Welcome Pokémon trainers, fans, and those who clicked on the wrong link, to our fourth volume into the weird origins of our favourite monsters. The fourth generation debuted in Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. In truth, this gen was a bit of a mixed bag. A majority of the Pokémon were evolutions of previous ones, and most had straightforward designs. Still, there are a few diamonds in the rough that have quirky and creative inspirations.
By far the most popular and recognised of generation four is Lucario, the Aura Pokémon. The first major Diamond & Pearl Pokémon to be promoted, Lucario starred in the anime’s eight movie, and earned a spot in Super Smash Bros. Lucario and his pre-evolution Riolu resemble Anubis, the jackal-headed Egyptian god of embalming and the afterlife. Anubis guided souls to the afterlife, judging their hearts using weighing scales. Lucario’s distinct aura powers appear to be a child friendly version of Anubis’ purpose. Lucario’s design resembles a boxer, a sport believed to originate from Egypt. The four weird black appendages on the back of Lucario’s head are used to sense and read auras. These may be inspired by the rings found on the khakkhara Buddhist staff, said to be able to respond to spiritual energies.
Aipom and Ambipom
Aipom and Ambipom are semi-creepy grinning monkeys best known for their handy tails. Aipom’s tail serves as an extra hand, based on the New World monkey, which have prehensile tails that let them grasp and hold objects. However, Game Freak sure likes borrowing elements from unexpected myths. Aipom and Ambipom may take their hand-like trails from Ahuizotl, an Aztec monster. Ahuizotl is described as dog-like and has an extra hand on the tip of its tail. The monster also likes eating human flesh. Thankfully, Aipom doesn’t do this. Instead, it evolves into an Ambipom for Ash and Dawn, then shoves off to become a ping pong champion. Yes, seriously! No, I’m not bitter at how dumb that was!
Bronzor and Bronzong
Bronzor and Bronzong are based on a bronze mirror, and a bronze bell known as a dōtaku. The Pokémon are a homage to the Japanese folktale, “Of A Mirror and A Bell”, found in Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. In the story, priests want to build a bell for their new temple and are given old bronze mirrors to melt down and use. But, one donated mirror belonged to a widow who came to regret her choice. It was said that a mirror was a woman’s soul, and the lady believed she had given away her soul to be melted. When the mirror proved to be impossible to melt, the woman, out of shame, committed suicide. Lovely.
Here’s where things get interesting. Before the lady died, she left a letter stating that the mirror could be melted to complete the bell upon her death. Anybody who broke the bell would be rewarded with great riches by her ghost. The locals began walloping the bell on a daily basis hoping to break it. The priests grew so fed up with the bell’s abuse, that they rolled it down a hill into a deep swamp. The bell sank, the dead woman had succeeded in destroying it from beyond the grave. The tale gets a clever nod in Bronzor and Bronzong’s “Heatproof” ability. The most interesting reference in Bronzong’s Diamond Pokedex entry, describing one Pokémon being dug up after a 2000-year slumber. Maybe this mysterious Bronzong is the very bell from the legend.
Many previously introduced Pokémon got evolutions in Diamond & Pearl. I feel a lot of them were unnecessary, and a lot of the overall designs are mediocre at best. On the positive side, the surprise female evolution of Snorunt, Froslass is one of my favourites. Her Pokedex entry saya she’ll attack hikers and freeze them to death, and may have been born from a lost woman who died on a mountain. This is a reference to the Yuki-onna, a Japanese spirit or yokai that appears as a beautiful woman dressed in white. Yuki-onna dwell on snowy mountains, and will either kill or help any lost travellers. There are many different depictions of the Yuki-onna. Froslass has an elegance about her, hiding her more dangerous nature, and ability to freeze opponents with temperaments of minus sixty.
Rotom was one of the first Pokémon that could change into different forms rather than evolve. This Electric/Ghost-type can possess electrical equipment, and take on their appearance. Rotom gets his ghost sub-type from poltergeists, but could be also based on gremlins which are said to cause malfunctions in technology. What happens if you try to feed Rotom after midnight? Rotom’s name, as you probably guessed, is “motor” backwards, a clever nod to how Rotom reverses technology by short-circuiting their power source. Rotom’s more bizarre origin is the video game character Pulse Man. Created by Ken Sugimori, Pulse Man is a Mega Man-esque character who can channel electricity and sports an orange, robotic suit.
Eevee was the original Pokémon who had a gimmick to evolution, having multiple options to pick from depending on which elemental stone was used. As of Pokémon Sun & Moon, Eevee has eight “Eeveelutions”, each a different type that is obtained through various means. Eevee itself resembles a fox or feline, a trait shared with its evolutions.
Vaporeon is aquatic in nature, taking inspiration from mermaids, kelpies, and the asrai, water fairies that can melt into water. Jolteon is based on Raiju, a Japanese beast made of lightning. Flareon could be based on a kyubi like Vulpix and Ninetales. Espeon is based on the bakeneko and the nekomata, cat yokai that have mystic powers and forked tails. Umbreon is a mix of a black cat, the Chinese moon rabbit, and Tezcatlipoca, an Aztec deity, who appeared as a black jaguar sporting yellow horizontal bands.
For gen 4, the two eeveelutions introduced were Leafeon and Glaceon. Leafeon is based on the concept that if a domesticated animal is released into the wild, they will literally become one with the plant life. Glaceon is based on an arctic fox.
While we’re on the subject, it’s worth to note that gen 5 introduced Sylveon. Sylveon, the loveliest of all, is more stylised, its pink and white hue and ribbons resembling a dancer. Its rounded ears and ribbons allude to the moon rabbit and her mistress, Chinese moon goddess Chang’e, who wears ribbon-decorated robes.
Pokémon hasn’t taken much inspiration from Christianity, though Giratina seems to be the exception. The central character in Pokémon Platinum, Giratina was created by the god Arceus, personifying anti-matter. Due to its destructive, abhorrent nature, it was imprisoned within the Distortion World. Giratina is based on fallen angels, who rebelled against God and were sent to Hell. This would make Giratina the Devil of the Pokémon franchise. It has a very frightening appearance, red eyes, dark, black tendrils, and an inhuman body. The fact it resembles a giant centipede may be a reference to My Lord Bag of Rice, a Japanese fairy tale, that involved a hero slaying a gigantic centipede.
What are your thoughts on the fourth generation of Pokémon? Which are your favourites? Leave a comment below or give us a shout on Twitter!