Friday, 16 March 2018

One Piece 898 Review: Germa 66 Beats People

One Piece, Chapter 898: We'll Definitely Return

Well, this week's chapter is a great one for the Germa 66 siblings, but not necessarily for Sanji himself. After a brief recap of the Germa's victory over some random members of the Big Mom Pirates, we get scenes of the Big Mom Pirates all panicking over the fact that Brulee lets it slip that Katakuri has been defeated -- and everyone's all angry and pissed off and in denial. 

And then the meat-and-bones of this chapter is  just Sanji's escape, assisted by his siblings from Germa 66... and it really doesn't particularly speak well for Sanji that the dude doesn't even get a proper knockout against one of the more recognizable Big Mom captains, yeah? As Sanji charges through the battlefield, we get Ichiji show up and unleash this "Sparking Valkyrie" that just one-shots Oven. Yonji cracks Yuen's giant club, chokes him with his cyborg arm and uses this "Winch Beheading" to use Yuen's body as a literal club to whack a huge amount of Big Mom pirates. Niji then helps Sanji to lightning-zip through a bunch of Big Mom minions with "Henry Blaster", helping to boost Sanji's speed before tossing him into the air, away from Oven's people.

Oven calls Snack's forces to help out and shoot down Sanji, but a bazooka team gets instantly poisoned by Reiju's poison abilities. And that's really it. It's certainly a great episode for the Vinsmokes themselves, considering that a lot of their abilities other than Reiju has always felt as something that's more of an informed ability than anything -- we're told that these guys are badasses but most of the time they get jobbed by members of the Big Mom Pirates or by Sanji himself, and this is really the first time that Ichiji, Niji and Yonji actually felt like they're legitimate badasses. But this arguably comes at the cost of Sanji's own badassery since he doesn't really manage to take anyone out other than Raisin last chapter, a literal unknown before last chapter... and I really wished that he was allowed to beat Oven. I mean, while the final page does show Sanji Geppo-ing to the Sunny, we do have another chapter before the big 900, and we might have a Sanji versus Smoothie or Snack fight somewhere down the line. Overall, though, definitely a pretty decent chapter. I'm not someone who's particularly invested in the Germa side of the story, so it's not quite as impactful to me, but it's still a very decent chapter nonetheless. 

Lore of Hearthstone, Episode #18 - Journey to Un'Goro [Legendaries]

Journey to Un'Goro banner2.png
Journey to Un'Goro is an expansion based on an area in World of Warcraft introduced all the way back in vanilla, the Un'Goro Crater. Un'Goro Crater (sometimes parsed as Un'goro) is a wild, isolated crater teeming with dense jungles, and the location of the most prehistoric creatures -- i.e. dinosaurs -- in all of Azeroth. It's filled with primal energies and elementals, as well as hints towards a Titanic presence that seems to be the ancient origins of the crater. In the past, Un'Goro crater is also known for a large amount of quests that reference other games, like a questline that references the Legend of Zelda. Un'Goro Crater sits geographically between Tanaris desert (where Gadgetzan, which coincidentally is the site of the previous expansion) and Silithus, another desert that is wholly occupied by the Silithids and Qiraji as well as being the site of imprisonment of the Old God C'Thun. While bordered by deserts, Un'Goro Crater itself continues to be a lush jungle of life, with a gigantic volcano called Fire Plume Ridge on its center, and multiple tar pits and hot springs that dot its landscape.

WoW map of Un'Goro Crater
More recent material have given more backstory behind Un'Goro crater, where the Titan Keeper Freya, designed Un'Goro Crater as an area of experimentation to create life -- other locations used by Freya for this purpose would become the modern-day vale of Eternal Blossoms and Sholazar Basin. These three 'cradles of life' were where the power of the Well of Eternity had coalesced, and where the Wild Gods reportedly emerged from. Other lesser Titanforged like Nablya (who's involved in many questlines in WoW's Un'Goro crater) mention that Un'Goro Crater is analogous to the Titans' petri dish. After Freya left, the titanic watcher Nablya ended up being in charge of Un'Goro crater, observing the evolution of life within it. Un'Goro crater has huge crystal pylons crafted by the Titans, that help to keep out danger from the land and presumably kept the crater from being transformed into the desert regions around it. In Wrath of the Lich King, a questline ended up revealing the Shaper's Terrace, a previously-hidden facility on Un'Goro's eastern point that houses the Titan watcher Nablya, and reveals much of the backstory behind Un'Goro Crater.

It was mentioned by night elven veterans who fought in the War of the Shifting Sands against the Silithid and Qiraji of Ahn'Qiraj that they were forced to retreat through the crater, and something within the crater prevented the Qiraji from being able to enter the lands. Prior to WoW, the pylon on the Southern side of the crater has collapsed, allowing the Silithid to enter and swarm the Southern parts of Un'Goro crater in the sub-zone known as the Slithering Scar. There are also a lot of mysterious crystals within the crater that interact with these pylons.

