Pokémon rocked our childhood and still make us dream today. Whether through games or anime, we have all been confronted with these creatures with immense powers. In this role, we will explore the myths and origins that surround some of our favorite creatures.
Soporifik, the night owl
Who has never ravaged the early versions of Pokémon when they were once the victim of the terrifying combination of hypnosis and devour? Soporific, a creature resembling a tapir, actually comes from Japanese folklore. In fact, it is inspired by a yokai – which can be translated as: “ghost”, “ghost”, “demon”, “strange appearance”. – This is none other than Baku. He is also called Yumekui (literally “eater of dreams”).
It differs from other yokai in its benevolent aspect: this clever little one feeds on children’s nightmares! The Baku can even be called upon request to clean everything. Great luxury! But be careful: if he is still hungry, the Baku will not hesitate to devour your dreams, destroying your hopes and life projects in the process. These yokai have the power to tear your soul from your body. Terrifying, we told you.
Empiflor, stomach on lianas
This cute tropical plant isn’t just James’ hangman in the Pokémon anime. It exists in the real world in the form of a carnivorous plant in the Nepenthaceae family. In the case of Empiflor, it is the Nepenthes distillatoria species endemic to Sri Lanka. In order to feed themselves, the Nepenthes have developed an impressively efficient system!
In fact, the plant gives off a sweet smell, the purpose of which is to lure insects (their main prey) into a cave that acts as a stomach. Once inside, they are trapped in a sticky abyss. Last step: the digestive fluid literally dissolves the insect and converts the skin and organs into essential nutrients. The most massive specimens can liquefy snakes, frogs, and even birds!
Feuforêve, the neighborhood nightmare
Dreamfire was introduced in the second generation as a new ghost-type Pokémon and appears as a small ghost with a flawless hairstyle. According to Pokédex, the Feuforêve love to wander and scare people! This Pokémon is inspired by the Nukekubi, whose etymology is as follows: Nuke (missing) and Kubi (neck). This is a yokai close to the vampire myth that takes the form of a woman’s head detached from her body. During the day, the Nukekubi looks like an elegant young woman. It was not until dark that he attacked the neighborhood violently and looked for fresh blood!
The jewelry set worn by Feuforêve corresponds to a red scar on the neck, the only way to distinguish the Nukekubi in broad daylight. To destroy it, it is enough to injure his body (sluggishly when the head is active) or to keep the two parts separate until the wee hours of the morning. This yokai seems to be inspired by sleepwalking, which at the time was tied to a curse passed down from mother to daughter.
Parasite, the zombifying fungus
Parasect is the type of Pokémon that once got us all to tell ourselves, “What the hell is that anyway?” And for good reason: a priori, you are unlikely to know the origin. Here’s a little hint: as it evolves, Paras loses its pupils, which turn completely white! In fact, this Pokémon is based on a parasitic fungus belonging to the entomopathogenic family (that infects insects and spiders): Cordyceps! Its Japanese name is ambiguous: tōchūkasō (literally “insect in winter, flower in summer”).
The most common prey is the ant. In order to reproduce, the fungus literally “hacks” the victim’s brain with the help of its spores. The latter will go on with life without being controlled by a parasite. After the Cordyceps has absorbed maximum nutrients, it squeezes the ant to move away from its colony and reach the highest possible point. Once this is done, it hatches from the insect’s inert body and diffuses its spores, the final step in the reproductive process.
Shadows, the teeth of the river
Pokémon introduced in Ruby / Sapphire versions, shadows difficult to identify at first glance. His “headgear” is used to collect water when necessary. In fact, it’s another yokai that was used as a model for creating the Pokémon: it’s the kappa. This emblematic figure in Japanese folklore is in the shape of an anthropomorphic turtle – with human characteristics – with a beak-shaped mouth, a hollowed-out skull, and some hair. Another name: the Kawataro, literally “the boy of the river”.
The kappa draws its strength from the water stored in its cranial cavity. Conversely, his supernatural powers disappear when he empties it. If most are simple harmless jokes, some don’t hesitate to drown people like animals, kidnap children, or rape women! The kappa is an intelligent being that can speak Japanese and even play shogi (a board game). The solution to neutralize him: greet him politely. Indeed, since he is very polite, he will greet you in return and let the water fall out of his head!
Kadabra, the telekinetic
Kadabra is a legendary psychic Pokémon from the series and shines in both anime and games. Particularly in the first generation, it is dominated by shrinkage types that literally have no weaknesses. The Pokédex gives it great intelligence, coupled with the ability to send out alpha waves, causing migraines to anyone who crosses its path.
The Japanese etymology says more about their origin: Yungera – which can also be pronounced as “Yungerer”. This is a direct reference to Uri Geller, an Israeli television presenter known for his alleged psychic powers. The latter amused himself by turning spoons with his “mind” in his TV shows. The star on Kadabra’s forehead represents a pentagram. This symbol refers to the spiritual world and to the rule of the spirit over matter: the famous psychologist! The circle closes.
Handjob, the doll that wants you hard
Introduced in the third generation, Branette is a ghost type. It’s one of the Pokémon that Spectra from the Council of Four uses. According to Pokédex, it’s basically a doll that has been abandoned by a child. Mistreated like this, it would have been brought to life to take revenge on its previous owner. The design is also inspired by traditional voodoo dolls.
The myth behind this Pokémon is that of the tsukumogami (translated as “old ghost” or “99 year old ghost”), a type of yokai. To prevent transformation, it was customary to throw the items away before her hundredth birthday. However, it seems that this very act gives rise to the resentment that gives life to the tsukumogami! Any object can be affected. If necessary, multiple tsukumogami can band together for revenge!
Rafflesia, the flower that puts you in the scent
Rafflesia, the signature Pokémon of Champion Erika, is a plant / poison type like its counterpart Empiflor. Rafflesia is an excellent fighter and has many weapons, as evidenced by attacks such as para-spores, dodo powder or even giga leeches. In this case, it’s better to have it in the console than in real life. Explanations.
It is inspired by a parasitic plant, Rafflesia Arnoldii – Arnold’s Rafflesia – which holds the record for the largest flower in the world. Another special feature: a particularly unpleasant smell, similar to that of a corpse decomposing. At the base of this flower is a parasitic fungus, the target of which is tetrastigma, a wood grape native to tropical regions. Who Said Pokémon is for Kids?
How can you talk about Pokémon without mentioning the almighty Magikarp? This living god, who is particularly valued by trainers, could be obtained for the modest sum of 500 Pokédollars at a Pokémon center near Argenta. What was our surprise when we discovered in our naivete that the only attack of the unfortunate fish was to jump unnecessarily! Fortunately, water has flowed under the bridges. The secret of Magikarp has finally been revealed.
Magikarp is inspired by a Chinese legend that the Japanese later adopted, that of the Koï carp. Legend has it that if a carp manages to go up the Yellow River against the current, it will turn into a kite and fly to other skies (maybe it will cross Team Rocket?). The courage and perseverance of the fish are so rewarded! Interesting fact: in Koi carp, golden ones are considered rarer, as is the color of Chromatic Magikarp.
After reaching painfully level 20 with the attack and diving attacks as unique weapons, your Magikarp will finally evolve into an impressive leviator! Here’s the lesson from this incredible Pokémon: believe in your dreams and never give up!