Tuesday 23 April 2019

Quick Crappy Pokemon Reviews: Generation 3 Part 9 - Zangoose to Baltoy line

It’s Davidbowiemon and Robliefeldimon!
Yeah I know that’s technically a Digimon joke but whatever.
These two hate each other, it’s their raison d’etre, so of course they can also breed with other, so the natural outcome of this rivalry really is ‘and then they fucked’. Zangoose is supposed to be a highly stylized mongoose with fur markings that make it look like it’s scarred up – which is of course why it looks like an angry cat that REALLY likes Aladdin Sane. It’s all I can see, I just see a David Bowie album cover and start humming Cracked Actor. However if you can look beyond it looking like David Bowie, as most sane rational humans probably can, then Zangoose is fine I guess, it sure does look like it would fuck you up something serious.
You know what, Seviper doesn’t look like something Rob Liefeld would design, it looks like something of the one Rob-Liefeld-alikes that Rob Liefeld employed at Extreme Studios – Chap Yaep or someone – would design, one of those horrible mid-90’s imitators that made superheroes in the mid-90’s so ugly. if you want a perfect example of what I mean when I go on about ‘undesigned’ markings AND ‘random, whatever the pen draws’ markings, look at Seviper’s chest:

That purple masking is the worst of the worst, it feels like someone just drew whatever shape and then left it there, actually if it lost the purple and red I’d be way more tolerant of Seviper, and it would draw more attention to the ornate, ancient art look of it too.
Seviper’s also the second zigzag themed ‘mon this ‘dex but it doesn’t live it’s gimmick anywhere near as good as Zigzagoon, I didn’t even pick up on it until reading Bogleech’s reviews, mostly because the anime didn’t bother with it, they just animated it the same as Arbok.

Another duo of ‘version counterparts’ and I swear I do like some of the more normal Pokémon, I am so enthusiastic about the Swinub line and it’s just little furry things, I LIKE Wingull and Krabby and Ponyta and Arbok… I just like living sentient alien rocks better that’s all.
These two’s concept alone would get them a good rating from me, they are genuinely sentient alien rocks, or they might be, see they were first discovered at the site of a meteorite strike but no one can actually prove they came from space with that meteorite, so they’re Pokémon crytpids. They’re also Psychic/Ground types that float via telekinesis, are telepathic AND empathetic so they’re psychic alien crytpids. And you can train them, and use them to beat up Machamp.
This is fucking brilliant!
Design wise though they’re also superb. On first glance Solrock is the ‘better design’ of the two because there’s much more to it and thus also much more to get wrong – or to get right in this case, and Solrock is a glorious example in how to draw rock creatures. it’s not a sun carved out of rock, it’s a rocky thing that looks a little like a sun, with each of it’s craggy ‘rays’ being unique and nice little pieces of stone across it’s face to break up the design, as well as an exceptionally alien and unfeeling set of eyes that, apparently, always remain motionless. But I think this thinking isn’t giving Lunatone it’s dues, Lunatone is much simpler but it’s a lot harder to make a simple rock look and feel alive than it is something more complex and it’s very hard to do simple in a way that doesn’t feel lazy, Lunatone achieves these two things while still somehow remaining a somewhat emotionless feel to it – and that’s worthy of praise, plus again this isn’t a moon made of rock, it’s clearly a rock creature that looks a little like a moon, it’s more on the nose (or beak) than Solrock is but still has that appeal going for it with it’s beat and huge sunken eyes (it also has cool stony bumps that look like craters) it’s ‘the right kind of simple’ if you will: the Ramones type of simple. 
Also, while we’re here: Generation III had a lot of counterparts, but it’s worth taking time to note that each was a completely different take on the concept – Plusle and Minun were the same thing so it didn’t matter which you caught, Illumise and Volbeat learnt different attacks to reflect their personalities, Zangoose and Seviper were rivals based on a real-world rivalry with complimentary features to help them combat each other while Solrock & Lunatone learn different TMs to reflect their design basis – Lunatone will learn Ice Type TMs because it’s the moon and Solrock will learn Fire Type TMs because it’s the sun, of course this all just goes to show how boring Plusle and Minun are but it’s nice see and another reason why Solrock & Lunatone are awesome, even their TMs work into their gimmick.    

I think you have to be a certain type of person to like Barboach – the kid who kept worms in their bedroom, preferably
And I think you have to be a certain type of person to like Whiscash – people who laugh at Japanese Kids TV, preferably.
Whiscash is very much in that Japanese comedy style, Japanese kids see a cartoon animal drawn like Whiscash and immediately know it’s silly, the Japanese equivalent of American’s funny animals or our Beano/Dandy style – which is a fine design choice for a catfish, In fact Whiscash is pretty much just a Pokémonized version of the amusing cartoon catfish used on earthquake warning signs in Japan. I’m not going to knock a development company for making something that appeals to their local market, nor for having conscious or unconscious influence from their own culture (I’d drawn an amusing cartoon character in the style of The Beano or Viz for instance and wouldn’t expect to be knocked for that, because that’s what I’ve been ‘taught’ equals funny cartoon), it’s just not a style I find particularly visually pleasing is all.
And I like that mythology has been worked into Whiscash, it’s a Ground/Water type because Japan’s myths say that earthquakes are caused by Namazu, who’s a giant catfish. It’s a cool little detail and a nice reminder that even the seemingly simplest of Pokémon has a lot to them. But overall it’s… it’s just not my thing.
Barboach meanwhile is just little and funny, again a perfect aesthetic for what it’s supposed to be – a loach – but not my thing, I like my weird more high concept it seems, not like the things that live in the weird, dark parts of Colchester Zoo. But if you work with those sorts of animals Barboach is totally for you and I can’t knock that either, appealing to people with all kinds of tastes in animals is a bloody good idea for something like Pokémon. Again it’s just not my thing
So I’m giving them three balls, even though I don’t particularly like them I don’t have a good argument against them and they’re not doing anything ‘wrong’ so it feels a bit out of order giving them a lower score.

