Friday, August 10, 2012

56. Mankey

Mankey, I have some bones to pick with ye.

One: monkeys and apes are overrated. There, I said it. I appreciate how they're complex, social creatures and our closest relatives and all. But they are not cute or captivating; when a cat or a bird or something behaves like a human, it's cute. When a primate does it, it's terrifying. It's uncanny valley in nature. Also they fling poo.

Luckily for you if you're a primate lover, Game Freak does not share my views. They freaking love monkeys. They design new monkey pokemon literally every generation. By my count, there are now 18 different pokemon based on monkeys, apes and sloths (21 if you count the Electabuzz family, which is ape-like), and their numbers are growing exponentially; 8 of those are from Gen V alone. Give it a couple more games, and half the Pokedex will be monkeys. There are almost enough monkey pokemon for them to have their own type. Speaking of types...

Two: Fighting pokemon are overrated. Or rather they are accurately rated, and overpowered. Things were better in Gen I, when dominating Rock and being the only type super effective against Normal was enough. Then they introduced two brand new, powerful, low-weakness pokemon types, and made them both weak to Fighting. Look, I get that martial artists can make a show of breaking bricks and wood planks, but I'm pretty sure dudes can't punch through plates of steel. They could have made Steel weak to Electric instead and everyone would have been happy.

Plus, it's just a boring type. Every other pokemon type is based on something either in nature, or in fantasy (Dragon, Psychic, Ghost). With the exception of maybe wrestling stag beetles, the Fighting type is based entirely on stuff humans decide to do with our bodies. So you get a whole group of pokemon that basically resemble or function like people. And let me tell you: I don't get into biologically informed fantasy animal adventures so I can play as short humanoid things with boxing gloves. I'm pretty sure Yu-Gi-Oh could provide something like that.

Three: I've picked this bone before, but it annoys me how they moved Mankey to being pre-Mt. Moon (route 22), and in both versions (instead of Red exclusive), and gave Charmander Metal Claw, just so that Charmander users in FR/LG would have an obvious shortcut to beating Brock. Yes, let's make the iconic Pokemon gym leader as easy to defeat as possible. Nice work, remakes.

It also made the Fighting type seem even more overpowered, with a mid-game pokemon being planted early-game like that. I trained one of these fake Mankeys in a Nuzlocke run once, and it was OHKO's everywhere. Not that Mankey is even that powerful, but it's got a killer combination of being faster than most things, with better Attack than most things, and 100% accuracy, high damage, high crit-hit Fighting attacks from almost the get-go. Is it satisfying when your pokemon Karate Chops and Low Kicks through all comers? Yes, but also very, very easy. There is a Mankey-only run on YouTube; I am not impressed.

Four: Mankeys are noted for their fierce, short-tempered nature. So naturally, the only Mankey anyone identifies with doesn't fit this description at all. I'm talking about the Mankey from that one episode with the Mankey. You know the one. It steals Ash's hat, imitates him, and is an inspiration to trolls everywhere.


But admittedly, it is hilarious, and anything that brings attention to Ash's dopiness is fine by me. So I kind of like both flavours of Mankey. Have you read this Pokedex entry from Crystal? “It lives in groups in the treetops. If it loses sight of its group, it becomes infuriated by its loneliness.” Aw! Mankey's rough and tumble, but deep down, it's probably really sensitive. Mankey's problem is it's treated like an outsider.

Five: Mankey, for being a monkey, is not a terribly monkey-like design. Once again I'll break out the comparison to Fuzzies from Mario, or maybe... this one's more obscure, but there was an enemy in Jazz Jackrabbit that was just a pair of eyeballs on a field of electricity. Looked like this. That's pretty much Mankey. There's not a lot of volume to it; it's just a fuzzball with eyes and limbs, and not a particularly cute or capable-looking one.

At least, that's what I thought, until I looked at some actually good Mankey illustration.

Holy cow, this thing looks awesome! Where has this been in all the Pokemon games I've played? In the Pokemon Adventures panel, you'll notice the crazy-long arms in proportion to its body, which make sense for Mankey to have. There's also something all these pictures have in common: Mankey is in its natural habitat. It's a tree-dweller. I understand the games can't represent this at all times, but Gold and Silver could have at least put its Mankeys in Headbutt trees. Or just draw the sprite off the ground, like it's hanging from something? I mean, Geodude gets levitating sprites and that doesn't even make sense. Mankey on the ground seems limited and out of place, in comparison. Gold's sprite is the only one that looks like it could be swinging from a vine.

Anyway, the more troubling oversight is that Mankey has been drawn with less detail as the years have gone by. It suffers the same fate as Persian, in that they took a design already at an ideal state of abstraction, and abstracted it some more. And now it looks bland. It's as if the sprite artists said, “There are better monkey pokemon now, I don't have to finish drawing this.” Or it's just a smoothing-down of detail on pokemon in general. All I know is: back in the Yellow days, Mankey's arms actually used to look like arms, and now they look like pipes coming out of a spiky circle.

So I guess this is my roundabout way of saying Mankey is actually pretty cool, but its potential has been wasted. It was nice seeing detailed Mankeys again, because it lets you appreciate how unique and strange its anatomy is. It's got cat ears, bird feet, a pig nose, a prehensile tail, and arms and legs that come out of its skull. I tried to picture its skeleton, and this is what I came up with:

Now I'm thinking there should be more skeleton pokemon. Ghost pokemon have always been pretty morbid; why not let us train the undead? I'd totally play with Skull Monkey up there.

The Winner:

I like the posing on Gold, but this is the one actually drawn like a Mankey. They didn't have room for elongated arms, but making them thin and tapered is a good solution. You can pretend the arms are stretched out behind its head, and foreshortened. I also like the fur; it's got less radial symmetry and is a bit more believable.

Prior to Yellow were Mankey's real rubber-hose days, and I kind of appreciate those too. For instance, R/B Mankey plays the very important 'M' role in this epic arrangement:

And the back sprite from Gen I is completely amazing:

It is like something from the Cthulhu Mythos. Three impossible, formless tentacles extend forth from R'lyeh. Lose 2 sanity.


  1. What you say is very interesting even if your talking about pokemon that aren't.

  2. Yay mankey! The only monkey pokemon I like :D (other than it's evolution :P)

  3. Mankey and Primeape are the only good monkey Pokemon. And technically their species is "Pig Monkey." So I can also say that they're the only good pig Pokemon. By that I mean their physical design is the best and most unique.

    1. Swinub? Piloswine? Drowzee (it's a Tapir, but they're pig-like)? How dare you, sir.

  4. Only just discovered this blog, and love it! A lot of these posts are really funny, and I've never put that much thought into the sprites before. Keep it up!

  5. One entry a month? THIS WILL NOT STAND!

  6. Another thing about monkeys that bugs me is how so many people seem to think they're hilarious. Sometimes a movie or something will just throw a monkey in it and expect you to think that that's funny in of itself.

  7. Yes! Another update!! Keep up the good work. It's nice to see more visitors here :)

  8. There are lots of monkey Pokemon out there, but none so unique as Mankey; if you think about it, while all the others are quite plainly primates, Mankey is a sphere with a pig's nose and cat ears. The only part of it that tells you this Pokemon looks like a monkey is really the arms, and the tail too, I guess. But if it weren't for those, how would we even know it to be a monkey?

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