Un'Goro Crater was one of the areas that was relatively significantly shaken up after Deathwing's reawakening during the Cataclysm expansion, transforming the area. In addition to destroying some of the pylons and completely destroying the cloaking devices that hid Shaper's Terrace, it also transformed the delicate ecological balance in the crater, where the bloodpetal population has increased wildly and increasing the amount of flora in the area. During the Legion expansion, an event called 'Un'Goro Madness' was released as a micro-holiday event, featuring a large amount of Journey to Un'Goro legendaries that would appear several weeks later when Journey to Un'Goro debuted. Considering how closely the Legion expansion has worked with the Hearthstone team, as well as how long prior to the Un'Goro Madness event that the expansion has been in the works, it's more of a tie-in that makes a lot of the Hearthstone legendaries canon-in-WoW. Many of these bosses also have an 'adaptation' mechanic of their own, drawing on one of several possible random buffs, to represent the adapt mechanic seen in the Hearthstone Un'Goro cards.

In Hearthstone, in addition to exploring the crapton of dinosaurs and elementals within Un'Goro crater, we also follow Elise Starseeker, a original Hearthstone character introduced in League of Explorers, in investigating the crater and its wildlife with a small group of junior explorers. In addition to that, Hearthstone's YouTube channel and blogs released a series of shorts and journals that follow the explorers Professor George Herbert Doyle IV, and his assistant Eddie Malone, as they travel through Un'Goro and discover the strange creatures that live there, and seem to be involved in some time-travel shenanigans as they travel into the ancient past, and meet with the various tribes that live in Un'Goro -- the turtle-people known as the Tortollans, the Primalfin tribe of murlocs, a group of saurok, a group of tol'vir, and a whole lot of dinosaurs and elementals. The wiki has a transcript of all the blog posts and videos, but basically they travel through the past, meet a lot of the Hearthstone-original characters (which we'll cover below) and return back into the present day to meet back with Elise.

Journey to Un'Goro also features the debut of Hearthstone's first-ever original race, the Tortollans, which we'll cover later in the non-legendary section. We'll split Journey to Un'Goro to two sections, this one talking about Un'Goro Crater itself as well as the legendary cards, and maybe the races in general, and later we'll do all non-legendary cards.


Tyrantus (WoW)
Tyrantus is the name of not one, but two named Devilsaurs in World of Warcraft. We've briefly talked about Devilsaurs in the past during the Classic set, but they're basically Azeroth's version of the real-life Tyrannosaurus rex, initially limited to just appearing in Un'Goro Crater, but have been spotted in other places of Azeroth after original vanilla WoW.

The first Tyrantus was introduced in Burning Crusade, and is the only devilsaur to be found in the planet of Outland, the shattered remains of what used to be the orcish/draenei homeland of Draenor. Tyrantus is found in the location called Eco-Dome Farfield, a dome of lush vegetation surrounded by a purple forcefield situated on the chaotic lands of Netherstorm, seemingly constructed by the goblins that operate there. While the Eco-Dome mostly contains a raptor population, The mighty black-coloured devilsaur Tyrantus wanders around it as well.

During the Un'Goro Madness micro-holiday in Legion, which introduced many Hearthstone legendaries as elite mobs in Un'Goro Crater, one of these bosses is another devilsaur called Tyrantus, who wanders around the Slithering Scar and had the ability of Adaptation (based on Hearthstone's own Adapt mechanic), which allows Tyrantus to obtain one of several buffs -- Adrenaline, which increases damage; Caustic Blood, which creates pools of blood that damages whoever stands in them; Heavy Footed, which flings adventurers away if the mob moves; Poisonous Skin, a AoE blast; and Spores, which launches blasts of spores randomly. It's unclear if this Tyrantus is the same Tyrantus as the one that's found on Outland, and there's honestly little evidence to support either theory. Worth noting that Un'Goro's Tyrantus is black-and-yellow and Outland's Tyrantus is black-and-blue... whereas Hearthstone's Tyrantus is completely blue and lacks the WoW Devilsaur model's distinctive spine-spikes.

Barnabus the Stomper/Jungle Giants:
I'll talk about quests here as well, because this is the first quest we'll be talking about in this article. So quests are first introduced in the early Warcraft RTS games, where they are objectives that were part of the campaign for you to complete to finish said campaign. Warcraft III would come up with the now-iconic golden question mark hovering over a character's head to show when an NPC has a quest for you, which would be incorporated heavily when World of Warcraft was created with a far more distinctive emphasis on questing. Quest cards are created to reflect this aspect of World of Warcraft, although the individual quests are all original to Hearthstone.

Barnabus the Stomper himself is also original to Hearthstone, although he is clearly a Longneck (alternately, a Megasaur) -- a dinosaur model original to Hearthstone that is based on real-life sauropods like the apatosaurus or brachiosaurus. During the time that Journey to Un'Goro was released, there was no long-necked dinosaur in WoW, but the brand-new expansion Battle for Azeroth shows that the Zandalari trolls do have long-necked dinosaurs in their employ, though they have noticeably different models compared to Hearthstone's Longnecks and are called Saurids. Barnabus himself is, obviously, original to Hearthstone, and he's apparently got a small forest on his back. There is an NPC called Barnabus in WoW, but he's a wolf and not a dinosaur.

