Summer reissue: Sam Brooks digs into his childhood to present his magnum opus: a ranking of all 151 OG Pokémon.
This post was originally published on 20 April, 2019.
You can see the scrollbar at the right side of your screen. Let’s just get into this, shall we? Opinions are, as always, my own and subjectivity is not objectivity.
Look, the worst one is an easy pick. Out of the now 800 Pokémon in existence today, Jynx is the only one that would be cancelled now.
Why? Because in her original design, it looks like she’s in blackface – and she looks more than a little bit like a golliwog. And, as a person who exists in the present moment, I know that golliwogs are bad.
Sorry, Jynx, I don’t care if you got purpled up in future generations, it doesn’t change your unfortunate racially charged actions. You’re cancelled!
You ever try and walk through Mt. Moon without running into one of these eyeless flying rats?! Look at it. It’s just a mouth and wings! Also, its cry sounds like it’s trying to connect to the internet 15 years ago.
Big ugly purple blob longing for death.
Exhibits A-Z. Plus, it has eyes that look simultaneously soulless and dumb as all hell.
Gloryhole venus fly trap.
This is a Pokémon whose existence seems to be a cruel joke – this poor thing is 80% tongue, and you don’t know where that tongue has been.
Rock who skipped leg day.
144. Mr. Mime
Why does its feet curl upwards? Why does it have both fingers and paw pads? Why does it have horns? Why is it smiling at me? Why does a creature with presumably no knowledge of the cursed artform that is clowning somehow have knowledge of mime, the least of all clown artforms?
These questions take up too much space in my brain.
Fire bird with fire breasts on its head.
Dumb fish that perpetuates the patriarch and also has soulless eyes.
Poison balloon with two heads that longs for death.
Literally just sentient soft-boiled eggs.
Blob with two dots for eyes.
I don’t know what it is about vertical mouths that make me uncomfortable, but goddamnit they do! Also, a boring shade of brown.
Sentient oyster with a tongue for some reason.
Everything about this guy unnerves me. Why are the eggs the size of coconuts? Why are they placed on a tree like coconuts, when that’s not where eggs come from? Why does it have legs like a big ol’ dinosaur? Why do the leaves look like hair? Why does this guy look like he perpetually ‘has glaucoma’?
Legs for weeks, and not in a good way. How does this thing eat anything? It has no mouth! It’s just legs and two disproportionately weedy hands!
Evil seashell who wants to eat my insides, and then divorce me.
Literally just an earthworm with a pointy head, and a weird Rudolph nose instead of a mouth. Why do so many of these low-ranking Pokémon not have essential things to continued existence, like mouths, eyes or hands?
Just a snake, its name is even ‘snake’ spelled backwards. We’ve already got snakes in the world, we don’t need Pokémon snakes! No thank you.
Another Pokémon with a tongue too big for its mouth – what’s happening here? Also, just a white seal.
What’s worse than a bird with one head? A bird with two heads! Get out of here, two-bird! How does this thing stay upright? It’s heavier
Small purple blob who is happier about being a purple blob but is still, unfortunately, just a purple blob.
Do a little exercise for me. Say the word ‘raticate’ (rat-a-cate, as in Cate Blanchett) like you’re a rat who has learned how to speak English.
Did you do it? Good.
Didn’t it sound awful?
Raticate is also basically the flipside of Ratatouille – a rat you wouldn’t trust in your kitchen, and definitely not to cook.
This looks like a growth I would ignore underneath my bathroom sink for far too long, and it would eventually lead to my death.
This is the Daisy Buchanan of Pokémon. I will not be taking questions on this.
Same as Voltorb, but flipped and with sex pest eyes.
The Pokémon that look like people tend to upset me because they sit in this uncanny valley where it’s like the artist tried to draw a monster/creature and accidentally ended up with person dimensions. This is even more distressing when it’s a small child, like Machop is. And even most distressing when that kid is ripped!
Big round angry furry circle. Its paws and two-toed feet unnerve me.
