerneas to have water-related powers if that were the case – I mean, it’s not like you need a lot of justification to put something in a legendary Pokémon’s movepool, and this is literally the only thing we know about the character being identified as the inspiration for Xerneas.

 The four stags, Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr and Durathror.

All of this was discussed ad nauseam before X and Y were ever actually released.  People thus inferred that the third legendary Pokémon, whom we now know as Zygarde, would be based on Nidhoggr, and successfully predicted that it would therefore be serpentine (seriously, though, it had to have a Z-shaped body; what else could it possibly have been?).  In some ways this is the most appealing identification to me because a terrible serpent who lives underground certainly sounds like Nidhoggr, and the –garde termination could well be a reference to Asgard and Midgard (though it could equally just refer to Zygarde’s position as, well, a guardian).  In other ways it actually makes the least sense of the lot because, rather than simply being generally nondescript like most of the other beings we’ve talked about, Nidhoggr has enough of a personality to be strongly opposed to the role Game Freak appear to have in mind for Zygarde.  He’s described as “the Order Pokémon” and is supposed to be a guardian of balance in Kalos’ ecosystem, which sounds as though he’s supposed to fill a Rayquaza-like role in checking the excesses of both Xerneas and Yveltal (since overabundant life and unchecked destruction could both devastate an ecosystem; the way his ability relates to theirs reinforces this idea).  Nidhoggr, by contrast, is a far more malevolent character than any of the minor figures suggested as an inspiration for Yveltal; he spends his time chewing on the corpses of the dishonoured dead in Hel, and seems to be one of the figures on the side of evil and chaos in Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse.  If Zygarde is based on Nidhoggr, why isn’t he the Pokémon who symbolises death instead of Yveltal?  Similar attempts to locate Zygarde’s origins with the World Serpent Jormungandr – the arch-enemy of the universally loved and admired Thor, and a major player in bringing about the end of the world – are, if anything, even worse.  In any case, there will be more on Zygarde when he gets his own entry.

Finally, just to cap it all off, people point at Xerneas’ dormant form – a white tree – and say “ooh, look, it’s clearly a reference to Yggdrasil.”  Xerneas is a stag, for heaven’s sake; stags being associated with trees and forests is really nothing unusual; it’s certainly not specific to Norse myth.  Besides, where does that leave Yveltal’s cocoon?  There’s no reason Yveltal couldn’t have lain dormant as a black tree, and if Yggdrasil were really as important a unifier as this concept makes out, it would have made a great deal of sense, whereas a cocoon doesn’t give you anything to work with.

The Yggdrasil eagle, along with the hawk that inexplicably roosts between its eyes (the hawk, evidently, was important enough to be given a name - Vedrfolnir.).

 

So, now that I’ve spent all this time picking apart why I don’t think the currently popular mythological identifications work, am I now going to present something much cleverer that explains Xerneas and Yveltal perfectly?  No, actually, I’m not.  I’m really not sure there is one.  Legendary Pokémon are not usually based on specific mythological characters in this way; with a few notable exceptions, they more often tend to be the Pokémon world’s expression of generalised archetypes.  They may very well relate to mythological characters, but in most cases (again, with notable exceptions) I don’t think trying to pin them on specific characters from specific mythologies is a productive exercise.  In fact, you can count on one hand the number of specific mythological figures who are clearly identifiable in the designs of legendary Pokémon: the phoenix (Ho-oh), and the Japanese gods Fujin, Raijin and Inari (Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus).  I suppose you can also argue the nine Muses for Meloetta, Nike for Victini, or the golem of Prague for Regigigas and friends, but I don’t think those are nearly as solid.  We don’t actually need an answer to this question.  There’s nothing that should lead us to expect that there is one.  If we have to find a mythological antecedent for them, I rather prefer the idea that the forces represented by Xerneas, Zygarde and Yveltal correspond to the three deities of the Hindu Trimurti, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – or, more accurately, not to the deities themselves but to the forces they represent, creation, preservation and destruction.The idea that Yveltal is a reference to the Black Death, I’m also fairly partial to; first of all, it’s got ‘death’ in the name, and although Game Freak shied away from actually calling Yveltal “the Death Pokémon” (going for “Destruction” instead), it’s pretty clear that that’s what it is, in opposition to Xerneas, “the Life Pokémon.”  The Black Death is generally understood to have been caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis – starts with a Y, which is apparently one of Yveltal’s defining features.  Like Yveltal, the Black Death appeared mysteriously to ravage a huge region centuries ago, then vanished just as mysteriously (and, if certain current ideas about the Justinian Plague of 6th century Byzantium are to be believed, it had already done so once before).  Locating such a Pokémon in a European region would also make sense.  The physical designs of Xerneas and Yveltal, though, I think were dictated partly by the X/Y theme and partly by the general feeling the designers wanted to get across.  Stags appear in a lot of fiction as guardians and avatars of nature – look no further than the stag-like forest spirit from Princess Mononoke, whom I would accept as a possible influence on Xerneas far more readily than Eikthyrnir – and Xerneas’ rainbow horns evoke the vibrancy and diversity of life.  Birds of prey can descend from the sky to snatch life away without warning, an unsettling trait that is reflected in stories found around the world of giant birds that can prey on people, like the Roc and the Thunderbird.  Xerneas and Yveltal are best seen as the Pokémon universe’s take on these broader ideas, not as attempts to ape specific mythological animals whose stories don’t even fit them.