It’s easy to write the set wo off as ‘just Krabby and Kingler but again’ – so I will, cos Baltoy and Claydol are next and I love them dearly, fuck these two! Derivative bastards.
Oh ok
Even though they’re based on different animals (crabs and crayfish, yeah I thought Corpish was a lobster too) Krabby and Corpish are VERY similar, they have the same overall aesthetic, they same staring blank eyes, the same pointy head thing going on, the same colour scheme even and they both evolve into a second ‘mon that’s really just a bigger version of them – though Crawdaunt is, in all fairness, a lot more different to Corpish than Kingler is to Krabby. But it dawned on me at some point that this could very well be the point, that rather than being uncreative or unoriginal they were designed to be complimentary, crabs and crayfish (and lobsters) DO have a lot of similarities in real life so it does make sense that the Pokémon world’s versions would be similar, the way it makes sense that Anorith and Whimpod would be similar. I don’t have any proof of this but the possibility of it means that I can’t quite write off the way I used to when the Game Boy Advance as the current console. I suppose it doesn't make them any more original but it does mean that more thought went into them.
There’s also nothing particularly unpleasant about Corpish as a design, on it’s own merits it’s a cool little critter with a very Gen 1/2 feel to it, so there’s also that.
And I tell you what Crawdaunt also has that Kingler doesn’t – random shit stuck on the front of it. What is the point of the star and the blue lines? WHAT!!?! See I’d be tempted to just call ‘em more of Gen 3’s random markings and bits, flung on whatever-style in a misguided attempt to make the designs more interesting or original but, I dunno, they feel like there’s a point to them somehow. It think it’s because they look a lot like the sort of designs old sentai and tokusatsu characters used to sport, it leave same thinking that there must be a reference to some TV show I’m not getting because I’m not the exact age as the designer and from the exact same part of Japan.

Let’s talk Dogū.
Dogū are little prehistoric statues (from the late Jōmon period, about 14,000–400 BC) found all over Japan (except Okinawa, because fuck Okinawa) that no-one has any explanation for, the most popular being the goggle-eyed Shakōki-dogū:
They just keep turning up! Buried relics of god-knows-what practice by a Japanese people that was making intricate little men a thousand years before Jesus got his chippie arse in gear and started doing shit. Nutters, conspiracy theorists and cryptozoologists use them as proof of all kinds of theories including aliens and time travel but the Japanese just tend to use them the way we use the Greek gods: as a free space on the creativity bingo. they show up all over the place, I first met them in Dynamite Headdy for the Mega Drive, Digimon flat-out just makes one an angel, you can fight them in Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and Shin Megami Tensei and then there’s The Ancient Dogoo Girl:
Actually, sod Pokémon for a moment, this is now temporarily The Ancient Dogoo Girl section.

The Ancient Dogoo Girl was a live-action tokusatsu show about a shut-in who accidentally awakens a…very bouncy Dogū themed superheroine (Dogu-chan) by groping her while she’s buried and gets dragged into her battles with ogres - which she defeats by taking off her top to reveal she has Shakōki-dogū goggles for knockers and using her tits to Care Bear Stare the baddies to death.
And then for the second series (The Ancient Dogoo Girls) they just put loads MORE magic breasted girls in it! It is glorious shit but with a hint of social commentary, ridiculous pervvy camp that feels like it came straight of 1973 but was in fact aired in 2009 and is perfect in every way possible. What were we talking about?
Oh yeah, well Baltoy and Claydol – and they really should have been called Claydol and Eyedol shouldn’t they? – are based on Dogū, sadly they do not have rainbow sprouting boobs but they are fucking great. What I like about them specifically is that while they are clearly both Shakōki-dogū they’re not just Sugimori drawings of them, Baltoy seems to throw in dreidels and spinning tops (there are ancient spinning tops are there not? I think so), though there are Dogu with bodies closer to this than the chunky humanoid ones of the goggle heads, and boils down the Shakōki-dogū head down as far as it can go, leaving it feeling wholly unique while still keeping the weirdness and cuteness of Dogū. Claydol meanwhile manages to up the weird factor - of an inexplicable series of clay people that look like alien astronauts - by giving us a Dogū head that goes all the ‘way round, attached to a floating, wonderfully round set of bizarreness in one of the nicest colours schemes in Pokémon. It’s like a gourd, a Dogū, an alien and a short goth girl merged into one utterly beguiling little monster.


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