When I was a child, I didn’t expect that I would be typing “Where the mouth?” so much, but here we are. Where is this creature’s mouth? Why is it making me think about what a buff frog would look like? How does a frog even get buff? Where’s the frog gym, just so I know so I can stay far, far away from it!
Rock rhino with upsetting jagged edges.
There’s a few Pokémon designs, especially first stage evolutions, that feel like the artist worked backwards from a second stage evolution. Dratini is one of these, being essentially a smaller and more simple version of its second stage evolution, the beautiful, elegant Dragonair.
Basically: It’s a blue worm.
On the other hand, Pidgeot feels like the same in reverse. The artist started with Pidgeotto – a simple, but elegant design – and just added a few more plumes and called it a day. But that day? Was not a good day.
This is on the wrong side of feeling right. Three heads is a good fit, two heads feels like a malformation. Alas, it’s a bird, an angry looking bird, and I don’t want this image in my head ever.
Jellyfish with a boring secret.
Purple rat, but a little bit cute.
Whereas other Pokémon trouble me about as much as climate change does, Bellsprout’s physiology delights me! I think of it skipping across the ground as it moves, its roots propelling into the air up and up again.
However, it has too much mouth! Too! Much! Mouth!
The past few generations have gotten some flak for turning common household items into pocket monsters – keys, chandeliers, ice cream – but they’ve been doing it since the start, you guys. This is a magnet with an eye on it. It should be on a fridge, not fighting other monsters to unconsciousness.
112. Nidoran (F)
God, just looking at this thing makes me want to reach for my cords and get them out of its reach.
This is what happens when a rock takes steroids but doesn’t actually work out, just bulks out and looks gross. Also, it’s a buff rock.
Little rat-pig-monkey thing. Needs a bath.
This thing somehow strikes the middle ground between being a swan, a pigeon and a goose. It is the face of avian evil, with only the slightest modicum of elegance to offset the fact that it’s a goddamned filthy bird.
This is actually kind of cute, despite the black hole of a mouth. Pokémon in this section of the ranking tend to either have no mouth or too much mouth, I’ve found.
What is going on beneath the ground. What or who have you buried? What are you hiding, little earth-finger?
See above, but times three.
I just want to step on it. I’m so sorry. I know it’s meant to be cute, but this should not be in my house, green bug thing.
This one splits the difference between something that I instinctively want to wave away from my face and a cool design – sharp angles, cool colour scheme, and it looks genuinely pissed off about something. You cut this bird off in traffic, and she wants revenge.
Those red eyes are out for your blood. Imagine a room full of these things staring at you. No thank you.
Sometimes you feel that they phoned it in with a Pokémon or two. This one is literally just a buffalo, which I guess might be exotic if you’re in Japan. Technically, it’s foreign to me too! But it’s still just a buffalo.
Looking at Pokémon closely brings up questions in your head, such as, has this Pokémon grown a fighter’s belt as part of its evolution? Why? What biological purpose does that serve? Are those red things on its arms veins or some form of protection? Why does it remind me of a teenage bully?
Bird on fire, but regally so. Not proper regal, though – less a queen and more a marchioness, if you know your minor English nobility ranks.
Look at this goofy princess! Imagine this thing walking anywhere! Its face is a little bit too small for its head-body, and also its head and its body are the same thing! Terrifying!
Vengeful blue duck.
97. Nidoran (M)
I like this one slightly more than Nidoran M because it has a little bit more sass and personality. It’d still bite through my $150 MacBook charger (seriously, how do those things never oscillate in price?) but it might wink at me while it does it.
Imagine the horror of being a two-armed creature and suddenly growing two more arms? That’s double the arms! Machamp is a bit more terrifying than its pre-evolution, but I like that about it. It’s like the bouncer at your favourite club; he loves you but if you act the fool, then you’re going to be kicked out just like everybody else.
It’s like a cat! But with terrifying teeth in a circle! And mushrooms on its back. Gross, but cute! I’d pet it, and immediately regret it.
