Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Science of Pokémon: An Argument for Inorganic Pokemon

Is it unoriginal or so original
you can't handle it?
One of the biggest arguments I see on forums relating to the newer pokémon generations is the general consensus that pokémon that look like inorganic objects are horrible. This typically leads the poster to conclude that: All new designs are terrible; Only the original pokémon look good; and "everything after ____ gen isn't a pokémon." However, I wish to present a rather scientific argument as to why these pokémon inspired by man-made objects make perfect sense.

Since the beginning of the franchise, evolution has been an important mechanic. As I explained in a previous blog, pokémon evolution isn't actually true evolution. Instead, it is a metamorphosis, with juvenile organisms eventually maturing into adults. Not every animal goes through metamorphosis, which explains why some pokémon never "evolve" in the game. That doesn't mean that natural selection, the driving force behind real world evolution, doesn't occur.

Natural selection occurs when an organism is born with a random characteristic that makes it better suited to the environment, which leads to them being able to breed and pass on their genetic material. This random trait, known as a mutation, needs to be beneficial (or at least not harmful) for it to be magnified through natural selection. For a random mutation to become the norm in a population, many generations of breeding is required for the once rare trait to become common. Humans have sped up this process with animals and plants by restricting which organisms are allowed to breed. (See: Selective Breeding)

Now back to the inorganic pokémon like Klink, Trubbish, or Vanilluxe. These organisms look like household objects. The first question would be to ask, what benefit is there from looking like a human-made object? The easiest answer would be that these organisms are adapted to blend with a human environment to have better access to food, water, and/or shelter. The easiest one to explain away is the one I hear the most griping about: Trubbish.

Highly Evolved. Highly Dangerous.
Trubbish is the Trash Bag pokemon. Its designation says it all. Trubbish is living garbage and many in the pokémon fandom regard it as such. However, in terms of natural selection, it is a highly adapted (or derived) organism that is the result of generations of breeding. Based on the technology used in the Pokémon World (the ability to convert living organisms into energy, warp pads, etc) its safe to assume that the world of pokémon is more advanced than our own. This may be a result of the events in the Pokémon World taking place in a futuristic Earth. Early writers of the anime were even going to go in to detail as to how pokémon replaced animals following some sort of extinction. If that is the case, Trubbish is an example of natural selection acting upon a creature to make it better adapted to live with humans. If you go to any urban area, you are going to find garbage, more than what you would find in pristine natural habitats. Animals commonly make use of camouflage to hide within their environment. If Trubbish's environment is a highly polluted human urban center, then its appearance makes perfect sense. It isn't garbage, it just looks like garbage to blend in. What would be its food source? Likely garbage. There has been TCG artwork showing Trubbish living in dumps and eating trash, so not only has this organism adapted to living in a toxic environment, it is now so derived it requires that toxic environment to survive.

Obviously, in the real world human pollution hasn't been around long enough to cause such an extreme level of evolution, but we do see animals adapting to our pollution. If we lived in the hyper advanced society powered by Infinity Energy where health care is free and entire cities are managed by levitating robots it may be common place to see animals adapted to the world we caused to change. As for other weird household pokémon, maybe they also have adaptations to help them better survive this human altered world. Maybe Vanilluxe looks the way it does to steal ice cream from ice cream parlors? It seems like that is pigeon holing it into a small niche (or ecological role) but that wouldn't be the first time nature has done something like that. If you research some of the odd ways animals have adapted to us, something that is adapted to hide among frozen food doesn't seem as far fetched.

Domo arigoto.
How about robotic forms of life like Klink or Magnemite? Well, we define life rather narrowly at the moment. We are usually referring to carbon-based life which includes animals and plants as well as bacteria and other microorganisms. However, we define it that way simply because we haven't encountered other types of life. As technology progresses, the idea that robotic sentient "life" could exist at some point becomes less and less far fetched. Obviously, these wouldn't be animals in the traditional sense, but would still consume something to power their bodies. In the case of Klink and Magnemite, it seems that nourishment is electrical energy. In these cases, we have not only have organisms that are adapted to live with humans, they were actually created by humans.

I could try explain why each inorganic pokémon is actually a natural science masterpiece, but I won't sugar coat it; they aren't. Not all adaptations are beneficial after all. Perhaps looking like a candle was useful for sneaking into houses and stealing food before the advent of electricity, but afterwards it would be more of a hindrance. I think most people would notice a random candle near their refrigerator.. which also seems to have a face and has turned bright orange for some reason. Eventually those mutations would be fazed out by a new mutation, perhaps one that makes the organism look like a key chain. This new organism that could better blend in and find food would eventually lead to the extinction of those defunct species that are no longer able to compete.

In the end, does basing a pokémon on a random household object allude to a loss of creativity? In my personal opinion: No. What it means is the person who devised it looked at that lifeless object and asked themselves, "If this was alive, how would it live?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Pokemon Announcement: Magearna

It's time again to tune up the speculation engine on the old hype train because a new pokemon has been announced! Corocoro has begun leaking online and early this morning Serebii.net began posting information on the new pokemon Magiana. Well, new to us anyway. Apparently, this pokemon was created by humans 500 years ago. Here's the image from Corocoro that was posted to Serebii as well as some initial information about it.

