When Pokemon first launched in the 90s, the tagline was “gotta catch ’em all”.
It’s something we’ve taken seriously (even if Sword and Shield didn’t), but it is consistently becoming a steeper task: at the present moment, there are over 900 Pocket Monsters to collect, to train, or to shove into the PC Box, never to be seen again.
With such a wide array of beasts, real-world inspiration often plays a role in their creation, and many of them end up being something of a de facto mascot for the corresponding nation. Some are obvious, while others require a bit more digging, so it’s worth exploring what those squads might look like.
Because clickbait isn’t clickbait if it’s lots of fun, right?
Ninetales, Hariyama, Froslass, Decidueye (Hisuian), Greninja, Meowth
Narrowing this down was a rather herculean task, as the actual number of Pokemon based on Japanese animals, folklore or other cultural elements likely exceeds the 100s.
To wit, you could build several teams using only yokai-inspired creations alone. So how can you possibly limit the choices to only six?
Some were easier than others. With its clear ronin motif, the Hisuian form of Decidueye was a gimme, as was Hariyama, who is based on sumo wrestlers. As an aside, it’s also one of the few Pokemon that actually sounds like it’s saying its name. Not necessarily a relevant factoid, unless you associate sumos with clarity.
Then there’s Greninja, who I actually forgot about initially. If I went to print while omitting the Pokemon that is a fucking frog ninja for Japan, the whole experiment would have been deemed a failure. Baka-nthony!!
On the yokai front, I opted for Ninetales and Froslass. Kitsune are a staple, particularly those with multiple tails and vengeful tendencies. Similarly, yuki-onna are tragic yet dangerous spirits, plus my girl is literally sporting a kimono. Giving her the cold shoulder would have been a crime, and lord knows I don’t need a ghost haunting me at every turn (my constant feelings of regret will suffice, thank you very much).
To round out the squad, I went with Meowth, which resembles a maneki-neko right down to its beckoning pose. It proves a great intersection between a Japanese symbol and the country’s general affinity for felines. Most others would insist on Mawile, Wyrdeer or even Lycanroc, with its origins stemming from extinct Hokkaidan wolves.
In all likelihood, if I continue these lists down the track I’ll have to circle back to Japan. I’ve probably blanked on a few really blatant ones, as I nearly had with Greninja.
Braviary, Obstagoon, Feraligatr, Bouffalant, Scrafty, Zapdos
One of the great things about the good ol’ USA is that its climate from top to bottom is so wildly different, you end up with a really wide range of critters.
That’s why we’ve got the gators of the south repped in Feraligatr, and the west’s bison population with Bouffalant. I would have loved to have included Pidove in here to pay homage to the pigeon infestations of Boston or New York, but Zapdos, based on the thunderbird of Native American legend, proved the unmissable avian.
It took a little bit of internet exploration for Scrafty to make the cut, as the general consensus is that its baggy clothing is a reference to urban American fashion. Generation 5’s Unova region was drawn from New York City’s boroughs, so it stands to reason that this connection would be present.
Obstagoon makes for another nice intersection of fauna and zeitgeist. Though Zigzagoon would be logical for a raccoon representative, its colouration is more reminiscent of badgers. So why not elect for the evolved version, made as a loving tribute to one of America’s greatest bands, Kiss?
And then there’s Braviary, of course, who is about as yankee as a cheeseburger made from pure freedom and firearms. The Indigenous American aspects are a really aesthetically pleasing part of its design, making it appear powerful, fierce and regal.
The only question I’m left asking is if any of these patriots can out-America Fire Emblem Fates’ Arthur? Such heroism is difficult to top, unless you have a banana peel at the ready.
Bibarel, Ursaring, Sawsbuck (Winter), Beartic, Kyogre, Stantler
It was of particular importance to me to make sure I did the homeland justice. It’s a question so significant, even the official government account was seeking clarity on the matter. Fortunately for me, there were a few clear options that were staring me right at the face and saying “eh?”
To start, let’s shelve this idea that Bidoof is the quintessential beaver ‘mon. It lacks the distinctive tail for one thing, and its genus is that it is the “plump mouse” Pokemon. You could claim that it’s the much less ballyhooed mountain breed, but beyond that, you’re grasping at straws. The real answer is its evolution Bibarel, thank you very much.