Elegant moth. The elegance is offset by the fact that it’s a goddamned moth, which combines the worst parts of being a bird and being an insect.
I like looking at this Pokémon! The big floppy flower is almost like a cowboy hat. When it tips its big, toxic, absolutely deadly flower it’s like its saying, “Top o’ the morning to ya laddie!” Which is less cowboy, more Irish.
I hate thinking about this Pokémon! How heavy is that flower? Can it stand upright? Let’s consult the Pokedex, for the first time in this ranking: “The larger its petals, the more toxic pollen it contains. Its big head is heavy and hard to hold up.”
Nope! No thank you! Poor thing!
It’s like a seafood ninja! But, similar to the mouth issue we’ve discussed multiple times above, I worry about how this creature eats. It just has scissors for hands! It’s like Johnny Depp in that movie before he was wildly problematic.
It’s a chubby fluffy star with a forelock! The colouring is a bit basic and beige, but otherwise there’s little to hate here.
Lots of Pokémon have clear correlations to other creatures. Some are clearly rats, some are clearly birds, some are clearly kitchen magnets.
I don’t know what Nidorina is. It’s definitely a mammal, but it is weirdly shapeless! It kind of looks like a mean pig! But it has pretty colours and looks quite savage.
This has the same relationship to Nidorina that Nidoran (M) has to Nidoran (F). It has a little bit more personality, by which I mean it has a horn. And look, we’re in the middle reaches. I generally like every Pokémon from this point onwards, and the rankings are only very slightly arbitrary!
Imagine you’re some kind of farmhand who is assigned the busywork of pulling turnips out of the field. Maybe you’re a serf of some kind. Let your imagination run wild.
Now you pull out one of those turnips and it smiles at you. It has eyes, it has a mouth, also it’s blue. It’s not a turnip. It’s an Oddish. Fun!
However, consulting our Pokedex once more: “During the day, it keeps its face buried in the ground. At night, it wanders around sowing its seeds.”
The idea of dozens, hundreds, thousands of these things wandering around at night puts the fear of God into me. What are they sowing. What do they want. What’s their purpose.
Cute dumb water pig thing that, in universe, is poached for its tail! Bleak.
Two questions are raised by Hypno: Is its little pendulum thing a part of its body? Did it find it somewhere? Where did it find it or how did it grow it? I don’t know which is more unnerving!
But it has a cute little ruff! Like Abbie Cornish in Bright Star, a reference point that I’m sure many other people have in their brain while looking at Hypno.
It’s the one who anecdotally gave a lot of Japanese kids seizures when his episode aired! This may be an urban legend, but damned if I’m going to use the internet at my fingertips and find out.
If it’s a virtual creature that lives in a computer – why does it have eyes?
I love the colouring a lot! I don’t like the proportions. This is the Nina West of Pokémon – know your body, know how to make it work and then bring it to the runway?
Also, I’ve looked at Electabuzz on and off, mostly off, for twenty years now. I have only now just realised it has a tail! What else are you hiding Electabuzz.
This is one of those simple designs that, while having bold choices – stark scales, claws for fingers and toes – still feels kind of forgettable and boring!
Ah, the classic tale of the adorable turtle that turned into a militaristic angry turtle! Someone sent Squirtle to ‘Nam and this is how Squirtle came back – she doesn’t thirst for combat but it’s all she knows.
Another one of those Pokémon where it feels like they came up with the second evolution first, then had to come up with the pre-evolution and just made it a bit more bland and dull so you got excited for the second evolution.
Which is to say, this is a simple starfish.
This is pretty much just a crab, but look at its eyes. That’s a crab you would hug, and regret hugging because why on earth would you hug a crab you weirdo!
Look at this big juicy lad. You don’t want to hug him, you want to cook him and eat him. Also, it looks like he’s smiling! Would you still want to eat something if it smiled at you? These are the philosophical questions that are raised by Kingler, a Pokémon that is literally just a big red crab.
