1. Frosslass is like Elsa from Frozen, but instead of singing, it's murder

art credit GENZOMAN

One of the less-popular Japanese yokai is the Yuki-onna, who is described as a beautiful woman in a white kimono that can be seen on cold nights. She seems to hover above the snow without leaving footprints, and if you encounter her, it's assured that you're about to become a corpse-icle. She might freeze you solid where you stand, lead you away from shelter so you die of exposure, or even blow down your front door and let you shiver to death in your own bed. All this adds up to Frosslass being an even scarier Snowrunt evolution than Glalie, the giant monster skull face.

 

2. Absol will fill your mind with terrible, terrible knowledge

absol myth

photo credit tomotubby

According to Chinese legend, the Yellow Emperor Huang Di was on patrol near the East Sea when he encountered Bai Ze, a magnificent beast with a flowing white mane, large horns, and several eyes. The monster taught the Emperor about the secrets of the supernatural world and how to defeat thousands of types of supernatural beings. The myth of this mysterious white creature spread to Japan as well in the form of the kutabe, which appeared before a village to successfully warn them of a coming plague. This definitely fits Absol's pokedex entries, which talk about its habit of emerging from the wilderness to inform humans of oncoming disasters. Take a look at the dark spot in the center of Absol's head and tell me that's not supposed to be where the third eye opens.

 

3. Tornadus is a wind god with a long history

photo credit Frank "Fg2" Gualtieri 

While all three of the "Forces of Nature" trio line up with a Shinto god, I thought it would be fun to highlight Tornadus (maybe because we already sorta-mentioned Thundurus in the Manetric entry). Tornadus' journey starts in ancient Greece, where the bitter north wind was represented by the god Boreas, who was portrayed as unruly, ill-tempered, and wearing a billowing cloak. As Greece went eastward for trade and expansion, so did Boreas. By the time he made it to Japan, Boreas was now known as Fujin. Though he remained a wild-eyed asshole, the god had taken on the physical characteristics of a Buddist demon, and the cloak became a "bag of wind" that needed to be held shut at both ends. 

 

4. A horde of Sabeleyes once terrorized a family in Kentucky

sableye kentucky

art credit Weird N'Wild Monsters of the Mind

One of the most bizarre supernatural encounters ever reported was 1955's "Hopkinsville Goblin case" in which a rural farmhouse was supposedly invaded by a pack of 3-foot-tall aliens. Naturally, since the alleged monsters chose to appear in Kentucky, they were PROMPTLY and REPEATEDLY shot on sight. According to "eyewitness" accounts, the playful yet menacing creatures had small atrophied legs and bright glowing eyes, bullets seemed to bounce off their bodies, and they moved with an erratic swaying motion. There's a small but rabid "cryptid" otaku subculture in Japan, so it's very likely that Sableye's unique physicality was inspired by these creatures. 

 

5. Golurk was summoned to life by a Rabbi/Wizard

Golurk rabbi golem

photo credit Yan Vugenfirer

During the 16th century, the Jewish population of Prague was terrorized by anti-Semitic attacks and government sanctioned pogroms. Harnessing forgotten sacred techniques, a Rabbi invoked the name of God to imbue life into a clay figure, who would defend the people and serve the community. While the franchise has previously featured golem-like creatures like the Regi trio, Golurk's distinctive band across the chest is a visual trademark of representations of the Golem of Prague, who can be found in souvenirs and monuments throughout the city. 

 

6. Whiscash allegedly killed thousands of people with earthquakes

whiscash earthquake
art credit pinktentacle.com

Somewhere, deep in the muddy shores, a giant is constrained. A creature so powerful that even its struggles to escape cause deadly earthquakes. This is the story of Onamazu the giant catfish. During the Edo period, fisherman claimed that catfish became more active right before an earthquake, this semi-useless factoid evolved into an urban myth that major earthquakes were CAUSED by one giant catfish. Once a terrifying and apocalyptic figure, Onamazu has been adapted in modern times as the official mascot of Japan's Earthquake Early Warning System. Whiscash, the giant whiskered water/ground type, is explicitly said to cause earthquakes or tremors in all of its pokedex entries.



7. Do you think Manetric has anything to do with this OTHER blue lightning wolf?

raichu ikou

art credit Christophe Bastin

Raiju is the loyal animal companion to the Shinto thunder-god. Its body shrouded in lightning, it has been said to take the form of a cat, weasel, or specifically a blue wolf. It's also fabled to have the habit of seeking shelter in people's belly buttons, which is an adorable way to explain to kids why they shouldn't stand out in open fields during a lightning storm. I think they would have called this pokemon Raiju if it wasn't for Raichu muddying the electric-type roster already. If you want you COULD make a similar argument for the Legendary Beast Raikou as well, both monsters work!

