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Greetings, and welcome to the 10th Judge-a-Pokémon panel! This is a pretty big landmark for us; we've done ten of these judging sessions over the years. I want to personally thank all of our fans for reading our article and supporting us in the feedback thread on Smogon's forums. We'll keep on keeping on here as long as you guys keep enjoying our work. I'd also like to thank Chou Toshio for all the hard work he's done in this series of articles. I hope you're doing well out there, bud.
Moving on, we're shaking things up this issue. Instead of covering a specific generation, we've picked a Pokemon from each generation. So what's the uniting link between these Pokemon? They all share one ability: Intimidate. Throughout this article, we'll discuss five Pokemon that have this terrifying ability and how it affected their design. RitterCat will be represented by his classic Purugly, while veteran writer Bummer is shown by Noctowl. Newcomer vonFiedler is indicated by an Arcanine, and Birkal stayed true to his colors by choosing Rotom as his indispensable ambassador.
Growlithe is one of those species where the color scheme is essentially the only deciding factor when it comes down to its typing. Put it in grayscale and I'd assume this canine fella would be an Electric-type any day of the week, but knowing my history, this dog has rained fiery fury down upon many foes many a time, remaining ever so loyal to its Trainer. I like the hairy tufts that give it a soft, warm appearance, and while its black fur markings are rather random for its type, it's better off with them than without them. But while this pup has successfully decreased the Attack of all Pokémon present each time it entered battle, I can't say it has the same effect on me. Dogs in general can be intimidating; that much I'm aware of. But this particular dog? I wouldn't say so. I've already mentioned how its bright fur patches make it look cuddly, so once that impression is established, it would take more than some barks to render it a worrisome encounter. Its angsty sprite in Gold and Silver is as close to terrifying as it has ever gotten to me. Which is a pity, because abilities weren't invented at the time.
It's interesting, because Growlithe is generally regarded as one of the best Pokemon of Generation 1. Alongside its evolution, Arcanine, many fans have proven their love for these fiery dogs by insisting on their continual usage on their in-game teams. Let's face it though: Growlithe is adorable. Those big eyes, that drooping tongue, and that fluffy mane are all just begging for it to be cuddled with. It's hard to consider it as an intimidating foe when it looks so darn cute.
However, my experiences put a slightly different twist on why Growlithe is intimidating to me. I've always been a night owl, even as a kid. So when my parents would send me to bed, I was never really tired. Instead, I'd whip out my teal Game Boy Pocket and start playing some Pokemon Gold. Since they had just installed real time mechanics into the Pokemon franchise, it was always night during the game. So I was surprised when the police officers busted me while I was skulking around Goldenrod City at night. They didn't attack me during the day! It was actually, in a way, intimidating to fight those policemen with their Growlithe at night, since they were normally peaceful during the day.
Arcanine. This absolute beast has been the fiery star of many in-game teams over the years, burning and looting alongside its trainer all the way to the Elite 4. With its flowing mane and hulking physique, it enters the battle with an intimidating roar, striking fear into the opponent's heart before burning their Pokemon and looting some precious Poké Dollars. Its gaze is strong and piercing, and its snarl is ferocious, ready to unleash fiery pain on all in its path.
Except we're not talking about Arcanine. Growlithe is more suited to Cute Charm than Intimidate, an adorable little puppy that seems like a bundle of hugs. Where Arcanine's gaze was cold and hard, Growlithe's eyes are big and ready to melt your heart. Where Arcanine's mane was long and flowing, Growlithe has little tufts of fur that look perfect for hugging. So unlike the weapon of fiery destruction it becomes, this little pup is a snuggle machine who has no hope of intimidating anyone.
The difference between Growlithe and Arcanine is best summed up by their species. One is a legend, the other is just a puppy. While Growlithe grows into one of the most magnificent Pokémon ever designed, I just can't front. This dog is too cute to take seriously. Still, I suppose to be fair it would mostly be used against other Pokémon that aren't fully evolved either. So while it is cute, it does display some of the same traits that make Arcanine as fierce as it is. A mane may look fluffy to people, but against other unevolved Pokémon, it makes Growlithe look bigger. The red fur and black stripes seem like clear warning signs. If all else fails, several Pokédex entries describe Growlithe as fearless even in the face of much larger foes. There's only one animal like that in the real world, and that's the honey badger. Nothing messes with the honey badger.