Real talk: The only reason you remember Meowth is because he’s in literally every episode of the anime, and he’s the Pokémon who has somehow learned how to talk. I think there’s one episode that goes into how exactly he learned how to talk, but not in the philosophical ramifications of being the only one of your kind that is capable of speech.
Anyway, Meowth is an anime cat with money attached to his head. See previous grievances about whether this is a biological evolution or a cat just somehow attached a coin to his forehead.
Big rock snake.
We’re at the halfway point, ladies and otherly identified.
If you’re here, you’re actually properly trying to read this, in which case, bless your soul! Or you control-effed your favourite Pokémon, which is Magneton, and ended up here. In which case, I want to know your life. Who has Magneton for a favourite Pokémon? What chaotic energy!
This is three magnets put together, but it looks cool so I’ll allow it.
There’s not a lot of Pokémon that look straight up villainous – even the ghosts or dark type Pokémon look more spooky than villains. But this guy? With his massive horn, his tentacles and his dead eyes? He wants to do you harm, and I’m into it. It’s even in the name? It’s Tentacruel, not Tentalovely.
This Pokémon, adorable and innocent, was ranked higher until I decided to peruse that unholy tome of information, the Pokedex:
“Its slick black skin is thin and damp. A part of its internal organs can be seen through the skin as a spiral pattern.”
A rock dinosaur – what’s not to like, but also not quite love?
This has a similar issue of Blastoise, but a more interesting design – it takes two interesting, distinct pre-evolutions and mistakes size, grittiness and weight for an appealing design. There’s also the dissonance between its two pre-evolutions – scrappy cat-reptile things that looked like they moved super quick – and this lumbering lofty tree-dog. It makes me feel weird, and I don’t like that!
A dinosaur with a spinning metal horn, that is also kind of a rhino but mostly not! It looks like it has a good time!
Fire horse! Nice!
Earth mouse but cute and looks like you could keep it for a pet without it messing with the foundations of your house!
Okay, you know how I said some Pokémon have too much mouth? Golbat is like 85% mouth, but Golbat makes it work. The wings are cool, the eyes are sinister as an unvaccinated child, and the wings are like mini-Batman. Because Golbat is a bat.
This cat left me for its tennis instructor.
“Marowak is the evolved form of a Cubone that has overcome its sadness at the loss of its mother and grown tough. This Pokémon’s tempered and hardened spirit is not easily broken.”
We stan a Pokémon that acknowledges the weight of its grief and moves past it!
Arbok is mostly here because I think the design on its bottom face is real cool, and I’m sure at one stage I thought I would like a tattoo of it. This is why they don’t let eight year olds get tattoos. Also, it’s a gorgeous shade of purple, and I wish more things in my life were that shade.
A spiky angry seahorse! She wants to speak to the manager please!
Useless trivia and maybe an urban legend/straight up falsification: Venonat should evolve into Butterfree, not Venomoth. Based on their identical eyes and colouring, that makes way more sense. Somebody messed up, at some stage, and this is what we have.
Venonat is a cute little bug thing. If it showed up in my lounge I’d let it live.
It’s taken me until 61 to get to the worrying thing that is the Detective Pikachu, and I bring it up because it makes me wonder things about Pokémon that I’ve never previously had to think of: What is the texture of a Pokémon.
Which brings me to Haunter: Is it corporeal? Is it furry? Is it leathery? Does its skin feel like human skin? I will never know, because Haunter is a fictional creature, like all these creatures. It looks cool, though.
Electric bird! Zzzaaappp! I still have to write 59 more of these.
Elegant flying worm-lizard that looks like it could wrap around you and keep you warm.
Abra sleeps 18 hours a day, and is aspirational. Continue on.
It’s one thing to draw a cocoon. It’s another thing entirely to draw a cocoon that looks like it wants to straight-up murder you in your sleep. Come through, Kakuna.
Drowzee is that person at a party who really comes alive after two drinks, and is ready for bed by four drinks. But that third drink? He’s the best dude at the party, and he is loving this shit. Also look at his belly! Drowzee knows how to have a good time.
