I hope you’ve all braced yourself for the weird, because it’s time for us to once again discuss the stranger side of the Pokemon universe!
Previously I wrote about how many of the Pokemon you know and love are based off the terrifyingly, bizarre creatures of Japan known as Yokai. As a quick refresher Yokai are Japanese monsters, spirits, and other sorts of strange phenomena. These beings can be all-powerful gods, super-powered animals, deformed men and women, goblins and ogres, various kinds of undead and literally anything in between. For a more detailed explanation on Yokai check out my original post here. So keeping with the same approach as last time, I will now introduce 3 more Yokai and the Pokemon you may or may not know them as.
The Sickle Weasels
As I said, some Yokai are simply super powered animals, many of which are typically described as being tricksters who like to play jokes on humans. This kind of nature describes our first two Pokemon pretty well, Sneasel and its evolution Weavile. These Pokemon are described as being especially infamous for attacking weaker Pokemon and people with their sickle styled claws, simply for their own amusement.
So you may be asking yourself what kind of prick’s idea of a prank is slashing away at someone with deadly claws. Well with comedy always being a subjective matter, the Kamaitachi find this style of prank especially hilarious. The Kamaitachi (lit. sickle weasel) are a trio of bipedal Yokai that bear a resemblance to the typical weasel. Despite looking rather normal, the Kamaitachi actually possess the ability to ride on powerful gusts of wind. Using this to their advantage they are said to gang up on travelers by the first weasel tripping them over, the second weasel cutting up the victims legs and oddly enough the third weasel then applies medicine to the cuts to prevent pain and bleeding. Honestly I can’t really explain why the Kamaitachi does something so bizarre, one explanation I found said that they are the cause of people receiving random cuts after walking through grass. However since most animal based Yokai just like to mess around with humans, I’m content in thinking this as a weird prank.
Sneasel and Weavile are also typically seen in large hunting groups that make them even more of a threat given their aggressive tendencies. However given the description I just gave you about the actual Kamaitachi’s behavoir, you can see that it’s pretty much harmless. But the idea of a super fast weasel that cuts you up has appealed to many game, manga and anime creators; thus spawning more ferocious counterparts like Sneasel and Weavile.
Some of you may remember Golduck from the classic Pokemon games, or perhaps you’re more familiar with its pre-evolution; which was regularly shown throughout the anime as Misty’s awkwardly, loveable Psyduck. Who as a matter of fact, could not swim despite being a water Pokemon.
Additionally another Pokemon shares the same Yokai inspired design as Golduck, appearing later on in the 3rd generation, the grass/water hybrid Lombre. So exactly what mythical beast could of been the inspiration for a large duck and a walking lily pad? Here’s a hint: they live in rivers, ponds and streams, have been known to challenge others to sumo matches, and love cucumbers. The correct answer is of course the Kappa.
The Kappa (lit. river-child) is a humanoid type of water imp. It is usually depicted as being green or blue, with webbed appendages, and a turtle’s shell and beak. Its most notable trait, however, is the cavity or dish on top of its head which is filled with water; this water source is what allows the Kappa to remain on land. As you can see Golduck and Lombre share many similar traits to the Kappa, especially Lombre who even has the Kappa’s most important feature, the water dish. Even to this day the Kappa are one of the most famous Yokai of Japan, so much so that there are actual danger signs posted around small bodies of water to warn passersby.
So what exactly about the Kappa warrants this cautionary awareness? Well the Kappa have a complicated relationship with humans, they’re not predominately antagonistic towards people, but it would still be wise to be cautious of them. General horror stories about the Kappa depict them of drowning people and animals without much provocation; they have also been known to kidnap children and even rape women. While these actions are certainly horrible, there is still something far worse a Kappa can do to you. There are two things Kappa love most in the world: the first being the simple cucumber, they find them delicious and irresistible.
