Before I begin today’s list, a disclaimer: The following list is just my opinion on the best designs of Pokemon. Only my opinion This has no bearing on which of these designs are my favorite Pokemon, since Charizard is one of my favorites but even he isn’t on this list. Also, Mega Pokemon will not be appearing on this list either as I feel like that should be a different list. With that out of the way, let’s get started!
Bisharp, the weird cross between a satyr, a chess piece and a samurai. One of my personal favorite Pokemon. In fact, I’d say Bisharp is tied for my favorite Pokemon along with Mega Charizard X and Gardevoir. But the inspiration is not enough to put it higher on this list.
Bisharp draws primary inspiration from Japanese bandits, using parts of samurai armor and Roman Centurion helmets in the design. It also draws upon kaijin, human-sized monsters from many Japanese superhero shows. Additionally, it draws heavily from the Bishop Chess piece. In Chess, it is recommended you put Pawns on squares the Bishop cannot move to in order to permit the Bishop to move freely among them while still controlling the squares. Bisharp, in the Pokedex, directs Pawniard (its preevolution) to achieve the same goal!
Pretty nifty… Too bad they didn’t have a cool backstory like others on this list.
Blaziken, our favorite Kung Pao Chicken (I’m not apologizing for the terrible joke.) The fire-type starter from Hoenn that starting the trend of Fire/Fighting starters that would continue until Gen 6 is one of the best starter Pokemon solely due to its inspiration.
What is the inspiration? It’s none other than cockfights. The very thing that people who hate Pokemon call the game, glorified cockfights. The Shamo Rooster, a rooster who can stand totally upright and uses its powerful legs to kick the opposing chicken. Honestly, that’s really it. But it is such a cool inspiration because they just took a chicken and made it a Pokemon with the only change being giving it the Fire type. In fact, I think the Fire typing is just a reference to the fact that we eat chicken a lot. But I digress.
The Shamo Rooster has powerful kicks, whereas Blaziken in a Pokedex entry is claimed to be able to jump a 30-story building in a single bound with its powerful legs. A simple, but well executed design.
Xerneas really bugged me when it first came out. The cover legendaries we’ve had in the past were birds of power, incarnations of the elements, time and space, truth versus ideals, all of which were impressive beasts. Then suddenly we have a deer. WHAT?! However, after doing some research I found that Xerneas is actually an allusion to one of my favorite mythologies: Norse.
Xerneas, while dormant, takes the form of a tree. A tree that grants life around where it forms. It is literally Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Norse Mythology. At the top of the tree, there is an Eagle in Asgard, the world of the gods. At the bottom of the tree, there is a dragon (Nidhogg) in Niflheim, the world of the damned. Between them ran a squirrel who carried insults between Nidhogg and the Eagle. However, among the branches of the tree were deer. The Deer of Life who trimmed Yggdrasil and kept it healthy. Xerneas is based upon those deer.
Xerneas grants life when it comes to the end of its own, taking the form of a tree. It draws power from the world itself in the form of its signature move, Geomancy (literally, rock prophecy). And it is a deer. It seems to be a clear candidate for me.
Hoopa! Hoopa Unbound screams epic. Six floating arms, the ability to pull things through portals up to and including other Legendary Pokemon, and quite the “demonic” appearance. Yet he is based off of the Djinn, beings of fire in Arabic myth that were much like humans. Djinn actually inspired the Western interpretation of the Genie. They could be good or evil but all were commanded by Allah to prostrate to Adam, the first man. Iblis did not want to prostrate and was cursed to forever walk the Earth.
Where does Hoopa Unbound come from? It’s a Psychic/Dark type with no hint of fire. But looking at his hair, I find it looks close to fire. And based on how Unbound was portrayed in the anime movie Hoopa and the Clash of Ages, it seems to me that Unbound draws his more malicious intentions from Iblis, the one who refused to prostrate. Iblis chose to use his curse to whisper temptations into man and cause destruction. Hoopa Unbound is trying to do the same thing by destroying things himself. As a side note, to release Hoopa Unbound you must use the Prison Bottle item, throwing a reference to the genie. This makes for a really good design overall, even if fire isn’t totally obvious.
Golurk is a pretty weird Pokemon in the world of the games and anime. A giant crack in its chest with a band-aid looking thing over it. the ability to fly like Iron Man. Being Ghost/Ground type. What is the deal? The answer is quite simple but nonetheless interesting. It’s the golem (Not the Pokemon Golem.).
The golem is a Jewish creation within the Talmund, an anthropomorphic animated being made from mud or clay. The most well-known story of a golem comes from the Golem of Prague. In the 16th century, a rabbi built the golem to protect a ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks. However, the golem could not be alive on the Sabbath. The rabbi once forgot to deactivate him and the golem went on a rampage, until he was beaten by the rabbi in front of a synagogue. The golem’s remains are said to be kept at the synagogue until he is needed again.
A fascinating story and solid source of inspiration, let’s take a look at Golurk to see how it’s utilized. Golurk was built by ancient humans and what we see are the remains of the original Pokemon. That seal on its chest keeps a mysterious energy in to prevent from rampaging, much like the original Golem of Prague. If you look at the Golem of Prague’s design, you’ll notice it has the same seal on its’ chest (albeit mirrored). It is spot on design-wise. Although it’s not the coolest of the designs, this guy is definitely on my favorites list.
