Analyzing the Personalities of the New Pokémon Starters
Hopefully you’re not a Rowlet.
By Emily Suvannasankha, University of Central Florida
Those of us who have managed to hold on to our childhoods for this long—plus the new fans, our comrades, whom I suppose are currently going into first grade—know that the newest revival of the Pokémon series, “Pokémon Sun & Moon,” is coming out this November 18.
The calendars have been kissed, and longtime fans are waiting huddled inside our mailboxes for the glorious day. But even if you’re not a rabid fan who resets the game eighteen times to get a female Torchic and sits in front of a honey-slathered tree for six straight hours in hopes of luring an Aipom into your sticky paws, if you spend enough time on the internet, you’ve probably already seen the new starters for this generation. After all, who doesn’t love to join in on the social media bashfest of Nintendo’s latest artistic blunders? Certainly not everyone and their grandmother’s turtle, that’s for sure.
But allow me to venture out on a limb here and suggest that perhaps—perhaps—the newest starters are the best to emerge from the Nintendo headquarters since…well, ever.
Look at those dashing faces. They positively radiate charisma! These colorful pieces of eye candy are the embodiments of triumph and masterful niche appeal, my chums. The lineup is so damn good-looking that the internet has had to resort to roasting only Popplio (the lovable seal on the right) for looking like a “dopey clown-dog.” Excuse me—that’s the face of a sea lion who has attained unbridled happiness, folks. Popplio has seen Nirvana and come back to Earth to tell the tale in Morse Code flipper claps, and we should feel lucky to be graced with its presence. There is no shame in clown-hood.
Anyway, if you look at these beautiful creatures and really focus on their true essences, you’ll find that each starter of the new Alola region has an almost uncannily specific charm. And I dare say that each reflects a different personality pillar of the human population. What crazy nonsense am I spouting, you say? I’m glad you asked.
Disclaimer: Despite my aforementioned high regard for all three of these guys, you can’t expect me to resist having a good roast at their expense.
Rowlet: The Annoyingly Punctual Teacher’s Pet
Please tell me this owl doesn’t look as sterile and thoroughly unruffling as your suburban accountant mother. Sure, he’s cute—in a pinned-down, restrained sort of way, like a baby in a straightjacket. This is an owl who abides by the law and pays his taxes eleven months in advance.
If we plopped this strange, chicken nugget-shaped blob in a classroom, he’d be the obsessively diligent bootlicker who kisses so much ass that his beak is permanently caught in the seams of the teacher’s sensible pencil skirt. The kind of jerk who turns in midterm papers three weeks early and shows up on presentation day in a full-on suit, armed with a 200-slide PowerPoint and a button that reads, “I Care Too Much.” Look at him. He’s already wearing a bowtie, for god’s sake.
Rowlet is for conservatively dressed typing instructors and Law/Finance double majors—people who take comfort in routine, who design their living rooms to look exactly like the model in the JCPenney catalogue, right down to the beige monogrammed pillows and anchor bookends. The avian pudgeball is a loving tribute to those among us who hastily erect clean white picket fences between themselves and stacks of envelopes for fear that they may accidentally fall and push them.
Those narrow eyeballs pinching his beak inward, those wings submissively plastered to his sides. You just know this owl’s a stickler for conformity. If you gaze into his beady little black abysses as he swivels his head all the way around, you can almost detect a tiny, breezy whisper in your ear—“You break the rules, I break your spine.”
Rowlet shops in the Target children’s section—nay, he is the Target children’s section, stuffed in between the pastel mint chevron lampshades and pink polka-dotted “Live Laugh Love” doorstops. He’s the kid who only ever orders vanilla ice cream. Or worse, butter pecan!
Litten: The Artsy Teenage Sulkmaster
Does it really need to be said that Litten looks like the epitome of the primary consumer base of Hot Topic? (I’m allowed to say that, as the sole customer who kept said establishment afloat from the years of 2008 to 2013.) That is to say, I can guarantee you that Litten dyed her fur black with Manic Panic dye and put those red streaks in herself with a dubious but admittedly economical home bleach job.
If Litten attended college, she’d be the rebellious hoodlum illegally spray-painting her galaxy-themed art project in the grass behind her dorm. This hash-marked feline’s major is something regular people (read: Rowlet people) didn’t even think was possible to major in, like Game Design or Sculpting or Experimental Animation. She’s the sulky misanthrope you find in the back of a high school art class doodling her spiky-haired anime OCs instead of the pottery display the teacher so carefully arranged. (I say this without malice; I was, and in many ways still am, one of these misanthropes.)
