Poliwrath. Poliwrath’s design has become far more unique over time, you may not always have noticed but a lot of Gen 1 ‘mons have been tweaked throughout the years, even Pikachu. Poliwrath has become less and less of an angry Poliwhirl with bigger arms as time has gone on, getting a more unique body and spiral, but it still remains one of the least satisfying evolutions in Gen 1 for me, in fact I actually prefer its early design where it was King Snorlax Poliwhirl instead of Not Taking Your Shit Polywhirl:
Which is a bit odd really because it’s way less badass and actually far closer to Polywhirl but somehow to me it just feels more like Polywirl evolved rather than just went to the gym and got the ‘ump. Similar I suppose to other ‘Just Got Bigger’ evolution designs like Clefable or Muk feel like the Pokémon ‘grew into’ something when it evolved, rather than just beefing up or putting on weight.
Polytoad I like a lot more, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First let’s chat about Polywag because Polywag is superb, it is a super-cute tadpole with hypno guts, yes those are it’s guts, it’s based on a real thing from real life too, though I don’t think real tadpoles with visible intestines can use them to hypnotise you. It then becomes a super-cute frog but still with those transparent guts and thus not quite fully evolved, as it shouldn’t be, it’s a midvolution. Bogleech makes the good point that faces become cuter the more you simplify them and thus the lack of moth probably really helps Polywirl’s cutenesss. I see no reason to disagree with this.
Another issue with Polywrath is that it keeps the visible guts, meaning that it still feels like something that isnt’ quite a final evolution, Polytoed – introduced in Gen 2 as branched evolution from Polywhirl – doesn’t have that issue, it still has a spiral but it’s clearly markings, not guts, it’s Polywag all grown up into a complete frog but still with what made it special – hypno-belly, and it’s still super-cute. Polytoed is the evolution Polywhirl should always have got.
(Oh, there’s a Space World Demo version of Politoed – above – where it looked far closer to Poliwhirl, which makes sense in theory but in practice it’s a very basic, very unoriginal little design if you ask me, it could be any bath toy, any soft toy, any bubblebath container, any logo for any cheap brand in any Poundshop or Poundstretcher)
Of all the things that Pokémon Let’s GO Pikachu and Eevee carried over from Pokemon Go!, the removal of Abra’s bullshit gimmick of teleporting away the first chance it gets is quite frankly the best choice. I can now catch one without first praying, stroking a lucky rabbits’ foot and then hitting ‘Sing’ so hard the handheld screams in pain.
Anyway, what are Abra, Kadabra and Alakazam? Like as in, what animal? Are they foxes? Wolves? Dogs? They’re psychics. Kadabra, the first of the three to be designed, was created at the dawn of elemental typing in Pokémon, an idea that was added during development and wasn’t around at the start (see here), it comes alongside various creatures that are nothing more than monsters designed for their typing – Chansey (Normal), Machoke (Fighting), Graveller (Rock) and Arbok (Poison) amongst them. Later it seems that GameFreak would look to legends to base these sorts of ‘mons on (like Golem for Ground, Magmar for Fire or Eletabuzz for Electric) but here they just seem to be a bunch of things.
I think KAdabra’s the best of the bunch design-wise, it looks more like a final evolution than Alakazam to me, though I think I ‘get’ Alakazaam, and it sure does look like an old psychic man – something that would be even more apparent to the point of bllndingly obvious it got it’s Gen 6 Mega Evolution, an obvioslyness that kind of puts me off Mega Alakazam a little bit but again it’s hard to criticise a lot of Mega Evolutions when ‘ridiculously over the top’ was the point, and turning Alakazam into Merlin with a Five-Aside team of spoons and a prehensile beard is fulfilling that brief without a doubt
Abra’s cute, the end.
Oh and the line is the tool of the devil and this is why Uri Geller thought it was ok to sue for a harmless homage to him in the form of spoons (and in Japan a name, Kadabra is called Geller), I may just give Kadabra a higher score just for pissing off lunatic Fundies and that prick charlatan Geller. If you’d like more info on how the Abra line was used as proof that Pokémon was satanic and why this led to Geller taking legal action, please check out Bogleech’s much better and much funnier review page.
