Today, for… some reason… I have decided to try to bridge the gap between Alola and Galar by reviewing all four of the Ice-type regional variant Pokémon: Alolan Sandslash, Alolan Ninetales, Galarian Mr. Mime and Galarian Darmanitan. This obviously took far too much time and the article is far too long, but I’ve written it now, and if I had to write it, then you all have to sit down and read it; that was the deal, that’s how this works. The Ice type is an interesting choice for regional variations, because real animals also kind of have Ice-type regional forms: as animals move into more extreme latitudes, they have to deal with longer and colder winters, and tend to adapt accordingly. Cold-adapted animals tend to be bulkier than their relatives living in temperate climates, with more compact limbs, thicker fur or feathers and often a white colour scheme to blend in with snow. Adaptation to different climates in Pokémon can be a mixed bag as far as realism goes, and we’ll see multiple different takes on that with today’s four Pokémon. Let’s get started.Continue reading “Regional Variant Pokémon: Alolan Sandslash and Ninetales; Galarian Mr. Mime and Darmanitan”
Quick question: Looking at Vulpix’s pokedex entry from X, it mentions that vulpix are born with ‘just one snow-white tail’. Do you think this was foreshadowing for Alolan vulpix and do you think there is anything more you can make of this?
If that line were new in the X Pokédex I’d say yes, but it actually appeared previously in Leaf Green, and the idea of Vulpix being born with a white tail goes all the way back to at least the original Pokémon Stadium (Red and Blue specify one tail at birth, but not the colour). It could be deliberate foreshadowing that they chose to recycle that particular line in generation VI, but X and Y reuse a lot of Pokédex lines from Fire Red and Leaf Green for the Pokémon that were around in generation III, so I think it’s more a nice coincidence than anything else.
Vulpix is a kitsune fox spirit, which grow more tails as they become older and more powerful, and turn white or gold when they get to nine tails, which is why Ninetales is a pale gold colour. I don’t think their first tail is supposed to be white, though. Nor are real foxes born with white tails that later turn red, as far as I know. A lot of animals have special juvenile colouration that provides them with better camouflage while they’re young and vulnerable, but I don’t think white would help with that (unless you lived in a snowy area, which… well, Alolan Vulpix says hi). It could just be meant as foreshadowing of the evolution to Ninetales, I suppose.
House Ninetales: Ashes Avenged
Hypno’s Naptime – Pokémon Fashion Flash
(Apologies for the delay on this entry – internet connection conked out last night and I wasn’t able to post it. Of course, that hasn’t stopped me from writing, so my next entry will be up on schedule.)
There’s little to connect these two episodes other than the fact that Misty and Brock each happen to gain new Pokémon, so for the most part I’ll be dealing with them separately. That’ll take time, so without further ado…
In a place inexplicably known as “Hop Hop Hop Town,” Ash is suddenly accosted by an enormous pair of breasts calling him Arnold. Once Ash explains that he is not Arnold, the woman attached to the breasts calms down and tells his group that her son has disappeared recently. Ash wonders whether Arnold might have just wandered off to become a Pokémon trainer, which is apparently not an unreasonable thing for a young boy to do on a whim without telling anyone, but the mother has her doubts. In fact, as they soon learn from Officer Jenny #309, Arnold is only the most recent of several young children to go missing over the last three days. Ash, in his official capacity as a random wandering trainer, offers to help Jenny solve the case. They check the Pokémon Centre for kids who know the missing children, but none of them have any information. Nurse Joy #558 doesn’t know anything either, and has her hands full with her own crisis; all the Pokémon in her care are becoming lethargic, and she can’t understand why. It all started – gasp! – three days ago. Jenny suddenly remembers that she possesses a piece of technobabble known as a Sleep Wave detector, and that it’s been acting up recently. She hasn’t been following up on it because, honestly, she’s just a terrible officer, but now she decides to follow the Sleep Waves to their source: a mansion on top of a skyscraper. Because, y’know, what better place to build a mansion. Ash storms the mansion, and finds that it houses a society of well-to-do aristocrats, who term themselves the Pokémon Lovers’ Club, as well as a Drowzee and a Hypno, their favourite Pokémon. Apparently, the members have been using Hypno’s powers to combat their crippling insomnia ever since their old Drowzee evolved… three days ago. Brock suggests that their mysteries might be connected to Hypno modifying his Hypnosis for use on humans… so they do the sane thing and sit Misty down in front of him to see what happens! Misty promptly becomes convinced she is a Seel and flees the building, leading the team to a park where they find the missing children, who all think they’re different kinds of Pokémon. Brock has the idea of dragging Misty back up to the mansion to have Drowzee zap her, on the theory that Drowzee’s “Dream Waves” will cancel out Hypno’s “Sleep Waves” because… whatever. Despite a characteristically incompetent intervention from Team Rocket, Drowzee cures Misty and puts the other kids to sleep. When they wake up, they all remember who they are and rush back to their homes. Nurse Joy’s Pokémon, likewise, all recover after a short nap… except for a single Psyduck, who remains totally dazed. Psyduck doesn’t seem to have a trainer and no-one really wants him, but he manages to capture himself in a Pokéball Misty drops by accident, so she’s stuck with him.