Swamp King Dred:
King Dred (WoW)
King Dred is a gigantic orange devilsaur that was introduced in Wrath of the Lich King, as the penultimate boss for the dungeon Drak'Tharon Keep. King Dred is a legendary beast among the Drakkari Ice Trolls that live in the keep. In the continent of Northrend where the undead Scourge operates out of, and has a grip on the entire continent, King Dred is unique in that he is seemingly immune to the plague of undeath that has gripped much of Northrend's inhabitants, thriving in a land of death. The Drakkari trolls captured and tamed the mighty beast, believing that Dred held the key to creating an antidote against the plague of undeath. This would not come to fruition, however, since heroes of the Alliance and Horde would lay siege to the holdings of the ice trolls, and eventually put them down, and among those who were slain was King Dred. The artwork for Hearthstone's Swamp King Dred shows that he's apparently migrated all the way from Northrend down to Un'Goro Crater, and is ruling over the swamps.

Queen Carnassa/The Marsh Queen:

The quest 'The Marsh Queen' as well as the mighty devilsaur Queen Carnassa herself are both original to Hearthstone. It's worth noting that Queen Carnassa deviates from the normal devilsaur model by having a lot of horn-like spikes on her body, but that might be a, y'know, adaptation. Queen Carnassa appears to be a devilsaur that rules over an army of raptors because... um... reasons? Yeah, no real lore behind this one.

Galvadon/The Last Kaleidosaur
Both the quest and Galvadon himself are original to Hearthstone. The quest for the Last Kaleidosaur is a huge part of E. Malone and Professor Doyle's journey through Un'Goro, where they are attempting to ascertain that the legends of the mysterious Kaleidosaur is, in fact, true. The species of Kaleidosaur is original to Hearthstone, and it appears to be somewhat similar to a stegodon, but with spikes and an ankylosaur-esque club tail made out of Un'Goro's power-filled crystals. In E. Malone's journals, he detailed how the tortollans would lead them towards Galvadon's cave, and Galvadon would aid them in battling the evil saurok and their army of dinosaurs. Galvadon's kaleidoscopic crystals apparently allowed him to transform and adapt to suit his current opponent. The artwork for the Last Kaleidosaur card features Elise the Trailblazer.

King Mosh
King Mosh
The mighty King Mosh is the most powerful creature in Un'Goro Crater, and he wanders around the North-Western part of the crater. Introduced all the way back in the original World of Warcraft, King Mosh has been a staple of Un'Goro Crater, being 5 levels higher than most other mobs in the area. Prior to the Burning Crusade expansion, King Mosh was famous for being the most powerful non-boss mob. There's honestly not much lore behind him other than that, although yet another comparison between Northrend's Sholazar Basin and Un'Goro Crater, both locations with dinosaurs created by the Titans, is the existence of another wandering devilsaur 'King' in Sholazar Basin, King Krush.


Ozruk (WoW)
Despite elementals being featured heavily throughout Un'Goro Crater, none of the elementals are actually important lore-wise. Thus, Journey to Un'Goro made up a bunch of elementals original to Hearthstone... all but Ozruk. Ozruk is a mighty earth elemental introduced in Cataclysm, and he is specifically a Gemstone Colossus -- mighty giants of stone with crystals and gemstones and a characteristic beard made up of crystals that are noted as being the most powerful of the earth elementals that serve Therazane the Stone Mother, elemental lord of Earth. Ozruk is a mighty beast that once guarded the Stonecore, a location within the elemental plane of Deepholm that once housed Deathwing as he recovered between Warcraft II and Cataclysm. Ozruk has since became corrupted and allied with Deathwing, betraying Therazane. Ozruk would be the third and second-to-last boss in the Stonecore dungeon, and his line in Hearthstone, "Break yourself upon my body!" is taken from his quote when he casts the spell Spike Shield in WoW.

Phoenix (WC3)
Phoenixes were first seen in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Blood Mage heroes were able to summon a Phoenix as their ultimate ability, creating a powerful bird of fire that burns with such intensity that it actually damages itself over time. The Phoenix is immune to spells, and is able to deal periodic damage to enemies around it in addition to attacking itself. Upon dying, the Phoenix will turn itself into a Phoenix Egg, which, if not destroyed within 10 seconds, will herald the rebirth of the Phoenix. Blood Elves, upon renaming themselves as such, would use the phoenix in their banners and emblems, symbolizing their rising from the ashes of the destroyed high elves (as well as, y'know, their prince being able to summon one). Most famous among the phoenixes is Prince Kael'thas's own phoenix, Al'ar.

Phoenixes were added to WoW in Burning Crusade, particularly associated with the blood elves. It's also established here that phoenixes are actually powerful bird-like fire elementals. Pyros herself is original to Hearthstone, however, and no phoenixes are actually found in WoW's Un'Goro Crater. Her ability here seems to represent the phoenix's continual rebirth.