 

8. Xerneas, Yvetal, and Zygarde are based on giant Norse monsters

 photo credit Redith

According to the Norse creation myth (aka "Thor: The Dark World") the world-tree Yggdrasil is home to several mythic animals. There's a giant eagle that sits atop the tree, giant magical stags that eat its bark and a giant snake that feasts upon its roots. These creatures align with Yvetal, Xerneas, and Zygarde, who are also shaped like giant letters of the alphabet because Ken Sugimori is still salty about nobody thinking Unowns were cool.

 

9. Dunsparce is a goofy fat snake that Japan SWEARS is real

art credit pinktentacle.com

Whew, enough dealing with gods and deities, now we're looking at the tsuchinoko, which is basically Japan's answer to the jackalope. Capable of leaping through the air and possessing a poisonous stinger, the tsuchinoko is known as the "bee snake". Now take a look at Dunsparce, who is known in Japan as nokocchi and it's pretty much a 1:1 match.

 

10. Ho-Oh is the king bird of Imperial China

photo credit Bernard Gagnon

Though it's pretty obvious that Ho-oh is supposed to be a mythical phoenix, it's important to distinguish that it's specifically the Chinese phoenix, which is known as a FenghuangWhile the Greek phoenix is just a bird that can shrug off attempts at rotisserie cooking, Fenghuang is said to have three legs, a tail that's made of planets, and its wings create the wind. A symbol of grace, prosperity, and peace, the multi-colored fenghuang has been a recurring motif in Chinese art for 8000 years. In Japan, the creature is known as "Ho-o"... wait, this one isn't even an allusion...  the pokemon is just the famous monster. It's like if Nintendo unveiled a new pokemon that was named "Literally-Dracula". 

 

11. Mawile is based on a quaint tale about how you shouldn't starve your wife.


art credit Yuko Shimizu 

Where did Game Freak get the idea for a magical version of Japan swarming with bizarre supernatural monsters? From Japan itself. The country's folklore is infested with "yokai", creepy crawly monsters that come in hundreds of sizes and shapes. One popular yokai story is of "Futakuchi-onna" or "the two-mouthed woman". Once upon a time, a miserly farmer was overjoyed with his new wife because she miraculously never needed to eat, saving him a bunch of money. However, as the weeks went on he noticed that his grain supplies were getting dangerously low. It wasn't until one horrifying night that he awoke to find his wife asleep, but a second mouth on the back of her head was voraciously devouring his food stores. Tendrils of hair continuosly fed the mouth more and more rice, eating him out of house and home. Mawile is absolutely a reference to this story, sporting a demure gaze and one nightmarish mullet.

 

12. Jynx will eat your flesh

jynx gangura yamauba
art credit Matthew Meyers for yokai.com 

In Japan, Jynx is understood to be a cheap shot at ganguro, a fashion trend that involves gaudy clothes, unusual amounts of makeup, and bleach blond hair. The most extreme practitioners of the look were labeled yamanba, a reference to the legend of Yama-uba. According to the stories, Yama-uba lives alone in the icy mountains and lures wayward travelers into her cabin to devour them. Jynx's unusual Ice/Psychic typing really only makes sense once you understand the "flesh devouring mountain witch" connection.

 

13. Ninetails is a fox spirit that went Super-Saiyan

ninetails kitsune
 Art credit Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Fox-spirits appear often in eastern mythology. Cunning, manipulative, and able to change their form in order to fool mortals, the kitsune is a trickster in many stories. One bizarre aspect of their lore is how they grow an extra tail every 100 years. Once the number of tails grows to nine, they are said to gain infinite wisdom and godlike power, turning their red fur a golden white. That's why Vulpix evolves by gaining 3 tails and a change in fur color. I can't believe I got through this whole entry without mentioning Naruto- ah damn there it was.

 

14. Groudon and Kyogre are from the Bible. Yes, THAT Bible

 art credit William Blake 

It'd be ironic if they went over this stuff when I was in Bible class, but I forgot because I was drawing pokemon in my notebook the whole time. God mentions two mighty creatures in the Old Testament, Leviathan and the Behemoth, two monsters that are so big that their names are now the words we use for "freaking huge". Leviathan is a large creature ("whale" in modern Hebrew) that can churn the oceans and rules the sea, while Behemoth towers over the land with sinews made of iron and brass. They are said to represent the primordial forces of nature which, though immeasurably grand, are still powerless under the will of God. Conversely they are also said to represent actual big-ass monsters that will destroy the world. Keep in mind this all goes down in the Book of Job (which Bible scholars agree, is the weird one where God and the Devil agree to mess with an old man out of boredom).