All 720 Pokémon, Graded. Part 6 — Nos. 51 to 60 (Dugtrio to Poliwag)

Welcome back to All 720 Pokémon Graded, the quest to bestow upon each Pokémon a letter grade and a brief written assessment. I realize this blog is kind of turning into Pokémonapalooza and I’m sorry about that, but not sorry enough to stop committing to this feature. Today, it’s raining cats, dogs, and cats that look like dogs.

051. Dugtrio
Best Name: Digdri (German)
Type: Ground
They say two heads are better than one. Well, how about THREE, huh? Check. And. MATE. Okay, but seriously, that is the epitome of super-lazy design. “Well, we have Diglett here—how do we expand on that? Hey, what if just have three Digletts sitting next to each other? Dang it, Ken, for the last time, wad up that concept art[1] and throw it in the trash, because we are NOT USING IT.”

Actually, now that I think about it, bunching up in a group like that might be a pretty solid tactic for warding off predators. If you band together, artificially inflate your size, and furrow your brow hard enough, you might convince a ferocious beast that you’re a lot more powerful than you actually are. And then you do it long enough, you just evolve that way, and you get stuck together like Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear in that Farrelly Brothers movie. Perhaps nature does know best. We should fear and respect nature. Sorry I doubted you, nature. B+

052. Meowth
Best Name: English
Type: Normal
If you got to this one and did not either mentally or out loud say “That’s right!” in Pavlovian helplessness, then I’m sorry, but we cannot be friends. You may recall that in the anime, Meowth taught himself how to speak like a human in the hopes of wooing a lady Meowth. Considering most Pokémon can only say their own names, I think that’s pretty impressive. But what did she do? She REJECTED him. Cold-blooded, perhaps, but rightly so—talk is cheap, after all, and it doesn’t pay the bills, now does it? Well, he does have that Pay Day attack, but that chump change ain’t gonna keep the lights on. Anyway, when Meowth got friendzoned, as we all know, he turned to a life of grand theft Pokémon with Team Rocket. Could have been worse, I suppose; he could have become a men’s rights activist. #NotAllMeowths B

053. Persian
Best Name: Snobilikat (German)
Type: Normal
In my opinion, Persian mostly exists to underscore the difference between Jessie & James and Team Rocket boss Giovanni. Jessie & James have a goofy, yammering kitten, while Giovanni has a sleek, silent, majestic cat. They are always bumbling and blasting off again; he maintains complete control and always has an exit strategy. When I got to Persian, I recalled a rumor I had once heard that Giovanni was Ash’s dad. Curious as to how that panned out, I went Google fishing for answers. Turns out it remains an unproven theory, but I still like it a lot—it’s part of my headcanon for sure.

While looking for information about that, I found this picture:

How dare you, Ash Ketchum. You used to be such a nice, well-mannered boy. It’s disheartening to see you go down this road. It’s a slippery slope, you know: one day you’re talking smack, the next day you’re shooting it up. By the way, notice how un-about Persian this became? That’s because Persian is lame and forgettable. D+

054. Psyduck
Best Name: Psykokwak (French)
Type: Water
The rotund belly, the vacant stare, the crippling indecisiveness: all of these should make raising Psyduck an exercise in futility. And yet, it is an easy Pokémon to love. You want to instinctively protect it from the evils of the world as you would a child. Psyduck is always confused all the time. Who among us can’t relate to that? I know that speaking for myself it’s an occasion worthy of a block party when I understand anything at all with perfect clarity. We are Psyduck, and Psyduck is us. A

055. Golduck
Best Name: Akwakwak (French)
Type: Water
In reality, what people want is a self-starting go-getter with a sense of urgency and no major weaknesses. In our entertainment, we desire lovable, relatable underdogs that are rough around the edges. Golduck is a good “reality” evolution, but by a fantastical entertainment rubric, it falls short. This is a difficult situation to reconcile. If this was Reality Bites, Golduck would be Ben Stiller and Psyduck would be Ethan Hawke. I feel confident that I am the first person in the history of written language to make this analogy. Not sure why a duck needs claws and a bindi, but I approve. C+

056. Mankey
Best Name: Férosinge (French)
Type: Fighting
Other than the prehensile tail, what about Mankey is at all monkey-like? It’s got bird feet, dog paws, cat ears, and a pig snout. SERIOUS identity crisis going on here. Don’t sell this punchy primate short, though: if you’re playing Pokémon Yellow, unless you plan on unleashing a maelstrom of chipping damage, you’re not getting past Brock without catching one of these. Sweep the leg, Johnny! B-

057. Primeape
Best Name: Rasaff (German)
Type: Fighting
Ah, the mighty forehead vein. A member of the Mt. Rushmore of Japanese animated emotional shorthand, along with the mushroom sigh, the giant sweat drop, and the face of streaming tears. How on earth would we efficiently express anger without it? Oh, hey there, Primeape. What’s goin’ on with you? Not a lot, eh? Yeah, I can see that. How about we start a rumor that you can throw your training weights as an attack if you enter a cheat code? May your head continue to throb like a giant sentient alien heart. C

058. Growlithe
Best Name: English
Type: Fire
Great, we finally made it to Growlithe. I have been looking forward to this one, because it gives me a perfect opening to talk about something that has bothered me for literally decades (an impressive plural, since I’m only 30): why are lions and tigers always represented as dog- or wolf-like animals in anime? I have never found a satisfactory answer for this, and that’s crazy because the Internet is now all-knowing enough that it can give you a general grasp of just about anything in less than five minutes. Does it somehow enhance their cuteness? That would be ironic, given the far greater proliferation of felines on the Internet than canines. Does it increase the intimidation factor? Confer a greater degree of majesty? I’m stumped. If anyone has a persuasive explanation of this phenomenon, I would be thrilled to hear it. That niggling question of mine aside, Growlithe is a perfectly respectable Pokémon and I have no beef with it on a personal level. Flame on, little buddy! B

059. Arcanine
Best Name: Windi(e) (Korean/Japanese)
Type: Fire
My parents have a Rottweiler/blue heeler mix who is fairly large but is also a big baby who always clamors for affection from anyone who will give it to him. That’s how I see Arcanine: big and shaggy but very loving and always demanding belly rubs and chin scruffs. That’s who I want protecting me (not sarcasm). Arcanine is of course the main ‘mon of the gym leader Blaine, who has always fascinated me due to the two entirely different depictions of him in Pokémon lore. In the anime he’s like this hippy-dippy Riddler wannabe, and in the games and manga and everywhere else he’s got this Panama Jack motif going on, which I’m glad is more the standard because it’s a lot cooler. Anyway, Arcanine is also cool. What’s that? Who’s cool? You are! YOU ARE! A-

060. Poliwag
Best Name: Ptitard (French)
Type: Water
How could a person name an adorable little nugget like this in a way that derives from “scalawag”? Look at those Bambi eyes and pouty lips. What about this creature suggests any capacity whatsoever for mischief and hijinks? It just wants to cuddle, which I would allow if it was not so slimy. Do not lump this poor varmint in with the rogues and scoundrels. If you want to drag Poliwag’s innocent name and reputation through the mud, you will have to answer to ME. Come away, Poliwag, don’t let the bad people hurt you. B

Next Time: Poliwhirl to Weepinbell

[1] Do not run a Google image search for “diglett underground” and/or “muscular diglett” unless you are prepared to see some retina-searing stuff.

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