You know that phase during middle school when your wardrobe consisted of black band t-shirts, scissor-ripped jeans and a pair of fluffy cat ears inconspicuously hidden in the back that are “just for Halloween”? (Right.) That’s where Litten lives—in those inky, shame-filled crevices of your past that you’d sooner strike from history completely than admit to.
Look at those legs. There’s only one type of person who runs around in black-and-red striped knee-high socks unironically, and that is me in seventh grade. (Or it would have been, had I not been too busy draping myself in every article of “Hello Kitty” clothing Target ever sold.) And that dry, unamused expression. You can just see her interest in you and your problems flat-lining like the swift death she wishes you’d meet.
Litten is for people who can’t not push the envelope. In fact, they’re so busy thrashing around inside the envelope in a spectacular performance of defiant eccentricity that the envelope has begun pushing them—out of society’s good graces. No great loss to the anarchists, of course. Society is overrated.
As opposed to Rowlet, Litten orders dark chocolate mocha ice cream—black and bitter like the deepest shrieks of her soul’s demonic agony.
(And no, I didn’t write this whole thing from experience. Shut up.)
Popplio: The Wacky Attention Whore
Okay, so maybe Popplio does look a bit goofy. But in an endearing way, like that guy who rides around campus on a hoverboard like a superhero that everyone loyally refers to as “Cape Guy.”
Popplio is the embodiment of those classmates who jump in lakes at three in the morning just to get on the campus Snap Story and stumble into class an hour late after playing a really involved, drunken game of backwards ceiling ping pong. The Theatre, Psychology and International Studies majors of the world, if you will.
If anything, the seal’s squishy cuteness reminds me of a smiley, attention-hungry three year-old who will pull any silly stunt just for laughs. Popplio definitely grows up to be the kind of quirky leprechaun who sews and paints their own Anna costume for Dapper Day at Disney, volunteers for audience participation when everyone else is too gutless to get up there and makes “Steven Universe” fan art with a 120 pack of crayons and a hairdryer. This floppy blue noodle probably even works at Disney, remarkably impervious to getting swept away in a steaming cloud of exhausted snowbirds and their reasonably priced fanny packs. Somehow they’ve got enough emotional dexterity to preserve the magic. (Or maybe it’s the drugs.)
Popplio is the roommate you never see because they socialize more than they sleep. And on the rare occasion you spot them, they’re baking cupcakes that come out with soupy middles and frosting drooping down the sides because they were in a rush to share with the neighbors down the hall (whom you, of course, have never seen in your life).
See? The dopey clown-seal isn’t so bad—Popplio appeals to the whimsical, theatrical child inside you, assuming it hasn’t already been slaughtered by the gross societal injustices that Litten up there could tell you all about.
And by the way, Popplio is the only soul on Earth who goes to Baskin-Robbins and gets—of all things—rainbow sherbet. I know. Hold your fire.
The Starters Who Started Them All
In comparison, let’s take a look at the original starter Pokémon: the Kanto region’s classic Squirtle, Bulbasaur and Charmander.
Ah, Gen I. A simpler time, clearly. Not quite so many embellishments on these guys, huh? Just an incredibly unspectacular-looking turtle, a shrug-worthy green dinosaur and an orange lizard that the neighbor boy set on fire. No prissy bowties, no Panty & Stocking hosiery—and certainly no ruffled collars surgically sewn to their necks.
Some people—maybe even most—might insist that this simplicity makes the original starters better than their newest counterparts, because they don’t need gimmicky adornments to appeal to the fans.
But you know, I think our new buddies from “Pokémon Sun & Moon” are just as lovable; their embellishments give them character. Put together, the ostentatious trio represents all the unique demographics of the people who make up the Pokémon fan base: the overzealous weirdo who whips out his Nintendo 3DS at the lunch table, the outwardly reluctant college student who buys the new games out of nostalgia for her embarrassing younger self, and the bewildered mom who, when asked to pick her favorite, points to the respectable-looking owl that gives off a nice air of orderliness.
It’s impossible to hate these flashy newcomers once you see them as cuter, more cuddly and, in some cases, more flammable versions of yourself.
So, in conclusion…
As if you couldn’t guess it already.