Arcanines, calm down. You are almost too big for my blog, Arcanines. Tone down the majesty.
I've had a love-hate relationship with Arcanine, as a fan of Ninetales; they're basically set up as (usually version-exclusive) counterparts, yet Arcanine blows it out of the water in everything that isn't the smogon metagame. It has the stats, the design, the regard, the anime appearances. Its Special Attack was boosted by 20 in the Gen II Special split, while Ninetales' was nerfed by that much. It gets a shiny post-evolution toy in one-time signature move ExtremeSpeed, which out-powers and out-priorities all other priority attacks. It's back in full force in BW2, since you can acquire one before the 4th gym leader (Vulpix is tucked away in the Abundant Shrine, thank you for asking). It's 6'3" on all fours and weighs 350 pounds. And it's the Pokemon mascot of luxurious, flowing fur. I can't fault Arcanine for being gorgeous, but it sure got a good deal.
At 555, Arcanine (or RK9, as the kids call it) has the third-highest base stat total of all non-legendary or pseudo-legendary pokemon—behind only Slaking and Archeops, both of which have hindering natures. Therefore, Arcanine is pretty much statistically the strongest regular everyday pokemon. It's practically a legendary anyway; there's speculation that it was intended to be one, but got demoted to a normal at some point in development. Its species name is “Legendary Pokemon,” and even the anime thinks it belongs in that company.
I don't want to hate on legendaries since there's many good reasons to like them, but recent generations might have been better served saying, “You know what, some of these could just be regular pokemon,” instead of introducing 15 legendaries apiece. Those pokemon belong in the wild, y'know, where they are free to procreate like everyone else. Equal distribution of pokemon to the people! No more event exclusives! No more secret items that are never released! So thank you Arcanine, for combating legendary surplus.
Most of Arcanine's pokedex entries make some reference to it being revered by people, especially in China, tying into its guardian lion origin. If you encountered its Black and White entry anywhere else, you would just assume it's a description of a lion: “Its proud and regal appearance has captured the hearts of people since long ago.” Then there's this one, from SoulSilver: “Its magnificent bark conveys a sense of majesty. Anyone hearing it can't help but grovel before it.” That's right plebians, GROVEL. You are not worthy of Arcanine. If the Pokemon world were Narnia, Arcanine would be Aslan.
Let's take a moment to appreciate exactly how majestic Arcanine is, complete with clickthrough links. Few pokemon get this much quality artwork, official or otherwise:
And it can be adorable and puppylike too, and apparently fit in a cup?
And the hits keep coming. Want impressively spikey Arcanine papercraft? Done and done. Want Arcanine and Ōkami crossover? Arcanine's not even a wolf, but sure why not? Want Arcanine and ZOIDS crossover? Arcanine and Liger Zero were fucking separated at birth.
And who doesn't have this engraved in their memory?
In a classic case of investing in better animation for the show's intro than the entire rest of the show, I'm not sure Pokemon would have as many fans today if it weren't for how well that opening communicated the appeal of the Pokemon world. A giant tiger dog bounding gracefully through a field? Sign me up!
It really is the perfect match for Gary Oak, too.
And then, of course, there's this:
They could make ten Pokemon generations and not design a pokemon that fills the epic animal niche as nicely as Arcanine. The only thing Arcanine doesn't do is represent lions in Chinese mythology terribly well, fan art notwithstanding. Because they were only introduced to lions through pelts and hearsay, the ancient Chinese had some creative ideas about what they looked like: usually stout, curly and monstrous, with bulging eyes.
Game Freak has a certain advantage, in that a western artist asked to create a lion design would probably come up with something zoology-inspired at best and Lion King-inspired at worst. But Game Freak is cultural neighbours with the country with the coolest looking lions around. I want a vividly coloured lion dance pokemon, with flashing eyes and sweet moves! If they want to animate sprites so bad, that would be a fun one. And by level-up it would learn Swords Dance, Rain Dance, Quiver Dance, Teeter Dance, Dragon Dance, Lunar Dance, Petal Dance, and Fiery Dance. Or would that be culturally insensitive? Now I'm just impressed that Pokemon has that many dance moves.
HeartGold and SoulSilver
So every single Arcanine sprite is wonderful, I will say that right away. Gold is one of my favourites because you just don't see sprites positioned like that very often, where most of it's obscured but it's really taking notice of you. R/G's lightning stripes are my favourite stripes, and it's got dainty little feet. R/S and FR/LG look powerful as heck, D/P is another unexpected pose, and I like the volume on Silver and Crystal's manes.
HG/SS is posed a little boringly by comparison, so what does it have besides size? The answer is crazy huge size. Put it next to the “legendary dogs” from the same game, and they are practically dwarfed in comparison.
I'm a little disappointed in B/W's animation. When I first heard of Gen V's animated sprites, one of the first things that came to mind was the opportunity to make Arcanine look like the wind is blowing through its mane at all times. As fashion shoots and music videos have taught us, that is how majestic things look! It's been understood since way back in Crystal, when they first started giving sprites animations. B/W has it on the tail and leg tufts, but I'm not seeing it much in the front, where it counts.