Magiana. Its classification is Man-Made Pokémon. Type has yet to be revealed. It was made over 500 years ago, by "human hands". Volcanion is chasing Magiana, only it knows Magiana's secret. The new movie is to be called Volcanion and the Exquisite Magiana.'
Obviously this has fueled speculation as to whether this is a pokemon will see in a game this generation, or if it is a leaked pokemon from the next generation. My speculation engine is raring to go..

  • Argument for Appearance in Gen 6: The 6th generation of pokemon still feels rather unresolved. With the least new pokemon added to date (discounting Megas), it has always seemed like we would get more. With the announcements of new Zygarde and Greninja formes, it seemed like if there was going to be a "Pokemon Z" that the best we could hope for is new formes and megas. However, now that we have Magiana it is possible that in between the events of XY and potentially Z that a few more pokemon have been found in Kalos. It's not in the data for XY, but at this point that isn't a good argument for it not being in Gen 6. None of the ORAS primals/megas are in XY outside of Mega Blaziken, Mega Latios, and Mega Latias. 
  • Argument for Appearance in Gen 7: Typically, movies focus around a central mythical pokemon and then the supporting pokemon cast is either random or includes pokemon to appear in the next generation. For example, Manaphy and the Temple of the Sea is a Gen 3 movie, however the focus is around Manaphy who is a Gen 4 pokemon. It isn't the only 4th gen pokemon as Chatot also makes an appearance. It's quite possible that is what we are seeing here with the Volcanion and the Exquisite Magiana. Volcanion is the mythical pokemon and Magiana is the preview pokemon for Gen 7 (and may also be mythical). There is not a lot of precedent for introducing two mythicals in the same movie, but seeing as the online community has known about Volcanion for a while now, maybe a second mythical was added to give this movie an element of surprise. I, for one, didn't expect there to be a Gen 7 pokemon announced so it would seem like a good way to keep things fresh.
Now for it's placement in the Dex and its relationship to other pokemon. Some Team Knockout members have suggested it could be a fusion or evolution of a new pokemon, although the simplest answer would be its a brand new pokemon with no relationship to previous pokemon. Rev that speculation engine!
Do you even need a pokeball to catch her?
She seems to catch herself....
  • Argument for Fusion: Ever since Black Kyurem and White Kyurem showed up, and even some before that, several pokemon have been thought to be possible fusions. In fact, before knowing how Zygarde formes worked, some suggested that Perfect Zygarde was a fusion of it and Xerneas/Yveltal. Magiana certainly takes elements from pokemon we've seen before. It's mechanical nature has similarities to pokemon like Klinklang. Its more "princess" like qualities have been likened to Diancie and Mega Gardevoir. Adding a new fusion would be interesting seeing as it would open a lot of future possibilities. 
  • Argument for Evolutionary Relationships: Just because Magiana is classified as "Man-Made" doesn't mean it didn't evolve from a pokemon we already have. The Klink line has always been hinted as being man-made. Juniper even mentions that Klinks showed up only 100 years ago. This might suggest there is an evolutionary relationship between them. Perhaps under certain circumstances a Klink could be reformed into a Magiana. This would make it similar to Diancie in that is a special offshoot of Carbink. The opposite is also possible. Perhaps Magiana, after being built 500 years ago, began producing its own mechanical offspring in the form of Klinks the same way Manaphy can produce Phione. This wouldn't necessarily mean it is a mythical pokemon though. In 4th gen baby pokemon were revealed that were related to 2nd gen pokemon. Perhaps if you take a Klink to a certain area and level it up it becomes Magiana? Perhaps if you breed Magiana you'll get Klinks? 
  • Argument for Mythical Status: The easiest argument is that is a mythical pokemon that just LOOKS like it is related to other pokemon. Maybe the gear on its head is just meant to show off it is mechanical and actually has no relation to the Klink line. This wouldn't be the first two separate pokemon have been so aesthetically similar that they were thought to be related. Luvdisc and Alomomola are prime examples. Plus, Magiana also has a pokeball aesthetic. The gear linking her to Klink isn't any stronger than the pokeball dress that COULD link her to Voltorb. Is Magiana a mutant Voltorb/Electrode? Possibly, but Foongus and Amoongus are also pokeball themed and are obviously unrelated. Also, her height (1.0 m) has being as tall as most mythical pokemon, although that's more of just a side note. It seems reasonable that Magiana is a new mythical event exclusive pokemon meant to drive up hype. 
So what mysteries does Magiana REALLY hold and how will it affect the Pokemon World? I guess we'll just have to wait to find out. My guess is with this being in Corocoro and already leaking, we'll get an official announcement from The Pokemon Company about this new pokemon in the next week or two.

UPDATE: The English name is Magearna. Also, it has been confirmed to be a mythical pokemon.