April 11, 2022 5 min read
Who has missed out on these illustrious fighting creatures that conquered the media over the past twenty years?
Pokémon are small supernatural creatures, coming straight out of video games, mangas, anime and other derivative productions. Created by Satoshi Tajiri, the founder of Game Freak, these creatures captivated many fans all over the world.
Did you know that these funny little monsters were directly inspired by Japanese spirits? Remember them? Yokai are the little demons of Japanese folklore that possess extraordinary powers...
Indeed, Pokémon seem to share some common points with them. Let's have a closer look at the Pokemon based on Yokai!
In the popular video game, Vulpix is a six-tailed fox that wields fire to perfection. This reminds us of the famous Kitsune fox from Japanese mythology. As a polymorphous creature, this cunning spirit is capable of transforming itself, producing fire or even illusions in order to manipulate humans. Japanese legends tell that the Kitsune is born with a fox-like appearance. It is only after the age of 100 that the yokai begins to distinguish itself and develop its powers. Once the yokai has gained a lot of experience, its hair becomes white or golden. The number of tails on the creature indicates its age and power. The Pokémon Vulpix, in turn, evolves into the Ninetales, a light-coated fox with nine tails and exceptional longevity.
Just like Kappa, the river monster, Lotad hides in murky waters. It is protected by a hollow, bowl-like water lily leaf that also serves as its shell. This "Water" and "Plant" type Pokémon can transform into a Lombre: a mixture of child and turtle. When it rains, its bowl fills up and Lotad recovers its strength. On the other hand, if he loses his water lily leaf, he gets weaker. In Japanese folklore, the evil Kappa is known to drown humans. With its hollow head, this yokai accumulates water to become stronger. If not, it gets exhausted. So the best way to escape a Kappa is to greet it with a bow so that it will bow back and empty its water.
Espeon is a cat-like Pokémon with a tail that splits in two. Doesn't that remind you of Bakeneko, the ghost cat that terrorizes its household? That monster that throws fireballs and transforms into a human? Luckily, Espeon is a bit more sympathetic. Intelligent and sensitive to his environment, Espeon can predict the weather or determine the movements of his opponents. As opposed to the evil yokai, the Pokémon is extremely loyal to its master and therefore does not seek to devour him ;-). According to the relationship this pokemon has with its master, Espeon can develop divinatory powers.
Without legs or arms, Misdreavus is a ghost who loves to scare people. The Nukekubi is an ugly yokai whose neck is detached. Often confused with the long-necked monster called Rokurokubi, it is often represented as a woman with long black hair, dressed in a kimono. During the day, she is an ordinary woman except for the marks on her neck. At night, her head separates from her body and floats in order to easily attack her victims. The yokai feeds on blood and utters terrifying screams. What do they have in common? Misdreavus, just like its cousin Nukekubi, is also dressed in a floating dress and has long hair. Its neck is covered with red stones that absorb the fear of its victims. And finally, both creatures wake up during the night to play evil tricks on humans.
Ever heard of Yama Uba, the fearsome mountain witch who lives in the forest? This old lady who used to transform herself into a pretty woman to attract lost hikers to eat them alive? Her Pokémon counterpart would probably be Jynx, a humanoid monster that looks like an opera singer. With her bleached hair and purple skin, the creature alludes to the Japanese fashion Yamamba, itself inspired by the yokai. On the other hand, the red dress is not without reminding the kimono of the old witch of the mountains. It is said that Yama Uba had the power to make her hair move. As for Jynx, she irresistibly leads humans to dance.
Drowzee is a Pokémon with a small trunk, which feeds on dreams. This character seems to be related to Baku. In Japanese mythology, Baku is a legendary benevolent creature that feeds on thoughts, devouring the dreams and nightmares of humans. This elephant and tiger-like creature is also depicted as a tapir just like its Pokémon cousin Drowzee.
With its beak, yellow eyes, white manes and geta on its feet, Shiftry looks like the Tengu. Remember... this demon with its red face and long nose halfway between man and bird? In the past, this yokai was represented as a kite (a kind of bird of prey). He is said to have the power to fly, to watch over nature and to provoke violent wind storms by using his fan. Shiftry himself has leafy hands that he waves like a fan to blow wind. He is also considered the guardian of the forest. Lastly, in the Pokémon game, this creature evolves into Nuzleaf, a kind of wooden puppet with a long nose.
In Japan, it is said that some souls turn into Onibi after death. These are small flames that levitate above the ground and appear in cemeteries like a will-o'-the-wisp. Gastly consists of 95% gas and can take on various forms, pass through surfaces or transform into hands. This Pokémon enjoys frightening humans by creating illusions or by poisoning them deviously.
What do Mawile and Futakuchi-onna have in common? Well... it involves their second mouth, or rather jaw for the Pokemon. This Japanese folklore monster has a second mouth at the back of its head, just like the adorable and fearsome Mawile, this little girl with a big ponytail at the back of her head which is articulated in two crocodile jaws.
Namazu is a legendary creature that lives under the Lands of Japan. The huge catfish of Japanese legends directly inspired the pokemon Whiscash. Under its appearance of a blue fish with big whiskers, this Pokémon is capable of causing terrible earthquakes. According to the legend, only the god Takemikazuchi is able to control Namazu and prevent it from causing other earthquakes. However, it happens that the creature escapes from time to time. That's why the earth regularly shakes in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Slowbro and Sazae-Onni are both inspired by the hermit crab, you know... that crustacean that steals the shells of other marine mollusks? Like the decapod, Slowbro is a lazy mollusk that stands upright thanks to a shell attached to its tail. And Sazae-onni? This is a soft-bodied water demon that mainly attacks sailors to rob them of their gold. It is said that the sea monster transforms itself into a young woman on the verge of drowning to attract its prey.
As an iconic animal of Japan, the koi fish is at the origin of the Pokémon Magikarp. According to the legend of the Yellow River, this particularly resistant fish manages to swim upstream to transform itself into a majestic dragon. Although the Koi fish is considered a brave and willing animal in the Japanese culture, the link with Magikarp is not immediately noticeable. In fact, the Pokémon is known for its great weakness, especially with its "Dip" attack. It appears as a goldfish with a glassy look, devoid of any utility. However, it is incredibly resilient in dirty water and eventually, like the Koi fish, transforms into the Gyarados, a serpentine dragon.
How about you, have you noticed any other similarities between yokai and our little friends the Pokémon? Share them with us in the comments...
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November 21, 2022 9 min readRead More
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