This is one of many episodes that I think would make a good one-off side quest to stick in a game; it’s fairly simple, there’s a clear motive for most reasonable people to help, and most importantly you learn something about a particular species of Pokémon in the process. Given the chance, I’d probably stuff the games with diversions a lot like this. What we learn from Hypno’s Naptime specifically is that Psychic Pokémon are really friggin’ dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing with them. Granted, I can’t make head or tail of why Hypno’s powers affected either the kids or the Pokémon in just the way they did, and I’m pretty sure the writers didn’t know either, but it’s clear that exposure to his abilities can cause chronic psychological damage at tremendous range even when he’s aiming at someone else. Even though the aristocrats seemed healthy, it’s possible they too would have begun to suffer some other totally unpredictable mental disorder if they had kept using Hypno to treat their insomnia. I’m inclined to suggest that this is at least partly due to the absence of a proper Pokémon trainer or Psychic-type specialist to help Hypno learn to control his newly enhanced powers, and that practice will keep his Hypnosis from causing negative effects on the townspeople. However, if this were the real world, I’d want to keep all Hypno away from major population centres if at all possible until I had the results a couple of independent studies on the effects of long-term exposure. In the Pokémon world, of course, no-one does studies like this because, hey, if a Pokémon drives your kid insane, why not just throw other Pokémon at him until you find one that fixes him? Although Hypno is clearly a risk, no-one even considers trying to get rid of him. Legislating to restrict the freedom of people to own and use Pokémon is probably unthinkable in this world; Pokémon are just too great a part of their industry and culture.
The gang’s next misadventure is all about fashion, and the things people will do to stand out. Brock has dragged his companions to Scissor Street, a district famous for both breeders and fashion, so he can meet one of his idols: a young woman named Susie who runs a Pokémon grooming and healthcare shop. She and her Vulpix, according to Brock, are world-famous in breeder circles. Brock is here to tell Susie that, in his words, “I wanna breed like you!” (I mean, breed with you! I mean, wanna come back to my place and check out my rocks?) Brock wants to become Susie’s apprentice. She’s not interested, but invites them all out to lunch anyway, where she forlornly tells them that she’s been losing a lot of business to a big new salon. Salon Rocket (pronounced “Ro-KAY”) makes its money selling gaudy Pokémon makeup, clothing and accessories, and is making Susie wonder whether she’s right to spend all her time focussing on a Pokémon’s ‘inner beauty’. Ash affirms that yes, of course she’s right, but Misty muses that looking pretty on the outside can be nice too. Even though she’s not actually saying he’s wrong, they have a massive argument and Misty eventually stalks off to Salon Rocket to check out the latest trends. Meanwhile, Brock and Ash plan to draw customers back to Susie’s shop with seminars on Pokémon healthcare, and the line outside Salon Rocket dwindles as people wander over to Susie’s lecture on Pokémon massage technique. She eventually calls on Ash to demonstrate what he’s learned by massaging Pikachu’s electrical cheek pouches. Ash performs perfectly, Pikachu seems to enjoy the attention (I like to think this becomes part of their daily routine), and several members of the audience sheepishly remove the tasteless decorations from their Pokémon as they listen to Susie and Brock discuss Pokémon nutrition and grooming. Meanwhile, Misty is having the time of her life at Salon Rocket. Jessie and James (who else?), presented with only one customer to spend their time on, are enthusiastically covering her with face paint, glitter, bracelets, bangles and every other item of tween fashion they can lay their hands on. Tragically, Meowth grows