Thursday 21 February 2019

Quick Crappy Pokemon Reviews: Generation 1 Part 12 - Horsea Line to Jynx Line

I think the anime did more for Horsea than people acknowledge, Misty treated her Horsea like it was a precious baby, gently lowering it into water and cooing over it like it was her own. Horsea was already cute but for those of us who were there for Pokémania, Misty’s actions made Horsea a kind of solidified cuteness, well until Togepi came along anyway.
I like seahorses, and Seahorses look like dragons from another planet, so I’m good with the Tangela line and its progression and it is nice to see a seahorse but I don’t have too much to say for these, I was meh on them then and now I’m meh on them and prefer the Skrelp line. I do prefer the Kingdra we got in Gen 2 compared the Kindra we were going to get:

That’s pretty damn boring compared to the armoured weedy seadragon we got instead, as I’ve said elsewhere one should never forget: looking more like War Machine is always cooler than looking less like War Machine, though really Kingdra is closer to Iron Man Classic isn’t it really? However it’s armoured look makes me continually think it evolves using the Metal Coat rather than the Dragon Scale, a mistake I made just yesterday on Pokémon Go! (and will no doubt make tomorrow on Pokémon Go! too)

I’m pretty interested in how opinions on something can be swayed and what by. Back in ye old days of Generation 1 I – like a lot of people think – had absolutely no opinion on Goldeen and Seaking at all, they were just there, filling out the Pokedex, filling out the world and not being Magikarp.
Then Goldeen became an item in Super Smash Bros, a joke item (it’s a reference to the anime btw) and every time it would flop out of it’s Pokeball and do abosultely nothing – even though it was total gimmick infringement on my dude Magikarp – I’d like it a little more. Seriously you can’t even pick it up and hit someone with it, you can at least throw Mr Saturn at an opponent. As for Seaking, there’s this:

A dumb (And considered somewhat forced) meme depicting Seaking as the destroyer of worlds but one that worked a real number on my thinking box. A bunch if prats online turning Seaking into a badass for god-only-knows what reason made, over time, it seem like a genuine badass to me. We’ll call it ‘The Mudkip Paradox’ shall we? Now I see a Seaking and go ‘FUCK YEAH SEAKING!’ (sometimes in my head, sometimes aloud, depends on what medication I’ve taken) and it makes me smile, I now not only have an opinion on, but a genie affection for Kanto’s regional vendor trash fish. 
Weird what can make you like things innit? Hence my fascination with the concept.
Also, this needs to be pointed out – they’re basically pocket sized narwhals aren’t they?

Hmmm…Gyopin is still exceptionally uncreative like most of these scrapped Baby Pokémon but there’s definitely a charm to it’s dopey little face. However is this a charm that comes from Gypoin’s design or a charm that is just inherent to fish? I think it might be a bit of both actually: it’s a natural fishy charm brought out by the proportions and stylisation of Gyopin.

It’s another of the Pokémon that didn’t say its name in the anime (and still doesn’t I guess)! At least its noises made sense, they were clearly the ‘ha!’ of a ninja or at least some king of kung-fuer - which at least fits with a star (or throwing star) and how the Pokémon was animated and portrayed, way more understandable than crabs that sing the Okey-Kokey.
These two are great, starfish are fucking extra-terrestrials so it’s great that Pokémon’s starfish are so completely otherworldly, they’re faceless, they’re barely anthropomorphised (except when they’re ninjas in the cartoon), they don’t look like anything else around them and they can read your mind, that is all starfish that is. Although I read somewhere that they might be based on Ultrakaiju (again), eh a lot of kaiju come from space too so that’s fitting.
And they were actually fairly useful, being Water Type and Psychic Type, the latter of which being the most broken thing in Generation 1 that wasn’t Wrap. I used to use Starmie a LOT on my teams, whenever I didn’t pick Squirtle really.