Ursaring and Beartic have got Canada’s ursine habitants covered, from grizzlies through to the polar variety. Stantler is a conspicuous inclusion, though I’m more inclined to view it as a reindeer than a moose. It feels a little twee and shoehorned, if I’m being perfectly honest. The moment they fully commit to a moose Pokemon, Stantler is definitely getting the boot.
Sawsbuck, in my eyes, is the better suited deer selection, especially when it’s in its winter form to represent the frigid temperatures of the great white north. And it’s ever so fluffy. I like it a lot.
Unfortunately, there’s not enough available slots to delve into the aquatic realm of Canadian animals, where Sealeo or Oshawott would be appropriate. I did, however, make room for Kyogre, with patterns drawn from the killer whale. It’s pretty fucking big, so I had to make ample room. I hope it appreciates my efforts.
This project also made it clear to me that Game Freak still haven’t created a goose Pokemon, which is a stunning oversight. Give us a loon or something, you hosers!
Kangaskhan, Komala, Galvantula, Heliolisk, Totodile, Corsola (Galarian)
Crikey! It’s time to head down under to see what manner of horrors will kill you the moment you leave the front door. Not to worry, mate, as long as it’s not the United Australia Party it won’t be that bad.
For years, this delineation was the sole property of Kangaskhan, who looks like a kangaroo after its been run over a few times. As of gen 7, it was pipped to the post for Aussie spirit by the cuddly Komala, who is not only very clearly a koala, but has a tendency to sleep through any conflict — bit like the global financial crisis that kind of passed Australia by, right?
For the reptilian aficionados out there, we’ve got Heliolisk, a frill-necked lizard. A lot of the larrikins out there would insert Ekans to represent the diverse snake population, but one look at its tail and you’ll know you’re shit out of luck. No native rattlesnakes down here, cobber, so we’ll opt for a different creepy-crawly with Galvantula.
The Galarian Corsola is one of the more upsetting regional forms out there, taking its cheery pink predecessor and stripping it of both its smile and its hue. Tragically, the Great Barrier Reef is on a collision course with such a fate. Let this serve as a reminder of how badly we’ve stuffed the world up.
Lastly, we’ve gotta have a brutish croc in here. Though Krookodile seems a fitting candidate, its snout is actually closer aligned with the African species. As such, we’re going to borrow from Johto’s water starter family again and throw a baby Totodile into the mix. Feed it enough Vegemite and I’m sure it’ll give it a burl.
In case you’re curious, yes, some Australians do use the above terms in actual conversations. If you want to hear it firsthand, just seek out the most sunburned old white guy, preferably at the pub.
Furfrou (La Reine), Floette (Eternal Flower), Serperior, Goodra, Mr. Mime, Dedenne
Considering Paris had an entire region based on it, with X and Y’s Kalos, you’d assume it would be easy to cobble together six francophones for this list. It actually took a bit more doing by the end.
Off the jump, Furfrou the poodle Pokemon — and especially its La Reine trim that is exclusive only to Pokemon GO players in France — was a shoe-in. AZ’s unobtainable Floette, complete with colouration matching the French flag, was also a straightforward decision.
Though its origins actually date back to ancient Greece, the art of mime is most closely associated with France, thanks in no small part to the iconic Marcel Marceau. And hey, Marcel is even the name of the Mr. Mime you receive via in-game trade in Pokemon Red and Blue! So that settles that, then.
Other selections are not quite as immediately apparent, and yet, they are among the most satisfying. Serperior sports a fleur-de-lis design on its pelt and, by Ken Sugimori’s admission, took its cue from a manga set in Versailles. Meanwhile, Goodra, a mollusc-like monster, hearkens back to the French legend of Lou Carcolh.
Really, it’s learning shit like this, that makes Pokemon mythology so much fun.
As for Dedenne, it bears resemblance to the lerot with its great big ears and floofy tail. It also could potentially have origins based on La Petite Souris; the French version of the tooth fairy that is, as luck would have it, a mouse. C’est magnifique!
Phew! That was quite the globetrotting journey, and of course, we’re nowhere near done. Technically speaking, there are 190 more countries to cover, so our work is truly cut out for us.
Thanks as always to Bulbapedia for their exhaustive research, which was applied liberally for the purposes of this article.
Any nations you’d like to see covered in future entries? Or any boneheaded mistakes you noted in this one? Make sure to sound off in the comments!