Let’s have a few facts about Slowbro, shall we?
“Naturally dull to begin with, it lost its ability to feel pain due to Shellder’s seeping poison.”
“Its tail has a Shellder firmly attached with a bite. As a result, the tail can’t be used for fishing anymore. This forces it to reluctantly swim and catch prey.”
“An attached Shellder won’t let go because of the tasty flavor that oozes out of its tail.”
“Shellder, in its greed to suck out more and more sweetness from Slowbro’s tail, has metamorphosed into a spiral-shaped shell.”
If only we were all as chill and/or numbed to constant pain as Slowbro is. Go forth, bro.
Elegant bird! If I was a weirdo who used birds to hunt, this is the bird I would use to hunt. It’s a bit bland, but there’s enough colour.
It’s half kangaroo and half dinosaur! Terrifying! But kind of cute at the same time?
Not just a fire horse, but an elegant fire horse. You have to be a ranked duchess or higher to ride this fire horse.
Of all the Pokémon that look capable of divorcing me, taking my house, my kids, and all my money, Goldeen is the best of these. Also, it manages to be a fish that I somehow want to hug, and that’s notable because I hate fish.
Fire wolf! Fire dog? Somewhere in between. We’re in the home-ish stretch here, and sometimes you just really like a regal-looking dog that is also sort of on fire.
Look. I’m not going to say what this looks like. If your mind went there, it went there. I’m sorry. And if it didn’t, good on you.
A weaponized oyster is a thing of genius, though. This is one of the few Pokémon that look like it is ready to fight, and it’s ready to gut you. This Pokémon is going to go Game of Thrones on anybody that tackles it.
Bug! With blades for arms! It reminds me a little bit of a Beetleborg, or similar.
Fire fox, that only suffers in being a little bit less memorable or distinctive than the other Pokémon that are also fire foxes. But not the browser – Chrome for life.
Spoon-wielding, mustache-having, cat psychic.
If, for some mad scientist reason, you decided to cocoon the popular Winnie the Pooh character and future Evanescence fan Eeyore, you would end up with Metapod.
Look, Mewtwo is one of the most famous of these monsters. The first movie revolves around him having a surprisingly dark existential crisis, especially when you consider that the target audience for these games is under ten years old. When you, an adult, email me angry about this list, please consider this.
His pawpads creep me out! He looks man-made, which is the point, because he’s a clone of a Pokémon higher on this list.
It’s a flying Chinese dragon! It is a pleasant shade of blue, but there’s also a red one which had a story role in Pokémon Silver and Gold which I kind of like better than the blue one. It’s rare to see a Pokémon that is so unashamedly angry, though.
You did something to wrong Gyrados, and nothing will satisfy it except your death.
See below, but a little bit worse.
Nidoqueen can tank a hit. Nidoqueen is the personification of that ‘don’t talk to me or my son ever again’ meme. She is armoured, she is ready to punch, and she’s been in my personal Pokémon team more than once.
She is truly worthy of her suffix.
Electric fox! Zzzzap! Angles for days! Shiny! Adjectives.
If there is an afterlife, I hope we all look like Gastly: floating heads surrounded by purple mist.
Also, might literally just be a possessed fart: “It’s said that gas emanating from a graveyard was possessed by the grievances of the deceased and thus became a Pokémon.”
Hitmonchan is male 100% of the time – I’m not sure what impact that has on reproduction and I don’t care to look that deeply into the reproductive science behind fictional creatures – but Hitmonchan is wearing a dress, and I’m into it. Punch gender norms to the ropes like you punch other Pokémon, and I won’t even stop to wonder what kind of creature biologically evolves hands like boxing gloves!
Look at this poison balloon! It even has a toxic sign on it! It loves it! It loves being poison! Just like your ex-boyfriend, it’s toxic and doesn’t care who it destroys, because it’ll do it with a smile.