impatient, blows their cover and has Jessie and James take Misty hostage. Meowth explains their dastardly plan to make obscene profits peddling trashy fashion items, then steal any rare Pokémon a trainer brought in, which… would have worked exactly once, I expect, so I hope they were waiting for a good one. Psyduck escapes and dashes off for reinforcements. Ekans and Koffing apparently get some kind of defensive edge against Pikachu and Geodude from all the frills and other nonsense they’re wearing, but also trip over themselves a lot. Eventually Susie gets annoyed and commands Vulpix to burn them to ashes with her Fire Spin. Later, Susie reveals that she’s going to close down her shop to go on a journey and learn more about breeding… and has decided to give Brock Vulpix, since he’s the only other person who’s ever managed to gain Vulpix’s trust or appease her discerning palette.
This seems like a good time to talk about how the series portrays Brock and Misty, because their reactions are actually important to the plot in this episode. Pokémon Fashion Flash really does its best to show off Misty’s superficial side, which raises its head from time to time throughout the series: she gets along with Jessie and James astonishingly well up until Meowth has them break cover. Her new look is played for laughs when Ash and Brock arrive, but Misty sincerely thinks it’s great, and so do Jessie and James. In general, Misty likes Pokémon that are “cute” and distastefully rejects ones that aren’t, like poor Caterpie – with the corollary that she thinks all Water Pokémon are cute – and regularly has lines suggesting that she doesn’t really ‘get’ a lot of the things that are important to Ash. She’s the least idealistic of the group, tends to adopt a ‘whatever works’ approach to the rules, and doesn’t regard her Pokémon as close friends or understand how much Ash cares for his. Although generally practical, she’s as stubborn as Ash and can be irrational where Water Pokémon are concerned (see Tentacool and Tentacruel, where she’s worried about protecting the Tentacool who are destroying the city). None of this makes her a bad person, though – just flawed, like anyone. Her heart is very much in the right place, and if nothing else she’s loyal, which this series values highly. Brock, likewise, has his issues. If a pretty girl – Susie, for instance – needs help, he will happily drag the whole group out of their way to take care of things, which gets him into a lot of trouble in the Ghost of Maiden’s Peak. His desperation to get a date notwithstanding, Brock is generally patient and level-headed. Although he has powerful Pokémon, he rarely fights except in episodes that are particularly important for him personally; he’s not a serious trainer and just wants to become a good breeder. He prepares meals for Ash and Misty’s Pokémon as well as his own, and presumably keeps an eye on their general conditioning as well – based on this episode, advising people on how to take better care of their Pokémon seems to be a breeder’s primary role in society. Brock’s strong sense of responsibility probably plays into this; he’s passionate about teaching people how to raise Pokémon well and bothered by the idea that a renowned breeder like Susie could be forced out of business by people who don’t really know what they’re talking about. Although a lot of what Brock and Susie say about raising Pokémon in this episode, like the importance of healthcare and nutrition, seems like common sense, it pays to remember that most people who own Pokémon aren’t actually dedicated trainers and would probably never put much thought into it of their own accord, which makes Pokémon breeders tremendously important players in the relationship between humans and Pokémon.
You will have noticed by now that I’ve skipped over episode 26 – Ash’s battle with Erika in Celadon City. I want to do that episode together with episode 32, the Fuchsia Gym episode, so those will both be coming up soon. Before that, though, we have two environmentalist episodes to get through: Sparks Fly for Magnemite and Dig Those Diglett. See you next time!