Kalimos, Primal Lord:
Kalimos is original to Hearthstone, and he seems to be a powerful elemental comprised of all four primary elementals -- fire, wind, earth and water. He appears to be the most powerful elemental in Un'Goro Crater. Kalimos draws his name from 'Kalimag', the language of the elementals. E. Malone and Professor Doyle, in their journey through Un'Goro, would briefly encounter Kalimos and his minions, although they wouldn't interact with the mighty Primal Lord himself.

Old Warcraft RPG sources would describe the existence of 'elemental conglomerates', which are elementals created by combining two or more of the primary four elements, such as dust elementals being a combination of air and earth, and ice elementals being a combination of air and water, although the canonicity of the RPG sources is disputed as far as WoW is concerned. Regardless, they do describe primal elementals as being elementals created from all four elements. While there aren't any elementals that look like Kalimos, there have been two cases of four elementals combining to fuse into a single elemental -- The first is the Elemental Monstrosity (using the elemental ascendant model), the combined form created by the four members of the Twilight's Hammer's Ascendant Council, who is a boss in the Cataclysm Bastion of Twilight dungeon. The second primal elemental is Animus (who uses the arcane elemental model), who is also created by the Twilight's Hamemr cultists, summoning the mighty creature in an attempt to decimate the region of Thousand Needles.

Lyra the Sunshard:

Lyra the Sunshard is original to Hearthstone, as is most Light elementals (though the Lightspawn would be added to WoW in Legion). Some designers describe Lyra as basically being the elemental lord equivalent to light elementals. She appears to be made out of crystals and dust and... well, we don't really know much about her beyond that. She's a lady, though, one of the few elementals outside of the four Elemental Lords to have an assigned gender.


Elise the Trailblazer:
Elise the Trailblazer is, of course, the very same Elise Starseeker from League of Explorers, getting off her more support-oriented role in League of Explorers and leading her own expedition with the League's junior cadets into Un'Goro Crater. Elise narrates the Un'Goro cinematic trailer, and her flavour text notes that it's Reno Jackson who encourages Elise to basically blaze her own trail as opposed to following maps. Her attack quote (aluth'neledar) is spoken in the night elven language of Darnassian, although it doesn't correspond to anything that night elves have said in WoW. The designers commented that it's a druidic chant that allows her to order the Un'Goro plants to attack.

Hemet, Jungle Hunter:
Hemet, Jungle Hunter, depicts Hemet Nesingwary, a recurring character in WoW as well as Hearthstone. We've covered Hemet himself in the GvG expansion a couple months back, this one depicts him as he journeys through Un'Goro Crater, something that he's never done in WoW. Apparently he's gotten a dinosaur skull as a hat and has taken to using leaves and coconuts as armour.


Sunkeeper Tarim
Image of Sunkeeper Croesus
Sunkeeper Croesus
Sunkeeper Tarim is unique to Hearthstone, and he is a tol'vir. We talked about the tol'vir back in League of Explorers, and while they're mostly restricted to the region of Uldum, in Journey of Un'Goro apparently a group of tol'vir have migrated from Uldum to Un'Goro, which is relatively close. The tol'vir also appeared within the E. Malone journals as one of the many tribes met by Malone and Professor Doyle.

While Sunkeeper Tarim doesn't appear in WoW, one of the bosses in the Un'Goro Madness event is a tol'vir called Sunkeeper Croesus, the only tol'vir with the title 'Sunkeeper' in WoW. Croesus is the only tol'vir to ever appear in Un'Goro Crater, and as such may be related to Sunkeeper Tarim, or an older working name for Tarim that got used in the WoW event (Megafin/Giantfin is another likely mix-up that happened between the two teams).

Amara, Warden of Hope/Awaken the Makers
While Amara is unique to Hearthstone, WoW's Un'Goro Crater does have a quest chain where adventurers would journey to Shaper's Terrace and uncover the titan-forged Nablya, who has been watching over Un'Goro Crater and Sholazar Basin for some time, and would reveal a large amount of lore behind titans and Un'Goro Crater itself. Nablya's existence would be uncovered when her cloaking device was destroyed in Cataclysm.

While Amara is original to Hearthstone, she is clearly meant to represent the titanic influence in Un'Goro Crater. During E. Malone and Doyle's journey throughout the crater, they met the tol'vir tribe that seemingly guarded Amara's temple, and would only 'awaken the maker' if they brought enough crystals. Amara would also briefly appear, and assist E. Malone's group in opening the waygate that would allow them to return to their time.

Clutchmother Zavas:
Zavas (wasp version)
The Silithid have infested a good chunk of Southern Un'Goro Crater in the area known as the Slithering Scar, where the titan pylon has fallen. The Silithid sect that live in the Slithering Scar is called the Gorishi sect, which plan to create a particularly massive Silithid colossus to presumably conquer Un'Goro Crater. The only named member of the Gorishi Silithid is Clutchmother Zavas, who is a particularly powerful Silithid Reaver (pictured here).

Clutchmother Zavas was re-introduced in Legion's Un'Goro Madness as a Silithid Wasp, and the Zavas in Hearthstone represents this. Presumably, Zavas has grown from being a reaver into a wasp. Zavas as a wasp is far more powerful, and like many other Un'Goro Madness bosses, has the adaptation ability. Both versions of Zavas is able to summon lesser Silithid to back her up.