Let’s be honest. A lot of people forget Whiscash exists. Which is fair, it’s super obscure. The anime had an episode planned for Whiscash but it was scrapped due to social issues regarding earthquakes at the time. The only other time a Whiscash appeared was when an old man was trying to catch it with a Master Ball that the Whiscash promptly swallowed. So much for catching any Pokemon without fail.
So why is this thing on the list? It just looks like a fat blue fish. And that, my friends, is where the design comes in.
Whiscash is actually designed off of the Namazu, giant catfish that live under Japan that cause earthquakes. The god Kashima was tasked with pinning the great beasts with a stone or a sword. If he ever let his guard down, the Namazu would wriggle and writhe to cause more earthquakes. Of course, the Namazu weren’t always malicious youkai (monsters). They used to be river deities that would swallow the river dragons that caused the earthquakes. But after the 1855 Earthquake in Japan, the Namazu were demonized into what they are today. Whiscash’s design is quite simple but it is faithful to the original stories.
Houndoom is a glorious Pokemon in terms of the inspiration. A religious creature that combines inspiration from a few sources around the world: the hellhound.
Hellhounds are demonic dogs that show up to kill and drag people to the Underworld or to Hell depending on the culture. The most famous hellhound is Cerberus, the three-headed pup that guards the gates of the Greek Underworld. Another story of a hellhound is the Hellhound of Bungay. The Bungay dog actually charged into a church, tearing apart the worshipers and the priest.. Pretty scary stuff. On a side note for later; hellfire is stated to forever burn those who were wicked in their life, causing ceaseless pain.
Houndoom has several bone-like pieces on its back and limbs (which are even more pronounced on its Mega form.) In its Pokedex entry, it says that the fires that Houndoom spreads will be forever painful to those burnt, giving us the allusion to hellfire. The horns that it is known for are common on depictions of demons. Houndoom is clearly a well implemented design.
Mawile. An adorable Pokemon that is cursed with low stats until its Mega Evolution, though it still has a niche in competitive. But what is with those jaws? The answer to that is in a youkai!
The futakuchi-onna, or the two-mouthed woman, is a youkai of a woman who has a second mouth on the back of her head. One of the most popular stories is that of a miserly man married a beautiful woman who ate very little. But after a while, the man found that his rice stores were decreasing at an alarming rate. Upon spying on his wife to find out why, the man discovered the second mouth on her head. But she wasn’t malicious. In fact, she was really non-threatening.
Much like Mawile; cute at first and definitely scary when angry but not something you have to worry about. Unless she Mega Evolves!
Infernape, another Fire-type starter. I think you guys will like this one. For he draws his inspiration from the same place as Goku from Dragon Ball.
Infernape draws his inspiration from Son Goku, the Japanese interpretation of Sun Wukong from Journey into the West, the grand Chinese epic detailing travels to India to obtain some sacred texts. Sun Wukong has many talents, including being immortal, a martial artist and being quite the trickster. He can use magic, including commanding wind, parting water, and conjuring circles to protect against demons, humans, and gods. He also can lift his heavy staff with ease, when no normal mortal could.
Let’s look at Infernape. He is a monkey that uses martial arts. Check. A trickster that can both use magic? He can learn Nasty Plot and his Special Attack stat is equal to his physical Attack stat. Check. Command wind, part water, and conjure protective circles? He can use Mach Punch (a punch that is faster than the wind), Thunder Punch (can part Water-types from the battle field), and can learn Protect (well, so can almost every Pokemon), So check! Infernape is a pretty faithful adaptation of the Monkey King.
Bronzong! (Gong, gong, gong.) Seriously though, Bronzong has an amazing story behind it. In fact, Bronzong has jumped up to one of my favorite Pokemon ever because of its story.
The Buddhist temple of Mugen wanted to forge their temple a bell. The followers went around the village asking the women to donate their old bronze mirrors. One woman did so but soon regretted the decision. As a result her mirror wouldn’t melt in the furnace. It stayed cold, showing that the owner didn’t want to give it up. The monks went to her to find out why and she couldn’t bear the shame. Before she committed suicide, she said that anyone who could break the bell would receive many riches from her ghost.
People swarmed to hit this bell before the monks finally cast the bell into a swamp, leaving it to be lost forever. Those who seek the bell and break it will have many riches but at the cost of their souls. Such a great story. Also, the dōtaku, the bell that Bronzong is based on, is a bell that is rung during prayers for good harvest.
Bronzong is a bronze bell that can use Rain Dance to assist in the growing of the fields (dōtaku, anyone?)and can have the ability Heatproof, which lowers the effectiveness of Fire-type attacks on it. Even in Pokedex entries, it is said to be a bringer of good harvest.
If we look at the Pokedex entry from Pokemon Diamond, we can find something else of interest. “One caused a news sensation when it was dug up after a 2000-year sleep.” What if that Bronzong was the original Bell of Mugen? If so, then be careful battling one. In the words of George Hutcheon, writer of On the Origin of Species: Bronzor and Bronzong, “The payout for defeating it may be great, but when it is Game Over, there will be hell to pay.”
And that is my top 10 best Pokemon designs. If you feel like I missed a Pokemon or you disagree with the list entirely, then leave a comment and we can start a discussion about it!Tweet