Kadabra is like a queen on the first week of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Alakazam is like a queen on the final week. She’s found what works for her and turned the volume up to 11 – two spoons, longer mustache, and just a bit extra all around. She is ready to lip-sync.
Regal ice bird! If there’s one Pokémon that I kind of wished was real, it’s this one. I want to see its flowing tail trailing rainbow sparkles through the air
It’s a butterfly – who doesn’t love butterflies? Even better, it’s a butterfly with eyes because by far the most terrifying thing about butterflies is the fact that they don’t have eyes. Did you know Nicole Kidman is deathly afraid of butterflies? Oh to be rich and have access to many wigs.
Butterfree is here because Butterfree is beautiful, and for the very specific reason that if you chose Charmander in Pokémon Red/Blue as a starter, then Butterfree was your most foolproof way of getting past the first gym, because it learned Confusion at level ten. That’s a little tip for you, should you find yourself playing the original Pokémon for nostalgia reasons.
A turtle! Just a turtle, albeit a very cute, bipedal turtle.
This wasp has a penis. I’ve lived with that knowledge, now you have to.
Now that we’re past this, Beedrill is just cool. It’s a wasp that can stab you with its arms, and more importantly, it looks like it wants to.
“Its body can survive dynamite blasts without a single scratch, but it hates rain and humidity.”
What depraved individual is subjecting this innocent dinosaur-in-a-rock to dynamite blasts? Look at its little face! Look at how it has surrounded itself with warm, protective rock! That’s self-care if I’ve ever seen it, y’all. Keep on living, Golem. Stay away from rain and humidity.
A big balloon with a forelock and bunny ears! That’s like a hydra of cuteness, you cut off one aspect of cute and it grows two more!
Okay now look.
I know Pikachu is the series’ mascot, and by far the most popular Pokémon. I know that Pikachu has his own live-action/CGI mutant-hybrid film coming out soon, which seems like the worst possible version of someone wishing that Pokémon were real and instead realising that fantasy, fantasy through a screen is safer.
I like Pikachu! He has a great, recognizable design. Electric rat whose drag mother didn’t teach it how to use rouge properly. It takes a lot to pull off bright yellow, and Pikachu does it. There’s no hate here, just less love. I would call it nuance, but there’s 27 Pokémon left and god knows nuance has left me.
Satoshi Tajiri is the creator of Pokémon, and Poliwhirl is his favourite Pokémon. I can see why – Poliwhirl splits the difference between cutesy Poliwag and too-burly Poliwrath. It’s a pleasing shape, a pleasing colour, and its fists balance out the design really well.
Is it a cat? Is it a mouse? I don’t know! Is it cute, pink, and have a cute sound it makes? Yes!
It’s a duck with mental health issues, and those mental health issues make it so powerful that it literally cannot function in the world.
I relate hard to this duck, is all.
Lizard with a flame at the end of its tail, who gets a lot of its goodwill from being one of the very first starters and also having a memorable emotional arc in the anime, which is not an oxymoron, I swear.
The other Pokémon mascot is actually my favourite of them. Despite being a very simple design, there’s a lot of charm here. It looks like something that you conceivably might own as a pet in the real world, as bleak and dark and boring as the real world is. Like, an Eevee could snuggle up next to you on the bed at night and make you forget how dark and bleak and boring the real world is.
Also, it’s just cute. Very, very cute.
Gengar is not only a very cool design – it’s basically a ghost version of Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – but has some of the most mortifying Pokedex descriptions. To wit:
“Should you feel yourself attacked by a sudden chill, it is evidence of an approaching Gengar. There is no escaping it. Give up.”
“It apparently wishes for a traveling companion. Since it was once human itself, it tries to create one by taking the lives of other humans.”
“You can hear tales told all over the world about how Gengar will pay a visit to children who are naughty.”
“Even your home isn’t safe. Gengar will lurk in whatever dark corner of a room it can find and wait for its chance to catch its prey.”
There’s not a lot of Pokémon that actually blend the aquatic and the mammalian (what a word) together, and Vaporeon does that well. The scales look pretty and elegant while still looking distinctly like something from the ocean, and yet it’s definitely some kind of fox-dog blend. The ruffles help!