Megafin/Unite the Murlocs:
Unite the Murlocs features Sir Finley Mrrgglton, apparently uniting the various murloc tribes in Un'Goro Crater and resulting in the summoning of Megafin. Megafin is original to Hearthstone (for some reason, it was League of Explorers' Giantfin that appeared in the Un'Goro Madness event in WoW, perhaps due to some mix-up?) and is the gigantic murloc that leads the Primalfin tribe. Megafin is the leader of the murlocs that E. Malone and Professor Doyle met in the journal tie-ins to Journey to Un'Goro, described as being a gigantic murloc that leads around the giant megasaur that the murlocs make their home in around.

Sherazin (WoW)
Sherazin, Corpse Flower:
In Un'Goro Crater, one of the most common enemies are living, ambulatory plants called Lashers -- a type of plant creature that's also found all over Azeroth, introduced in Burning Crusade. The Lashers of Un'Goro Crater are known as 'Bloodpetals', and have a particularly unique life cycle that involves the unique ecology of Un'Goro crater. Sherazin is one of the Hearthstone-original characters that was introduced in the Un'Goro Madness event in WoW as one of the possible bosses, predating her actual Hearthstone debut by a couple of weeks. Sherazin <Corpse Flower> in WoW is depicted as a large orchid-type Lasher, and her boss fight mimics her Hearthstone ability, where Sherazin will sometimes enter a phase of dormancy where she will become immune to all attack and regenerate, sending out pulses of damage that can only be avoided if players stand around crystal spines that are spawned around Sherazin.

The Voraxx:
The Voraxx is a monstrous plant-creature original to Hearthstone, and apparently it was named by the Tortollan people. Like Sherazin, it's meant to represent the dangerous flora within Un'Goro crater.

Spiritsinger Umbra:
The elderly Spiritsinger Umbra is the leader of the tortollans of Un'Goro Crater. Within the journals of Professor Doyle and Eddie Malone, they encounter the tortollan tribe led by Umbra, who assisted them in journeying to the Waygate and returning to the present day, as well as introducing them to Megafin's tribe of murlocs. Umbra would also assist the two in doing battle with the Sauroks, and her Hearthstone ability apparently represents her summoning ancestral spirits to assist her in battle. The Tortollans, and thus Umbra, are all original to Hearthstone. We'll cover the race in more depth in the non-legendary section.


Un'Goro waygate (WoW)
Open the Waygate/Time Warp:
Waygates (or Way Gates) were first introduced in Warcraft III, as these mystical gates that allows those who enter it to teleport into a corresponding way gate on another part of the map. The Waygate depicted in 'Open the Waygate' refers to the titan-forged Waygate that was a major part of the titan questline in Un'Goro crater, being a long-deactivated construct that the adventurers must activate by going through a questline to find the relevant control panels. Once activated, the Waygate connects Sholazar Basin and Un'Goro Crater, establishing the connection between the two areas as Titan-related areas.

Time Warp, visually, resembles how some portal animations are depicted in both WoW and WC3, with glowing runes dancing around a circle. It shares its name from a Mage ability introduced in Cataclysm, warps the flow of time and increases the attack speed of the mage and her allies. Time Warp in Hearthstone depicts the activation of the Waygate causing a portal through time (between the Bronze dragons, Rhonin and Warlords of Draenor, time-travelling is a common plot point in WoW), something that E. Malone and Herbert Doyle in their journeys ended up accidentally doing during a huge storm, and they had to open the waygate to return to the present day. Time Warp as a card seems to be based on the Magic: The Gathering card of the same name, right down to the colour of the card and even the mana cost.

The Caverns Below/Crystal Core:
The Crystal Core and the Caverns Below is more or less original to Hearthstone, although it does draw basis from the large amount of power crystals found in Un'Goro Crater, and these crystals are ancient titan energy sources. Apparently the Crystal Core is such a powerful crystal that it infuses all it touches into powerful minions permanently. The artwork features a devilsaur, a Northrend-variant yeti and a mammoth.

Lakkari Sacrifice/Nether Portal:
The Warlock quest, Lakkari Sacrifice, is a reference to the Lakkari Tar Pits, a sub-zone of Un'Goro Crater located on the South-West. In addition to having many bones of dinosaurs and strange flora, it's also home to the hulking tar beasts. There's no real connection between the Lakkari Tar Pits and Warlock demon portals in WoW, though. While the Nether Portal is original to Hearthstone, it's likely to draw its name from the Twisting Nether, the formless dimension that all demons hail from and return to when they die. Many Warlocks summon demons through portals since the conception of Warcraft. Other than that, not much lore.