The second thing, unfortunately for us, is the human sphincter. The reasoning behind this is just as bizarre as it sounds. The Kappa are actually trying to devour your soul, which is contained in a small mythical ball called a shirikodama; that happens to be housed inside the anus. Disturbing mutilation aside, the Kappa have also been known to be friendly and even seem to have some basic etiquette. The best way to avoid getting on a Kappa’s bad side is to give it some sort of gift, a cucumber would work best. However if you do manage to invoke the Kappa’s wrath don’t fret there are ways to save your ass. Remember that the source of water on top its head is what allows it to remain on land; if emptied the Kappa becomes powerless and even unable to move. Therefore it is commonly advised to trick a Kappa into bowing, thus spilling the water on top of its head. Although I feel like the method shown below is equally effective.
The Snow Maiden
For our last Yokai, we return to the previous idea of some Yokai being morally failing or vengeful women. While the last female Yokai I covered, the Futakuchi-onna, would fall into the morally corrupt category, this next Yokai should be considered more of a vengeful spirit.
This final Pokemon was introduced in the 4th generation in the Sinnoh region, the ice/ghost hybrid Froslass. Her appearance is reminiscent of a young women dressed in a white kimono. For the most part you can see that appearance-wise she is supposed to be a relatively attractive Pokemon, however her ghost typing does imply something more sinister is at hand.
The Yuki-onna (lit. Snow woman) is another popular Yokai in Japan, being featured in many works of Japanese literature, manga and anime. She is described as being a tall and beautiful woman dressed in a pure white kimono, along with pale skin, long black hair and blue lips. Additionally, as with many Japanese spirits, she does not have feet and therefore floats. Based on this description you can clearly see the similarities between Froslass and the Yuki-onna. Further similarities can be seen in the Yuki-onna’s lore as well, which I will now briefly describe from Lafcadio Hearn’s famous depiction.
There were once two woodcutters, the older man Mosaku and his apprentice Minokichi, who often went to the mountain to collect wood. However one winter night the two woodcutters return home was interrupted by a fierce blizzard and the two took shelter in an abandoned cabin. Eventually both woodcutters fell asleep, but Minokichi was soon awakened by a cold chill. He saw that the door was open and then looked towards his master. Before Mosaku stood a beautiful woman with pale skin and wearing a pure white kimono. The mystery woman then crouched down and breathed on Mosaku who instantly froze to death. She then moved towards the frightened Minokichi, ready to kill him as well, but then noticed how young and beautiful he was. So instead she told him that she will spare his life, but he must never tell anyone what he just saw; if he did she would come back to kill him.
Since that day Minokichi went along with his life, not ever being sure if what he saw that night really happened. Till one day on his way down from the mountain he came across a beautiful woman named O-Yuki. Minokichi became instantly love struck and convinced her to become his wife. The two lived happily for some time and had several children together. One night however, while looking upon his beautiful wife, Minokichi was reminded of the horrific events of that night many years ago. His wife asked him to tell her about it and as soon as he finished telling his story she stared at him with contempt in her eyes. “You promised you would never tell anyone”, said O-Yuki, “If not for our sleeping children in the next room, I would of killed you in an instant. Take good care of them or else I will come back and give you what you deserve”. O-Yuki then vanished leaving her family behind.
There is clear evidence of this story being an influence for Froslass’ creation. One of her Pokedex entries specifically states: “It freezes prey by blowing its -58 degree F breath. It is said to then secretly display its prey“, this being the exact method the Yuki-onna used to kill Mosaku. Additionally other stories have said that Yuki-onna was originally a young woman who died in a snow storm. Which once again is referenced by another of Froslass’ entries: “Legends in snowy regions say that a woman who was lost on an icy mountain was reborn as Froslass.” This example should prove that these resemblances between Yokai and Pokemon are no coincidence, but actually a clever reinterpretation of Japanese mythology for the modern day.
- Hearn, Lafcadio. “Yuki-onna.” Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1907), pg. 79-86.
- Weavile image by stardroidjean
- Kamaitachi image by William Niu
- James boobs image by Google images
- Psyduck gif from Pokemon parodies tumblr
- Kappa sign from Google images
- Golduck Loves Cucumbers by saffronscarf
- Kappa gif brought to you by the series Ai Mai Mi
- Froslass gijinka by zerochan user kofuku
- Yuki-onna tsurara image by zerochan user tsurara_
- Featured image: Pokemon Ukiyo-e style by pixiv user nojo
- Animated Pokemon sprites from http://www.pokestadium.com/