Not to be unoriginal but: 
Mimey was creepy when it was just a static picture, its way to clown-like to not be, but it only got worse when they started animating the sprites, now it moves in an unnatural way and the way a mime moves, that’s treble creepy. And there’s loads of them in my town on Pokémon Go!  - loads! I wake up, check what’s outside and BAM creepy clown that moves like a broken robot or a ghost from a Japanese film. No one should wake up to find a Mr Mime. Also, I may as well bring it up here because I’ve got to pad this out and because it’s fairly relevant and Mr Mime is far from a terrible Pokémon, learning a lot of useful infuriating moves and being a Psychic type, I’m focussing on the design and character of the Pokémon rather than their use in battle because just about any Pokémon (except Luvdisc) can be viable or useful, even if it’s only in tournaments of play styles focussing on weak or unevolved Pokémon (like Little Cup), you just have to know how to ‘build’ it. Some Pokémon are SO good, known for being good (or ‘Uber tier’ in competitive play) or so easy to make good in whatever game series or the TCG that it does influence my opinion of them or is so noteworthy it bares mention (like, say, Chansey’s high defense or Mewtwo having the best stats in Gen 1 by design) so I do but yeah, that’s why.
Mime Jr. is adorable though ain’t it? I mean it’s still a clown so still a little creepy and I wouldn’t want to wake up and see one in the dark, staring at me, singing but it’s certainly cute and one of the post-Gen 2 Baby Pokémon I hate the least. It’s completely unnecessary – Mr Mime is notoriously unpopular and always has been (because clowns are creepy), few to none were clamouring for it to have it’s evolutionary line expanded – most were clamouring for it to be shot into the sun. however it seems to be the eventual scratching of an itch that goes all the way back to the early days of Red & Green’s development. ‘baririina’ – Mime Jr’s Japanese name – can be found on documentation for Pocket Monsters in the early 90s and a different – WAY MORE CREEPY – version of the ‘mon appears in the Space World Gold & Silver Demo:

That is upsetting, but also quite harlequin-esque in design don’t you think? Not the one from Batman, just the style of clown, something that was lost for the more traditional American birthday party clown we eventually got. So from a behind-the-scenes it point of view it makes a lot of sense that when Diamond & Pearl were being developed and they’d decided to half fill it with cross-generation evolutions or prevolutions they’d resurrect a concept that gone unrealised for (potentially) 15 years or so.


Scyther used to be a dragon!

That’s from the original 31 sprites from Capsule Monsters, that’s Scyther (it has the same Japanese name as it). This is batshit to think about until you realise it actually explains a lot about why Scyther, despite generally being considered to be a praying mantis looks fuck all like a praying mantis. Scyther has a lizard head and feet and a robot body, that is nothing at all like the cover of A Shocker on Shock Street! Look if you haven’t guessed by now my knowledge on some parts of the animal world is limited, Goosebumps, Badniks and the Gigantics! model kits are really my only interactions with the mantis, I liked Ewoks as a kid, not bugs. As a teenage I thought Scyther was THE SHIT, as cool as you could get without being Mewtwo or maybe Electabuzz. I still LIKE Scyther but that insane levels of enthusiasm have definitely cooled, in fact today I think I prefer Pinsir. Why? I’m not sure but I think I just realised that while cool, Scyther isn’t that menacing looking, certainly not as menacing as I made it out to be in my 14 year old mind - in fact it’s face is boarding on cute; if it didn’t’ look pissed off all the time you’d want to pet it. Kabutops is really ‘Scyther but better’ and Pinsir is way scarier. It’s still a cool ‘mon but no longer want to be it.
Scizor undoubtedly helped this cooling. Not because I dislike Scizor because Scizor is a fucking Kamen Rider but Scizor took things further into the ‘cool’ direction rather than the ‘scary big bug thing’ direction that used to be why I liked Scyther. Scizor succeed at being cool, and it does indeed look like a bug wearing armour, you can see that right, the way the armour looks like it moulded over something rather than its skin? And it can pick up things now, sickle hands are sweet but they’re not very useful if you’d like to hold something without stabbing it’s guts out.
QUICK TANGENT: the British Pokémon magazine made a pair of scissors that were shaped like Scizor, I think you actually used its legs to cut rather than its claws but that is just brilliant, I didn’t buy the issue because I was skint that month and I really regret it.