Sulfuras/Fire Plume's Heart:
Fire Plume's Heart is a reference to Fire Plume Ridge, the huge honking volcano that sits at the heart of Un'Goro Crater. Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros, is the legendary weapon crafted of pure elementium wielded by Ragnaros the Firelord himself, which explains why it changes your hero power into something similar to Ragnaros's Hearthstone card effect. Ragnaros wielded Sulfuras in battle, and upon his defeat, he was banished back to the Firelands, with Sulfuras falling down onto where he fell. In WoW, blacksmiths with a high enough skill level was able to craft the Sulfuron Hammer, an epic weapon that's a replica of Ragnaros's Sulfuras. Upon defeating Ragnaros in the Molten Core, players can use the 'Eye of Sulfuras' item dropped by him and combine it with the Sulfuron Hammer to create the legendary Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros, a smaller replica of the Firelord's own weapon -- which, at the time of release, is the highest DPS-dealing hammer. In Cataclysm, when Ragnaros's full form was defeated within the Firelands, he will drop Sulfuras, the Extinguished Hand, a higher-level version of the previous version of Sulfuras.

Attack on Titan 103 Review: Death Everywhere!

Shingeki no Kyojin, Chapter 103: Assault

Holy shit, this chapter! I was a bit late reading this chapter, but wow. We start off with Falco,  apparently having been protected by Reiner shielding him from the explosion of Eren's transformation by transforming into a titan himself. And the sight of these giant, super-powered titans fighting it out all around him against the 3D maneuvering gear soldiers of Paradise. Falco's all panicking because he was tricked by Eren, and apparently because of Reiner's weak will to live of "just kill me please" earlier on, he can't regenerate from his injuries and Reiner's still comatose. That's definitely interesting. 

Meanwhile, Zeke the Beast Titan continues to use his freakishly long arms to toss boulders like they're cannons, while Pieck the Cart Titan machineguns down a bunch of eager Paradise soldiers. There's a very cool sequence when another Paradise soldier is about to Thunder Spear Pieck from above, but Galliard the Jaw Titan spidermans up the side of the building to whack the Paradise soldier away. That's actually pretty damn badass, and the art is absolutely on point. Attack on Titan sometimes struggles with actual human characters, but titan action sequences? Never a problem. 

Eren then chomps down on the War Hammer Titan's host, the Tybur lady, and there's a huge explosion of blood... except it's blood from Eren's titan teeth. The crystal's way too hard to chew through, just like Annie's crystal, but Eren also notes that the War Hammer's out of power since she hasn't even tried to attack even at this point when it would be ideal. There's this cool bit where Eren jumps out of his impaled Titan form, and then quickly re-forms a fresh body. Pretty fucking cool!

Pieck tells a panicked Galliard (really love that Galliard's human form has his jaw slightly ripped) that while the Paradise soldiers are all destructive and shit, they have a limited amount of supplies be it weapons or fuel, so they'll be able to block every single exit route as long as they can contain the Founding Titan. Pieck and Galliard resolve to stay and just cover Zeke while he launches rocks... and declares that his enemy isn't Eren, but Levi Ackerman. 

We continue to see a bit of Falco, who informs some commander of Reiner's state, something that's overheard by Gabi-with-a-gun. I don't care about these characters, but it's a neat little B-plot running along in the background. 

And besides... a random boat on the Marley harbour has a single sailor, and it's, of course, Armin, and the resulting explosion from his transformation absolutely obliterates the harbour, tossing warships into the sky and it could be seen all the way from the combatants in the city square. 

Galliard is super-angry when he realizes what happened -- apparently it's a revelation to him that Berholt is eaten by a Marleyan? Or is that just an awkwardly-worded dialogue? Whatever the case, Galliard charges towards Eren in a suicidal charge, and is intercepted by Mikasa. Meanwhile, Jean's forces decide to attack the Cart Titan...


Well, that's definitely surprising, and Levi's straight-up cut into Zeke's neck. Is Zeke dead? I doubt so, but the Beast Titan certainly falls and absolutely everyone is shocked. Of course the lifeless eyes of the Beast Titan with Levi's blood-stained form on top of his open wound lands right in front of Falco and Gabi. Gotta stoke the flames of vengeance, right? Levi then drops a grenade down into the Beast Titan's gaping wound and... okay, I'm hard-pressed to see how Zeke can survive this short of some Titan Crystalification ability. 

This shocks Galliard and Pieck, and especially Pieck, who gets assaulted by a small army. Meanwhile, Sasha, who's became the world's best sniper, ducks in and out and kills one of the gunners atop the panzer emplacements atop the Pack Titan. Pieck charges in to attack Sasha... but then Jean jumps out and shoots a Thunder Spear straight into the Pack Titan's face, blowing up half of the Pack Titan's face and its face armour. And then every single person there launches Thunder Spears, fucking the Pack Titan up and killing the Panzer crew. And as the Pack Titan falls onto the ground, mutilated and bloody, with her legs and arms blown off, Jean swoops in to finish Pieck off... only for Falco to jump in the way, this young kid with tears crying and begging for them to stop. Fuck off, Falco, and let me enjoy my soldier-on-titan action battles!
All in all, though, definitely a gigantic adrenaline rush, and honestly, despite my personal apathy about Falco and company, they're definitely well-used. I'm still unconvinced that Zeke's dead just yet, but it's definitely a huge, huge badass moment for the Survey Corps between Levi slashing the Beast Titan, Armin blowing up the harbour and Team Jean and Sasha the Sniper fucking up the Pack Titan. Definitely anticipating the next chapter. 

