Lusamine and the Aether Foundation

Lusamine

This piece is in principle about the Aether Foundation, and we’ll start by talking a little about them.  In practise, though, as I hinted last time in my review of Team Skull, it’s actually more a character study of Lusamine, since a lot of the real “villainy” happening in Sun and Moon is a result of her personal actions, either independently of the Foundation itself or abusing her position within it.  The interesting thing about Sun and Moon is that, although Team Skull clearly aren’t the villains by the end of the game, the Aether Foundation aren’t really the villains either.  In fact, I’m not even sure Lusamine is.  Let’s talk about that.

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Necrozma

Necrozma

Today we’re going to look at… probably the closest thing that Ultra Sun and Moon have to an antagonist: the mysterious, sinister light-devouring Pokémon, Necrozma.  With an all-black colour scheme, a name that incorporates the ancient Greek word for corpse, a mysterious extraterrestrial origin, and the ability to blast everything in sight with frikkin’ laser beams, this is clearly a Pokémon to run away from very fast.  But what actually is it?  Let’s discuss.

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Poipole and Naganadel

Poipole

Finally, we’ve dealt with ALL the Ultra Beasts.  Nihilego, Buzzwole, Pheromosa, Xurkitree, Celesteela, Kartana, Guzzlord, all seven of them have been reviewed.

…what do you mean, they added more!?

Okay, so… 802 Pokémon was not enough, it’s never enough, it will never be enough until I’m dead, so Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon added another five Pokémon that weren’t in the original Sun and Moon, and can’t be traded back to those games either.  Four of those were additional Ultra Beasts, and for the sake of thematic unity I’m going to cover them before returning to the legendary Pokémon of Alola.  Our subjects for today are the first two, the only Ultra Beasts to evolve: Poipole and Naganadel, the Poison Pin Pokémon (the same species name as Nidoran!).

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Kartana

[First of all: apologies for this one being late. I lost quite a bit of writing time last week flying back from Athens and recovering from jet lag (which, for me, tends to involve sleeping for 15 hours straight), but I think everything is just about back on track now!]

Kartana

Ever had a paper cut?

Hurts, doesn’t it?

Well, today’s Pokémon, the Ultra Beast Kartana, would like you to know that it lives to cause you that pain.  Every time you turn a page in a book too quickly and feel a sudden, sharp sting, or every time you lick an envelope and your tongue or lip screams at you to abort the mission because something has gone horribly wrong, Kartana is there, watching.  And laughing.

You’re welcome.

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Jim the Editor asks:

I thought you were going to talk about something similar to what you said in the celesteela article…

…oh yeah

right, we were going to use that space question as an excuse to go off on that tangent about Ultra Space that I didn’t do in the Celesteela thing

bollocks

See, this is why I keep him around.

Right, let’s talk about that now. So the thing about Ultra Space that I think is a bit weird is that it’s… not altogether clear what it actually is.

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The Philosophical Sheep asks:

Aside from our brief encounter with Deoxys just outside the planet’s atmosphere in ORAS, we’ve never been to outer space in a Pokemon game. This feels strange, especially now that there have been multiple games where we spend long periods of time in alternate dimensions–space feels like a much more natural area for a Pokemon game to explore in comparison. Why do you think Pokemon hasn’t yet really explored outer space in a game?

I suspect there’s often not a good answer to questions of the form “why didn’t Pokémon/Game Freak/Nintendo do this?”  A lot of the time, the truth is that the answer is just “because they did something different instead, and one choice isn’t obviously better than the other.”  There’s not necessarily a logical progression that says you have to have outer space before… whatever Ultra Space is.  But I think if we want a real answer… well, what would be the consequence of going into outer space, rather than using Ultra Space as a proxy to let us explore the universe?  For one thing, we would in principle be able to touch back down anywhere on our home planet; there’s not really any good reason we’d have to return to the region we left from (things like Ultra Wormholes provide at least a handwavey justification for always coming back to the same part of the world you left). But I think a deeper consequence is that we see the solar system.  And Game Freak is a bit weird about whether or not the Pokémon world is supposed to be Earth.  After generation I, there are very few references to real places on Earth, but all the regions we’ve visited in the core series are based on real places, and the world has a single white moon that looks the same size as its sun (only I think Pokémon might believe that the moon is an independent source of light, since moonlight and sunlight are distinct sources of magical power with different effects).  If we leave the planet… well, do we see Mars? Other iconic planets of the real solar system, like Saturn?  Are there Pokémon on Mars?  If we can visit the moon, does that force definitive answers on things that have previously been deliberately left as the subject of rumour and conspiracy theories, like the origins of the Clefairy? Do we have to answer questions about how moonlight and Pokémon with moon-related powers work?  What about the gas giants?  How would they even support Pokémon?  Is Pluto a planet?  Can the games show us Earth from space without having a clearly defined world map?  Will the answers to some of these questions accidentally confirm that the Pokémon world is definitely not Earth?  Granted, Ultra Space and the Distortion World raise lots of questions too, but I think for the most part they’re questions that are relatively easier to ignore.  I don’t think you can let players travel the solar system without being forced to immediately take a stance on a number of things that Game Freak would probably rather leave ambiguous.

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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