That isn’t exactly the way I envisioned this entry going; I suppose dissecting these mythological identifications was more important to me than I realised, and in fact I’m coming to realise I haven’t actually said much about Xerneas and Yveltal themselves.  A quick assessment to finish, then.  Life and death were bold choices, and I feel there’s a lot more room to play with this story than we saw in X and Y – Zygarde will doubtless complicate the relationship between these forces a great deal.  The designs are perhaps a little over-the-top, even in comparison to previous legendary Pokémon – I mean, Xerneas is almost literally “rainbow crystal stag Jesus” – but they certainly work.  They also led to the creation of an interesting kind of threat in Team Flare and Lysandre, although I’m on the record as believing that Lysandre isn’t nearly as morally ambiguous as the game seems to think he is.  In short – if you ask me, these Pokémon work.

You may remeber a fake picture rolling around the internet a while back claiming there was going to be a generation zero. (Google “pokemon generation zero” and you’ll be set). Although it was announced as fake. There was one idea i found truly facinating. The idea of using baby formes of the Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres, although that exact idea is a bit silly. Am i the only one who would like to see a game which focuses on you raising a legendary suchas Zekrom or Reshiram?

Hmm.  Go go gadget Google.

Oh, RIGHT; I remember this!

Yes; okay.  So, for everyone who hasn’t seen this – ‘Generation Zero’ is an idea for a prequel to the existing Pokémon games, in which the player takes on the role of a young Professor Oak or Agatha, writing the first Pokédex, inventing new Pokéballs from apricorns, using the DS touch screen to sketch Pokémon you catch for the Pokédex… and with an infant Articuno, Zapdos or Moltres as the starter.

Anyway, as to that question… Personally I have rather different views on legendary Pokémon to most people; in particular I actually don’t think they should be obtainable by players at all (with some exceptions).  If you wanted to make a whole storyline out of it, on the other hand, that could become quite fun.  I would rather like to see a game in which your relationship with your starter Pokémon takes centre stage, building on the way Yellow handled Pikachu with the more advanced storytelling that the games have been developing since then – raising a legendary Pokémon would be an interesting way to do that.  Naturally, you would have villains – possibly multiple factions of villains – trying to claim your partner for themselves.  The law-abiding citizens and police of your region might be on your case too – it’s dangerous for anyone to have that kind of power, let alone a kid!  Meanwhile your Pokémon is getting stronger and stronger – as a legendary Pokémon it might need to assume an important place in the order of nature, but it has to learn to control its powers first.  You could do some interesting things with the game mechanics too, having your interaction with your partner affect the way it learns and gains new powers.  Reshiram and Zekrom might be particularly good choices for a game like this, because the most important theme of their story is partnership with a human ‘hero’ (and, of course, if you have one of them, the immediate question arises… who has the other?).

So yeah, if you actually built the story around it, rather than ham-fistedly pasting a legendary Pokémon into a standard Pokémon plot, I think it would be fascinating!