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Movie Review: Dragon Ball Z - Lord Slug

Dragon Ball Z: Lord Slug [1991]

Dragon Ball Super might be on a break last week, and as we wait for the final conclusion of Super and the Universal Saga, I ended up watching this old movie.

This is the fourth of the many non-canonical (or you-might-insert-this-somewhat-tenuously-to-the-anime/manga-canon) Dragon Ball Z movie, "Lord Slug", also known as "Dragon Ball Z: Super Saiyan Son Goku" in Japan, is... is honestly a bit of a mixed bag. For the most part, it's another typical anime tie-in movie. A brand new threat shows up, in this case being the renegade Namekian, the titular Lord Slug. Whose name really is the least threatening thing you could've given a villain. We spend the first act having him do some wanton destruction, then the second arc having the good guys beat up his army of colourful minions, and then the final arc having Goku fight Slug. 

And honestly, the parts of the 50-minute movie that deals with the actual Lord Slug plotline is actually decent. The movie starts with a fun little visual as Goku and Krillin try to deflect a falling meteor without blowing it up, only for the meteor to actually be Lord Slug's ship. We get some neat invasion scenes, we get a rare occasion of DBZ Chi-Chi actually fighting, we get a brief montage of Slug's men collecting the Dragon Balls and wish Slug back to the prime of his youth. 

Then we get to the fighting scenes with his minions and... okay, it's pretty perfunctory. We've got huge big orange brute Wings, creepy frog-dude Medamatcha, and stretchy-arms bishonen dude Angila. There's some neat visuals with Piccolo and Gohan fighting the two, including one that involves Piccolo brutally breaking Wings' arms through a store. Poor Krillin ends up being the butt of "ha-ha-Krillin-is-useless" jokes, which honestly hit him harder in these movies than it does in the actual DBZ anime/manga. The Slug battle is actually decently animated, too, with Slug displaying the ability to become a giant -- which I completely forgot was something Piccolo did in original Dragon Ball.

LordSlugSadly, the movie might perhaps have the largest amount of problems that make it fall short of being actually good. Slug's backstory is honestly quite decent, but it ends up being a literal carbon copy of the original Piccolo from Dragon Ball -- an elderly evil Namekian who uses the Dragon Ball to regain his youth and then menace our heroes. Sure, the talk about Lord Slug being a mutated 'Super Namekian' that's stronger than Freeza (all the movie villains really love to name-drop other people as a cheap yardstick) is neat, but the movie doesn't do anything with it, and beyond some "why are you not fighting with us?" dialogue with Piccolo, doesn't actually explore anything about the Namekians' whole demon-alien deal. 

We also have "Fake Super Saiyan", because the movie went into production before the actual climax of the Freeza arc (timeline-wise it probably took place between the Saiyan and Namek sagas, although it's a tenuous handwave) the movie-makers just shoehorned this power-up form and in the movie it's actually treated by King Kai as if Goku has became the legendary Super Saiyan. It's pretty weird, gets used for one fight scene and then tossed aside in favour of the Spirit Bomb killing Slug. 

But perhaps one of the biggest problems is the huge amount of filler. I've made my peace that Oolong keeps finding his ass into these movies just to crack a couple of one-liners, but a good one-third of the movie is focused on Gohan and that goddamn irritating dragon of his, Icarus (or Haiya Dragon), who adds even less to the movie than Oolong does. Add that to an extended random whistle-dance sequence at the beginning of the movie, which is a shitty set-up to the Namekians' Kryptonite... whistling... and... yeah. As badass as Piccolo ripping his ears is, bringing Lord Slug to his knees with an overly drawn-out whistling scene is a pretty silly thing to build one of the climaxes in this movie around. 

Overall, while it's not bereft of good moments, the execution is pretty slip-shod, Slug's not particularly interesting (in fact, his bit role as a brutish recurring thug in the Xenoverse 2 game is far more memorable than anything he does here) and some really questionable plot points make this a far weaker movie than it could've been. 

DC's Legends of Tomorrow S03E12 Review: Pirates of Tomorrow

DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Season 3, Episode 12: The Curse of the Earth Totem

Okay, the previous two episodes have been relatively light, keeping their costuming department and their sets repetitive. That does save some budget for this episode -- the one themed after pirates! It's one that also attempts to progress the main totem-and-Mallus plotline, because this time around the Legends go after the Earth Totem, which is in the possession of one Captain Blackbeard in 1717. I'm not sure if it's the best place to pluck an item out of time instead of, like, the rest of history where the item might be buried elsewhere in someplace where they don't have to be involved, but if you really want to enjoy Legends of Tomorrow you really have to stop treating it like a proper sci-fi show.