When you think of the terrors of Generation 2, I'm sure Pokemon like Steelix, Tyranitar, Kingdra, and even Miltank pop into your mind. It's a bit quaint that Hitmontop, a sort of "easter egg" Pokemon, would be considered more intimidating than those behemoths. It's got goofy-looking hands, baby blue coloring, and an upside-down orientation. Furthermore, it's not even prominently featured in the game; you have to specifically raise your Tyrogue in order to obtain it at level 20. So what gives? I think the only way to sense Hitmontop's might is if you saw it in real life; it stands over four and a half feet tall and apparently has the ability to spin at incredibly high speeds. If you ever played the Topsy-Turvy mini-game in Pokemon Stadium 2, you know that Hitmontop absolutely book it while they're spinning around. They eventually spin so fast that if you so much as graze an opponent, they're sent flying out of the ring in the blink of an eye. When faced with a creature spiraling towards you at uncontrollable speed, I think I'd be quite intimidated.
There are many very iconic characters in video games that can pull off gravity-defying upside spin kicks, from Chun-Li's spinning bird kick to Eddy Gordo's capoeira style. Hitmontop is not one of those iconic characters. I recognize that there have always been some extreme limitations to what we can display with sprites. They can't make Hitmontop transition from standing to spinning, so they just have him always on his head. But see, it's at this point that your concept is a lost cause. You already had the Kicking Hitmonlee to begin with. Factor in its leotard and floppy ears, and you have a Pokémon that can't possibly live up to its predecessors. One Pokédex entry states that the handstand is done to throw off the opponent's timing. So there's your answer. Hitmontop isn't intimidating; it's so stupid it literally dumbfounds.
Hitmontop is a unique fighter which flips the concept of scaring opponents completely upside-down. He can also stand on his head. With such large, clear eyes, it may seem difficult for a Pokémon of such size and build to leave a frightening impression upon his beholder. His color scheme does little to help him in this matter, as blue is naturally soothing to look at, allowing your stress and tension to float away. Thus, it's understandable that many wonder how this peculiar combatant manages to shun anything at all. Perhaps it is the spikes on both ends of his body, and the sharp claws on his feet. Maybe it's his frowning mouth which, while turned around, doubles as a menacing unibrow. Or does impressive chest hair flow out of his V neck, making Hitmontop's foes buckle down before his magnificent display of masculinity? All reasonable arguments, but there's no way to know for sure.
Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan were cool concepts. Two contrasting Fighting-types, one punching, one kicking. Pretty simple enough, no need to complicate it, just a nice pair that serve well as a choice of prize after beating the fake Gym. Then comes Gen II and its love of pre-evolutions. Suddenly they have a weird little first form that provides a cool little gimmick for evolution: if its Attack is better than its Defense, you get the more offensive Hitmonlee, and vice-versa. But what if its attack and defense are equal? And there is the birth of Hitmontop, the exception that no one ever wanted. Punching and kicking is such a solid pair, so what can serve as number three? Apparently, kicking again... but upside-down... while being a spinning top colored a fetching shade of blue. It's clear Game Freak didn't care for it: just look at the name inspiration. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, two of the most badass Asians since Genghis Khan, and a mediocre children's toy. Whatever is going on with Hitmontop, intimidation is not part of it.
From a critical standpoint, I think that Mawile was a missed opportunity. This Pokémon had the potential to be a true monster. And why not make it one? Kids love that stuff. The woman portion of the Pokémon is actually okay. The angle it is shown at has sort of a menacing yet seducing glare. The stance itself is intimidating. Still, it's the mouth itself where we have our biggest failing. What was supposed to be a mouth in the back of the head, or maybe a horrific tangled maw of hair, just ends up as a Venus flytrap-looking hunk of junk. The coloring does nothing for it either. Well, I'm nitpicking. By Pokémon standards this is still a pretty scary Steel-type.
Occasionally you will come across a Pokemon with a slightly odd element to its design, but might be able to rectify it with some obscure concept, or just come to accept it as a good design.