I always forget how much I like the Machop line and that sucks because I like the Machop line. Just break it down with me (again): you get a cute little dinosaur that turns into a wrestling Godzilla with…I mean those ARE stretch marks on it’s arms right? Or are they fins? I seem to remember them being ridged on some old toys and some of the plushies, what ARE those red things? Whatever. Then finally you get a four armed flurry of pain and supplexes that is Machamp, the Action Figure Pokémon (and thank you Bandai for finally giving us a proper Machamp action figure). I will maintain that Machamp’s odd face (which does indeed look like he stole it from King Dedede) is inspired by Kinnikuman, a manga, anime and toyline about a dumb-ass superhero wrestler which was incredibly popular in the 80’s in Japan (and indeed in the west as M.U.S.C.L.E.), tell me you don’t see it:
I like Machamp, you may have got that, I think what did it was the Machamp card in the TGC had Ken Sugimori artwork:
Even then when I didn’t’ know who he was or why he was superior, I knew Sugimori WAS the superior Pokéartist regardless, and so even though it was stock art and probably a quick and lazy choice for the people producing the card, I gravitated toward it and saw it as superior - other cards like NIdoking, Mewtwo, Charizard, Hitmonchan and Chansey had this going for them too, all of which were great cards (in fact Base Set Hitmonchan is still banned right?) which further cemented ‘Sugimori art = superior’ in my mind AND it had a really trippy background, AND Machamp looks like a M.U.S.C.L.E. figure - make things look like chrome Zapp lollies and/or mini-figures please world. It could also be because I’m not confused by any red things. However I do respect that Machoke (the first to be designed of the three) is the objectively coolest, they really could have done with swapping the head designs of Machoke and Machamp over, Machamp’s Kinnikuhead even looks like it an evolved form of Machoke’s. though it’s earliest sprite makes it more saurian I think:
I’m still not sure about cloths on Pokémon though, I’m used to it now and but they’re just…head tilting. This line is one of the bigger offenders – sure a belt and pants are pretty unobtrusive and I can live without seeing Machamp’s dingaling but apparently the belts are there to regulate their strength for everyone’s benefit including the Pokémon, this would imply they’re man-mad, but Emerald says “Because it is so dangerous, no one has ever removed the belt.” Which would imply they’re naturally occurring or made by the ‘mons themselves, and I really don’t think they’re that smart. All of this being muddied by gameplay and story segregation and the belts appearing automatically when you evolve your Machoke, no matter how far from a hypothetical Power Save Belt manufacturer. I suppose the ‘never taken one off’ thing could be a case of that fan theory postulated idea that the Pokédex exaggerates and/or includes local legends and hearsay because it’s being written by kids but it’s still unclear without that, bleh.
What a clever set of choices for an evolutionary line, we’ve got three visually similar but different plants that go from harmless to carnivorous making up the basis for a three-stage evolutionary line that goes from harmless (and adorable, Bellsprout you are so cuuuute) to vicious. These were one of the few Gen 1 evolutionary lines that were designed together and it shows.
But I’ve always been of the opinion that Weepinbell lets the line down a little, it just seems to lack that something that Victreebell and Bellsprout have, it’s just kind of…goofy, it’s a very Japanese goofy, they seem to like this style of goofy as we’ll see in later generations but I personally don’t. I do appreciate the lack of anthropomorphism in the line though, while I’m not one of those people who dislikes humanoid Pokémon (I like things like Delphox, Gardevoir and Lucario just fine) I do think that a world of fictional animals is only enhanced by its variety and completely plant-like plant-based animals help with that.
Weepinbell was originally due to get a split evolution just like it’s version equivalent (and all-round cooler ‘mon) Gloom in Gen 2, the Space World Demo for Gold & Silver that was leaked includes it, it was gonna be called Tsubomitto and would have effectively been a Belltower. While – like Bellossom – it’s nowhere near as cool as Victreebell I REALLY wish we could have got this, it would have served so many purposes: it would have pleased those who’d wanted Bellsprout’s evolutions to remain closer in design, it would have pleased people who like cuter final evolutions (or ‘Dragonite fans’), it would have fit perfectly with Bellsprout Tower that was introduced in this generation AND it would have kept the symmetry, my undiagnosed OCD would be so much more content if Weepinbell and Pinsir had got new evolutions (like they were going to) to match Gloom’s and Sychther’s.