I have nothing funny to say here. Vaporeon just pretty.
Charmander minus cute, plus attitude and some muscles. If Charmander is the twink of this particular evolutionary line, and why on earth would you think that, then Charmeleon is the twunk. Ask your gay uncle what that means if you don’t know. Please don’t email me.
Parasect is literally a Paras that got possessed and taken over by the mushrooms on its back. Turning once more to our Pokedex friend:
“A host-parasite pair in which the parasite mushroom has taken over the host bug. Prefers damp places.”
“The bug host is drained of energy by the mushrooms on its back. They appear to do all the thinking.”
“It stays mostly in dark, damp places, the preference not of the bug, but of the big mushrooms on its back.”
“The bug is mostly dead, with the mushroom on its back having become the main body. If the mushroom comes off, the bug stops moving.”
Pokémon doesn’t often go dark like this, but holy shit when it goes dark, it goes dark.
This Pokémon was my favourite starter, and I will take from that piece to describe why Bulbasaur is placed here:
“There’s a reason this creature is Pokémon #001. Not only is it absolutely adorable, but it represents Pokémon at its most inventive and finest. This doesn’t look enough like a turtle to be a turtle – the head shape is weird, and it has claws, plus a big bulb on its back. It looks like an entirely new creature, but also, kind of with the aura of a cat. And cats are lovely, cool, and you want to hug them.”
I have a well-documented antipathy for birds. But a bird holding a weapon? Tie me up and call me Rosa, I’m there. A bird with a spring onion for a weapon? Also, a bird that somehow has a monobrow despite ostensibly being constructed of flesh and feathers? Sure, why not!
Take what I said about Eevee, assuming you read it and didn’t just wildly scroll down to the top 20 like a madman with a limited amount of time left on this earth, and double it. Vulpix looks like the softest creature on earth, and look at those tails! So fluffy! As the little girl says in modern cinema classic Despicable Me, “It is so fluffy I could die!” or words to that effect. Plus, it’s a fire fox.
I feel like Raichu gets a bad rap just because the Pikachu on the anime refuses to evolve into one, but I am solidly pro-Raichu. It takes all the best parts of Pikachu and turns up the volume on it.
Pikachu’s over-rouged cheeks? Big yellow cheeks, baby!
Pikachu’s kinda weird ears? Big floofy (it has taken me until 15 to use that cursed word) ears instead!
Pikachu’s lightning bolt tail! Put it at the end of a whip!
On the flipside of that, Victreebel takes every that is bad about Weepinbell, who you may remember is ranked at 147, and turns it into an asset. Gone is the upsettingly dead-eyed open mouth and in its place is a plant that wants you dead in its two-toothed maw.
Also, purely from a design standpoint, the mouth on the top of the head is pretty unique and a cool twist on the ‘murderous plant’ trope we’ve all seen a million times before.
Goofy dragon waving at me! Sometimes it’s simple why a Pokémon is awesome.
Towards the end of Kill Bill, Vol. 2, the titular Bill muses that the perfect image summing up the difference between life and death is a fish flapping on the carpet and a fish not flapping on the carpet: “So powerful even a four year old with no concept of life or death could understand what it meant.”
Magikarp is the Pokémon equivalent of that story, and there’s no more powerful metaphor in the Pokémon canon than Magikarp’s unending, useless flailing. It keeps on splashing without water until one day, it turns into a Gyrados and actually has enough power to wreak vengeance on all those who misjudged it or wronged it.
Vines, sneakers and the eyes emoji. Sometimes the designs that feel like they came out of a last-minute rush to get to 151 are, by pure accident, the best. Or the eleventh best.
This is what evolution should look like! Ivysaur takes the great raw elements of Bulbasaur and moves it forward – Ivysaur is more colourful, a bit scrappier, and also it’s a green cat-lizard with a big ol’ rose on its back! That’s just cool, you guys.
