hugh_donnetono 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!)

ohhhhhhhh boy

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.

Zeraora

Zeraora.

Eighty-four Pokémon down… three to go.  Today we’re looking at the Thunderclap Pokémon, Zeraora, the third of generation VII’s  mythical Pokémon.  As with Magearna and Marshadow, Zeraora doesn’t do anything of note in the games, but unlike them, its TV and movie appearances don’t hint at legendary origins or cosmic powers or forbidden ancient secrets or anything like that.  It’s really just a powerful and extremely rare Pokémon that kinda gets caught up in some $#!t, like Heatran, or (to some extent) Latias and Latios, or even Lucario in its movie debut.  Today we’ll look at how that happens – but first, a few words on Zeraora’s design and inspiration.

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Magearna

Magearna

I feel like I’ve said this multiple times already, but I really am finally on the home stretch of generation VII now, with just four Mythical Pokémon remaining: Magearna, Marshadow, Zeraora and Meltan.  In stark contrast to the last few Pokémon I’ve had to deal with, who have had critical roles in the plots of the seventh-generation games, as well as the accompanying seasons of the anime, these four mysterious Pokémon are pretty absent from the games and don’t have much impact on our own journeys through Alola (Meltan doesn’t even show up until we return to Kanto for Let’s Go).  With the exception of Meltan, they do each get their own keynote appearances in movies, though, so we’re going to be drawing fairly heavily on the events and histories presented in those, and as usual the testimony of the Pokédex.  Today we’re looking at Magearna – the aptly-named Artificial Pokémon.

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Ty 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.

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Spin Attaxx asks:

What’s your stance (from a narrative perspective, anyway) on the idea of Legendary Pokémon not being one of a kind (primarily with regards to the anime)? Do you think it “devalues” the awe they’re ostensibly supposed to have? It’s one thing to suggest relative nobodies like Heatran or Latios aren’t unique, but it’s jarring to have, say, a Lugia no different from any other big bird after all the grandeur and importance it had in Pokémon 2000, and an upcoming episode involves a wild Kyogre – something that was once a feared and uncontrollable force of nature that almost doomed the world just by existing – being the target of just one hunter. And then you have Mewtwo, who destroyed/mindwiped his creators and was motivated by how alone he felt, only for the Genesect movie to introduce a *different* Mewtwo that’s physically identical, made by a bunch of totally different people for no clear reason. It wouldn’t surprise me if in the future, we saw another Arceus that wasn’t the same one from its movie, yet they still state it created the universe somehow, or a Necrozma that influenced every dimension everywhere, and yet ISN’T the one we see in the Alola series.

I have… very mixed feelings about this, and I think it’s a more general problem that Pokémon has with the nature of canonicity.  ‘cause, see, I come from this background where I deal with mythology a lot, where there are multiple versions of every story,  they all flagrantly contradict each other, and no one sees any need to definitively settle the question of “but which one is true?” (because none of them are true but all of them are meaningful).  As a result, my natural inclination is “fµ¢£ the canon; writers should be able to tell whatever stories they want and have those stories be judged on their own internal merits.”  But then I do also see the other side – there’s worldbuilding happening here, and the nature and role of legendary Pokémon is confusing enough without sending these mixed messages.  It’s especially weird with legendary Pokémon that unambiguously should be unique, like Mewtwo, because Mewtwo’s creation was, as far as we know, a unique event.

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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.

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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.