Mawile is not like this. It is so ridiculously weird that there can be no explanation for why a weird metal imp-like thing with an ugly color scheme has a giant mouth hanging out on the back of its head. I mean, I could be happy with a parasitic concept—even though it would be more fitting on a Grass-type—but the metallic maiden seems otherwise unaffected by the fact that some of its hair is a gigantic mouth. And why a Steel-type? With the vague "chick with a hair-mouth" concept, it could have been anything, so why the rare Steel-type? And why that body, with a stocky build and odd dress-like feature. And why that ugly shade of yellow? At least the mouth does make it intimidating to a point, but when you see the whole Pokemon, you'll probably be too confused to be intimidated.
I think that Mawile is one of those Pokemon that has a poor design, and yet it would scare the bejeebers out of me if I met it in real life. Its jaw is apparently capable of chewing through iron beams; it's certainly not a Pokemon I would want to mess with. Regardless, its design is pretty much as bad as it gets in the world of Pokemon. Its color scheme of yellow, black, and pink is a mess. Perhaps Game Freak was trying to use colors that signified the "sweet, yet evil" nature of Mawile, where the yellow is supposed to be cute, while the black shades are intimidating. If that's the case, then it didn't really pay off; I don't think many Trainers can proudly say that Mawile is their favorite Pokemon. Ultimately, Arceus spilled a Pokemon, and its name is Mawile.
This little doll of unforgiving steel is a mixed bag of cuteness and fear. First time I saw it, I made little sense of its design, and eventually brushed it off as Japanese origin which I wouldn't be able to appreciate to its full extent. However, there's something oddly compelling about its macabre appearance. An intriguing conflict between serenity and despair. Beauty and beast. Sugar and asbestos. So while its front leaves little to be concerned about, its fierce fangs looming from behind are what send terror into the hearts of its enemies, who will have to think twice about approaching this pretty freak of nature. Other than that, I honestly don't know what to think of it. I don't approve of its actual design, as her jaws of death would have been more appropriate on a grass species, and not strapped onto a metallic nymph. But it's an eerie creature which sucks your attention straight from the get-go, and while it may have a heart of gold, its exterior of cold steel and nasty teeth should be able to send chills into the most seasoned battlers quite effortlessly.
Adolescence is an awkward time for any creature, even birds. The rapid transition from child to full grown adult invariably produces creatures that try and incorporate the cuteness of childhood and the power and strength of maturity, and end up failing at both. In perhaps the only thing it succeeds at, Staravia manages to look dumb in a multitude of ways! The color scheme isn't bad, but its lack of any noticeable neck, small eyes spread too far apart, and ludicrous curly plume of feathers combine to make it a truly awkward halfway point between the cute Starly and badass Staraptor. Sadly, Staravia also takes one other trait that it shouldn't from Staraptor: its ability. With its stupid looks and completely blank stare, Staravia isn't striking fear into anyone's hearts. Luckily, if you push through and level up Staravia, you are rewarded with the badass Staraptor. That stupid twirl of feathers is replaced by an emo fringe, the design overall is bulkier and stronger, and it has actual eyes instead of Staravia's black holes of emptiness. That is a properly intimidating Pokemon.
I cannot take this Pokémon seriously. It's simply not possible. The wimpy physique, the eyes devoid of assurance, the scrawny feet, and at the top of it all: the goofy bundle of plumes. All these traits collectively work together to wear down its presence, effectively robbing this avian blunder of its pride. Pidgeotto has its killer fringe, Tranquil has mad sideburns, while Staravia has a whimsical twirl, which does little to make its bird puberty less of a laughing matter. Birds in general can be quite fierce as they protect what they consider to be important, spreading their wings to their full extent to maximize their adamant intentions. But one look upon Staravia's face, and all of that attitude investment will have been for naught. It is the equivalent of a chihuahua yapping around your legs. You can see that it's serious, but you're just not threatened by its performance. If anything, your Attack is lowered out of pity, as you can't bring yourself to unleash your full strength upon this unfortunate flyer.
Staravia should not be labeled as intimidating by any means. In the world of ornithology, hawk-like birds are the main source of intimidation; it's been recorded that geese will refuse to fly if they see a hawk's shadow, even to the point of where a human can physically pick up the bird. Unfortunately for Staravia, it is based off of a plover, which is a type of wading bird. In the world of birds, it's not going to be intimidating anything. And in the world of Pokemon, the only creature it's going to be scaring are the Bug-type Pokemon that it feeds upon. Not only are its origins working against it, but so are its adorable little eyes and that cute curl that tops off its head. Staravia looks like it is more suitable for hugging than scaring off predators.
