Thursday, December 22, 2011

48. Venonat

Venonat is a highly overlooked pokemon, and there are reasons for this. It is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and covered with plush fur. It has Butterfree's moveset, but Beedrill's typing. And I can't recall ever actually training one. It comes in rather late to the bug pokemon party, appearing only in three small and out-of-the-way patches of grass on the routes between Lavender Town and Fuchsia City. Even Paras was at least a Mt. Moon catch—that's before your second gym badge. By the time you see a Venonat, you have four badges, you've gotten the pokeflute and caught Snorlax, you've braved Pokemon Tower, and your starting pokemon is probably fully evolved. Not many trainers will be eager to introduce their Charizard to its new teammate, Some Bug Thing, especially when said thing only knows Tackle, Confusion and a bunch of status moves. Not when the only room for Bug-types in the party is probably already taken by a stronger and sentimentally kept Parasect or Butterfree.

What redeems Venonat in most people's eyes is probably that it's cute. And boy is it cute. It looks like it's made out of a cotton ball, pipe cleaners and felt. Pokemon crafts community, don't let me down now!


But not so fast. Venonat is not just a little guy that fits neatly in your palm, as seen above. Venonat's official size is THREE FEET TALL. And SIXTY POUNDS. Process that for a moment. Venonat is the same height as Wartortle, Pignite, Primeape, Rhydon, and Ponyta. Do you have a dog? Venonat is probably bigger than your dog. Do you have a child or younger sibling? If they are younger than five or so, Venonat could probably eat them. Forget the pokedex entries about living in underbrush, coming out at night to eat small bugs, and being drawn to light like the moths outside your window; I'm not sure this thing would even fit under my porch. The closest thing to something being that big and eating bugs is... raccoons? Maybe? So Venonat is like a big raccoon, if raccoons could morph into five foot tall psychic moths. Somewhere, an acid user shudders, recalling a bad trip they had once.

And raccoons are as good an analogue as any, because it's not clear what Venonat is supposed to be. It seems to lack a specific real-world inspiration. It's the “insect pokemon,” with compound eyes and antennae to match, but its hands and feet are paws. They're pretty much identical to Raticate's paws. Its fur could maybe be akin to stiff caterpillar hairs (if the idea of a three foot standing caterpillar comforts you), but in its early sprites it looks stringy and weighted like mammalian hair. At first Venonat reminds me of Mario Fuzzies or Tribbles, but it wouldn't look out of place among Muppets or the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are. The easiest thing to imagine is some kind of rodent grown massive, with evolved bulbous arrays of compound eyes. The fan theory that pokemon are animals mutated from Hiroshima and Nagasaki fallout has never seemed more plausible, looking at Venonat. That cartoon puff of fur that seems so cute and simply designed has the side-effect of keeping Venonat's actual body a complete mystery to us. Maybe we should count ourselves lucky.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the anime never featured Venonat heavily either, at least as far as I watched it. Apparently Brock Replacement #1, Tracey Sketchit, frequently used a Venonat which functioned as some kind of awesome pokemon sniper and radar array. But all I can remember is the Venonat in the Koga episode, which hopped around the ninja mansion and evolved into Venomoth after like two seconds in battle. But I guess it did a pretty good job of creeping on Ash.

Here is my theory of what exactly is off about Venonat: it is mis-typed. In the last post I mentioned there has never been a Bug/Psychic pokemon. What pokemon would fit that combo better than Venonat? The focus of design and lore on its radar eyes, the parade of psychic attacks, the lack of poison attacks, the redundancy with Beedrill, all point to it being a natural psychic. Its Japanese name, Kongpang (insect + radar noise) focuses on the eyes too, making no mention of venom. But no, they had to be skimpy with Psychic typing in Generation I because it was très overpowèred back then, being immune to Ghost and ONLY weak to Bug attacks, which in Gen I were all of Leech Life, Fury Cutter and Twin Needle. Even today Bug/Psychic would be pretty interesting; it would resist Ground, double resist Fighting, and pretty much own other Psychic types. If they went back and retconned Magnemite's typing, I wish they had done the same to give Venonat a niche. Oh well; the Venonat fan club can be an intimate one.

The Winner:
HeartGold and SoulSilver

I am going to go against my usual inclination to favour the darker sprites for a dark pokemon (the Gameboy sprites) over its later pastel-coloured ones. I will also go against the inclination to favour energetic, running sprites like Yellow's, even though it is great. In truth, there really aren't any bad Venonat sprites (ignore for a moment newer sprites' tendency to make Venonat's nose and teeth look like a little moustache). I especially enjoy how they get bigger from game to game, like a time-lapse of The Very Hungry Venonat.

But I like HG/SS Venonat the best because it stands tall. Like it is using those magnificent peepers to see something important. Or it is standing at attention to receive a medal of bravery for unexpectedly saving the whole kingdom. Or it is on a seaside cliff, watching the sunset with infrared vision, wind in its antennae. A Venonat with its head held high makes me feel all fuzzy.


  1. great to see you back dude!! i keep checking back here and i was very pleasently surprised to see two new posts! thank you for coming back :D

  2. No problem! I promise there will be 151 posts here at some point before I die

  3. I enjoyed this post very much. I can just imagine a 3 foot tall pluff ball being drawn to light from my window. It sounds absolutely terrifying! With it's huge fly-like red eyes & weird pinchy month~ No thank you!

  4. I always assumed it was like one foot... whoa...
    But the thing that really gets me is that it's a severed butterfree head.

  5. Pokemon - Emerald - Hack (all pokemons) GBA ROM+SAVE+CHEAT