Also, we’re nearly six thousand words in, and I am very tired.
What’s better than a brown star with a jewel right in the middle of it, a jewel that seems to designed to function as eyes, ears and mouth somehow?
Two purple stars with a jewel right in the middle of it? I didn’t like Starmie as a child because it didn’t have any real correlation with any animal – it’s not really a starfish – but as a wiser, sadder, tireder adult that’s exactly why I love Starmie. It doesn’t really look like anything, but still manages to be beautiful, distinct and striking.
It’s a turtle wit a fluffy tail!
What’s better than a fire fox with one tail? A fire fox with nine tails, with all the elegance and certifiably unreasonable ego of a supermodel
Also, I love a Pokémon that is canonically, scientifically, petty as all hell:
“It is vindictive and relentless by nature. Those who cross it even once will be cursed for a thousand years, along with their descendants.”
I’m sure Lapras has some real world correlation that I don’t know because I’m one of the few millennials who didn’t want to be a marine biologist at some stage, because why on earth would I want to interfere with the ocean? I leave fish alone, they can leave me alone too, thank you!
There’s a regality to Lapras that I vibe with, and a slightly smug look on her face. She’ll let you ride across the ocean on her back and she won’t judge you to your face, but she’ll roll her eyes at you the moment your back is turned.
Cubone is literally wearing the skull of its dead mother. Cubone is metal and goth as hell. Cubone hangs out in the graveyard and drinks Codys because you don’t understand it man. I wish more Pokémon had crazy concepts behind them like Cubone, but I feel like once you go with ‘wear’s mother’s skull’ then you can only go downhill.
Also, I relate too hard to these Pokedex entries:
“The skull it wears on its head is that of its dead mother. According to some, it will evolve when it comes to terms with the pain of her death.”
“It wears its mother’s skull on its head, so no one knows what its bare face looks like. However, it’s clear that it’s always crying.”
“Cubone pines for the mother it will never see again. Seeing a likeness of its mother in the full moon, it cries. The stains on the skull the Pokémon wears are made by the tears it sheds.”
It’s a metaphor for grief, and not a very subtle one!
Snorlax is a body positivity icon you guys! Look at this big guy. He literally sleeps and eats all day! I love him, and if there’s one Pokémon that I’ve always, genuinely wanted to exist in real life, it’s this one. Imagine curling up on that belly and sleeping. We love a thousand-pound queen who lets little kids play on its belly!
People love dragons, especially when they’re well-designed. It’s very easy to mess up the design of a dragon – look at Smaug from The Hobbit films (or so I assume, I didn’t see them and have no intention on doing so) – but Charizard is a unique twist on a well-hewn classic.
By which I mean, honestly, he has a flame at the end of his tail, has cool wings, and is a nice shade of orange. I’ve run out of words by this point, but I trust that lots of people love Charizard as much as I do, and he’s one of the few Pokémon to break out past the game/show into other materials!
But honestly, he’s just a fire dragon. Sometimes that’s all you need.
I love Gloom, you guys. It’s a sentient poisonous drooling flower that looks a little like me when I’ve woken up after a great night! It’s one of the only creatures in the Pokémon universe that I think could only come from Pokémon – and when I think of memorable, distinctive Pokémon it’s usually Gloom that comes to mind. For me, it’s representative of Pokémon at its best – a creature that is neither animal nor spirit nor plant, and yet you want to build a relationship and conquer the world with it anyway. I would happily spend my adolescence and adult life with Gloom, a drooling flower that emits a stench that can be smelled over a mile away, and that says nothing nice about me as a person.
Look, a whole lot of you scrolled past the six thousand carefully constructed words and thoughts just to get to this point, only to disagree with me. Maybe reconsider your choices if you’ve done that! This is entirely subjective, and the only difference is that one of us is paid to have this opinion (not specifically this opinion but others) and many of you are not.
If you want to politely disagree with me, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to impolitely disagree with me, I’d encourage you to spend your time and energy elsewhere.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.