Staravia is very underrated when it comes to intimidation. It's been shortchanged and called goofy-looking long before this article ever went out. And why? Because it has a little swirly hairdo? Remember this makes it look bigger. Moreover, the curve of its eye line just forms this baleful glare. I dare any man to stare into Staravia's cold dead eyes for long. In this mediocre selection of intimidating Pokémon, I'd go as far to say that Staravia does its job the best. It's also just a good-looking Pokémon from my favorite line of birds. Sure, Staravia wishes it were Staraptor, whose very name inspires fear. But by Generation 4, we were neck deep in overcomplicated designs and wild color schemes. However, the shades of gray here allow some cool variation and a pleasant contrast between the orange color of the beak and talons. The jagged patterns that the colors form feel very natural to me.
Scrafty is from the streets. To be precise, the motorways north of Castelia City. So technically, it's from the countryside. Either way, this loose mobster is making an earnest attempt at creating a strong impression of itself before opposing thugs, knowing that one's appearance is merely one but important step in psychological warfare. Its brightly red Mohawk is a clever tool to increase its height, making Scrafty a towering figure against smaller foes. Its empty eyes show no sign of fear, insecurity, and intelligence, underlining the pretense that there's a badass about to clear things up in the 'hood. Scrafty's choice of garments also creates a heavy signal concerning its attitude towards society's opinion and personal mobility, clutching its nether skin pocket with a firm, hard grip. Armed with plenty of clever insults regarding the opponent's physical strength, gender orientation, and the supposed size of its mother, Scrafty is well equipped to take a stand against opposing forces. Yo.
Here is a "Dark" Hoodlum Pokémon that wears hip hop clothing and takes part in gang warfare. Paranoia culture critics managed to forever change Jynx's color scheme, but Scrafty is totally OK with everyone? Of course, the only thing I find offensive about Scrafty is how awful a Pokémon it is. It is really with no competition the ugliest Pokémon, and that's saying something when one of its contemporaries is a broken bag of garbage. Many of the things you can criticize also make it in no way intimidating. The eyes are spread far apart, cross-eyed, and look kind of dazed and confused. The elongated frown seems to say "Uhh, wait, where am I?". I'm still unconvinced that Mohawks were ever taken seriously, but they usually don't bisect the eye line. While its shed skin looks like children's pajamas to me, I'm a bit more concerned about the fact that he has to hold them up. How do you fight like that? It's simply hideous.
If I ever ran into an actual street gang filled with gangsters with pants lower than their IQ, I would probably be very intimidated. As my life is spent entirely on the Internet, this isn't an issue, but I'd say it's a fair bet that I wouldn't be intimidated if I ran into a gang of Scrafty. Their constantly half-lidded eyes and weird upside-down smiles don't exactly strike fear into anyone's hearts, and with a Mohawk so big that they fall over in a slight wind and the inability to take their hands off their pants, they don't exactly pose much of a threat. In fact, I actually feel sorry for Scrafty. They are born into this life, with no way to break through the ingrained perceptions of Scrafty in general. They have to live with their impractical pants and improbable hairdo from the egg, and they are required to keep up with the latest trend so that they can stay in the popular group, and manage to live a life in the gang. Truly they did not choose the thug life. The thug life chose them, if only a life as a not-awfully-intimidating-and-pretty-ugly-thug.
As a real life thug myself, I can safely say Scrafty is straight up the ballin'est Pokemon ever created. It exudes swag as soon as it hits the battlefield. Its bright red Mohawk ruins any chance of camouflage, meaning that Scrafty is bound to get into trouble whenever its rivals see it strutting its stuff. Not only that, but Scrafty establish dominance over each other by who grows the larger Mohawk. That's right, its entire hierarchical structure is based off of who has the sick nastiest hairdo. One of Game Freak's best ideas was to make a lizard that wears its own skin as hella dope threads. Its pants and hood show that Scrafty definitively represents the streets. I think that ultimately, no one wants to cross Scrafty in a dark alley in the world of Pokemon thanks to the tough-as-nails reputation it has earned. Try to avoid eye contact and walk by quickly whenever you see a Scrafty; this Pokemon will mess you up real bad.
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