Still Scizor's still better than the Space Wordl Demo version of it, which while having some parts that would carry over onto the final Scizor (it's crotch, for instance) was just...a  bigger Scyther with less cool hands. I'd rather the Magna Defender than that. 
Scizor had a Mega? Oh, so it did. I forget this a lot, probably because it’s not all that different to regular Scizor really and certainly not sporting the lunacy over the topness that makes so many Mega Evolutins’s likable and more so memorable, it just gets crinkle-cut scissors (which are apparently called ‘scalloped scissors’), I guess it can make a nice dress now?

No-one cares about my opinion on Jynx, no-one cares if I think it’s a good design or if I think it’s a good or bad way of doing ‘clothes’ on a Pokémon, everyone just wants to know if I think Jynx is racist or not. If you missed all this, Jynx originally had jet black skin on its face and coal hands and combined with, well, everything else about its design, lead to a controversy over it being a racial caricature, I believe the person who started this was a Carole Boston Weatherford. Since then fans like to get into arguments over whether or not this is in fact the case. There are generally speaking three or four major arguments – that it IS a racial caricature, that it’s based on a gross Japanese fashion trend called Ganguro (and its predecessor Kogal) which were meant to mimic white people, that it’s based on the mythological figure Yama-Uba (and Yuki-onna) and sometimes frostbite, Bulbapedia also puts forward that Zwarte Piet (which is black face), a character who’s the Dutch equivalent to Santa’s elves.
My boring answer is: it’s probably most of these things. Even though Gen 1 Pokémon, especially those created early on (Jynx dates to around late ’92/early ’93) were far simpler, Pokémon still had a habit of drawing inspiration from all sorts of things connected to one idea or thing and bringing it together into their designs, we can see this in things like Polywag, Diglett, Arbok, Psyduck and Parasect, all ‘mons created around the same time as Jynx. Actually, looking at Helixchamber’s ID list detective work again, we can see that while Jynx was coded in with a bunch of odds and ends, it comes after a pretty intense period of adding characters based on mythology (Psyduck, Drowzee, Goldem, Magmar, Electabuzz then Farfetch’d, Dragonite and possibly Crocky too) in a period where designs were being led by the newly introduced elemental type and a need to fill out the map with appropriate creatures, as such I think it’s a fair assumption that – as typing and location was being prioritized following a period of myths becoming Pokémon and Jynx is a cave dwelling Ice type – that Yama-Uba and Yuki-Onna were the ‘mon’s primary inspiration and the caricature elements were little additions (that I’m sure someone regrets a large amount), either because the design resembled Kogal (it’s a bit early for Ganguro) or because it had a black face and someone thought it was amusing. You see, Japan really doesn’t have much of a stigma about using racial caricatures, even of people with a significant population in Japan (like the Chinese) and especially of people without that (there are probably 10 Black people in the whole of Japan) and as Pocket Monsters wasn’t designed to be a world-conquering brand no-one would have seen any problem in throwing in a bit of blackface as a giggle.
In case you’re wondering why on earth Game Freak made a Baby for their most controversial Pokémon, Gold & Silver came out in 1999 in Japan, the whole Jynx is racist thing didn’t really pick up until 2000, anyway Smoochum is a Baby Pokémon and most of them are irrelevant. Smoochum is adorable but I’m not a huge fan of it as a design, it all looks very segmented, like a bunch of things put together rather than a cohesive whole, and I’m still not over how unweird it is compared to the strange, unsettling Jynx. 



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