By Factory Head White
The original 151 Pokemon are often the most well-known of the current 649, due to many of the fans growing up with them. Fans remember fondly raising their team of Pokemon to take down the Gym Leaders and Elite Four. Some of these Pokemon’s designs are easily identifiable; for example, Butterfree is based on a butterfly, while Seel is based on a… well… seal. But what about some of the other Pokemon, like Golduck or Meowth? Real-life ducks don’t look like that, and what kind of cat collects gold coins? These designs are based on Japanese culture, and Western audiences might not know the whole story behind them. That’s what we’ll learn here.
The Kanto region itself is based on the real region in Japan known as Kanto. When compared side by side, the landscape matches up. Of course, this is only a visual similarity. There are many more towns in the real Kanto than there are in the Pokemon world’s version. Now let’s take a look at some of the characters.
The two Nidoran resemble spiky rabbits or hamsters, but their names are often confusing. This is because their names are made up of two Japanese words: nido, meaning “two times”, referencing the fact that the line is split by the two genders, and ran, which means “orchid”. Orchids can come in the colors purple/pink and blue, the colors the Nidoran family come in. Ironically, their normal colors are opposite the normal assumptions that blue is masculine and purple/pink is feminine, while their shiny versions are the opposite. Not a lot of Japanese influence here, but we’ll get to the big ones soon, I promise.
Vulpix and Ninetales, based on foxes, have more in common with the Japanese kitsune than the average woodland variety. Kitsune are very intelligent and magical foxes that are present in folklore and legends, with many of them being tricksters. Because kitsune are also the origin of Zorua and Zoroark, I will only discuss traits that the Vulpix line has. Foxes that live for a very long time are gifted with many tails and magical powers, some of those powers being ghost-like. Vulpix and Ninetales can learn Ghost-type attacks and magic-based moves like Extrasensory (called Supernatural Power in Japanese).
They can also be very vengeful, which is also directly stated in Ninetales’ Pokedex entries and evidenced by the fact they can learn spiteful moves like Payback, Grudge, and Spite. Kitsune are also commonly associated with the fertility god Inari. In Pokemon Black and White, Vulpix (and Ninetales, through the shaking grass) can be found around the Abundant Shrine, which is protected by Landorus, which is based on Inari. Coincidence? I think not.
Next up, we’ll discuss more Generation 1 Pokemon; a lucky cat, a loyal dog, and a… duck? Keep reading, and discover the interesting origins of your favorite Pokemon!