Anyway, they're all doing this while... Sara and Ava are having a date and 'trying to be normal' and... yeah, I'm not going to lie. The Sara-has-a-date storyline is so weirdly out of place and while I'm all for fun happy times in Legends, and Caity Lotz is an amazing actress to carry her scenes well, I really just felt like it takes me out of the story even more. Like, I know they're time travelers and everything, but at the same time the whole world's in danger and they have to collect these totems and Ava has to hunt down the rogue Rip Hunter, but they're wasting time having a first date? And letter getting prissy at each other for having to deal with a crisis? It really feels blah.

The actual piracy part of the episode is fun as all get-out, though, as Mick convinces Amaya to have fun and screw the consequences -- as Mick points out, she overthinks things when it comes to time travel, and alongside the other Legends, manages to craft up this talk about how Dread Pirate Jiwe wants to look for Blackbeard and get their treasure. It's a neat character study on Amaya for overthinking things both in her past and future, and it is so much more compelling than the similar but infinitely-worse storyline about destiny they had for the Hawks in the first season. Damien stealing Amaya's spirit totem is even worked into Amaya's character growth, where for the first time she feels truly free from all this talk about destiny.

We get a lot of swashbuckling action as Admirals Damien Darhk and Nora Darhk show up, with Mick and Amaya helping Blackbeard escape the chopping block, or the combined forces of pirates and navy as they fight against Blackbeard's girlfriend, whose undead body has been taken over by the Earth Totem, turning her into a screeching, plant-controlling zombie. It's neat! Of course, things don't go all that well as the Waverider ends up crash-landing in 2018 (coincidentally where Sara's having her date), and the entire team have to show up to assist Dread Pirate Jiwe. Ray shoots Nora with the nanite gun, and it looks actually heartbreaking as Nora just goes limp and you can see the horror in Damien's face grow.

And as Amaya grows as a character, Ray gets wracked by guilt in one of the stronger scenes of the episode as he time-travels back to that moment, offering Damien the serum in exchange for Amaya's totem. Again, it works with Ray having befriended young!Nora and Ray's own boy scout mentality, and as much as Ray looks like a chump when Nora drains his life,  it's how heroes should be. Rescuing even the villains from an untimely death, because as much as the Darhks are cruel, the sight of Damien just blubbering, holding his own dying daughter and almost immediately just tossing Amaya's totem at Ray, is definitely amazingly done.

The episode's other B-plot involves Rip and Wally getting absolutely drunk on rocket fuel, both dealing with their own insecurities with their respective team, feeling abandoned and outshadowed by everything else, and they just... well, pulls poor Gary's pants down, steal Rip's trenchcoat back and sing Careless Whisper in Tokyo of all places. It's fun and all, and it takes place in an episode that's already filled with fun scenes. And, well, that's mostly what I can say about this episode. It's one helluva fun episode, and it even advances the plot -- the Darhks now have Ray captive and the spirit totem (also the fire totem, offscreen), but the Legends have had Ava join them, and soon Rip Hunter and Kid Flash will rejoin it.

DC Easter Eggs Corner:

  • The Fire Totem and its involvement in the first season of Vixen is brought up. The remains of the totem is apparently held by Vixen's boyfriend Dr. Lancaster, but Damien Darhk stole it off-screen.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Gotta Review 'Em All, Part #8: Scizor to Smeargle

Okay, the penultimate batch of second generation Pokemon!

Here's the previous part, where we cover Politoed to Qwilfish, and here's the next part, where we cover Johto's legendaries.


ScizorScizor, like Steelix, is the Steel-type evolution of a first-generation Pokemon that doesn't have an evolution originally -- in this case, Scizor evolves from Scyther by being traded while holding a Metal Coat. And hoo boy, Scizor is one cool-looking design. Back when I was a kid and Generation III was all on the rage, Scizor was the popular bad boy to own. Which is interesting, because Scizor, despite its vast difference from Scyther, is one of the only Pokemon whose base stat total remains absolutely the same after evolution, only moving points from speed to defense, which is interesting. There are some people who claimed that Scizor wasn't actually meant to be an evolution to Scyther but was originally designed as a completely separate non-evolving big Bug-type... but I can't find anything to source this. Regardless, it does mark the short-lived 'pairing' of Scyther and Pinsir as Generation I's two big Bug-types, with Pinsir getting a more traditionally Japanese rival in Heracross, while Scyther evolves into Scizor.

And boy, Scizor's a really weird fucker, isn't he? Other than being a bipedal bug-creature and the vague shape of its head and thorax/abdomen body style, there is honestly nothing to really tell you that Scizor's meant to be an evolution to Scyther -- in fact, it's not something I put together until I got a guidebook. Scizor changes his entire colour from Scyther's mantis-inspired greens and yellows into a very striking set of dark red and black. Scizor even drops the iconic scythe-arms, replacing them with a set of crab-like pincers, and loses the long, tapering grasshopper wings for a more butterfly-esque bit. And while Scyther's clearly based on a mantis, Scizor is... Scizor is just a robot bug monster.

And honestly, I'm okay with that. He's very cool looking, and while part of me is sad that it loses some of the things that makes Scyther so cool -- the theropodal stance, the scythe arms -- it does end up looking like a very cool Kamen-Rider metal bug-man thing. I also always loved how Scizor's claws has fake eyespots (actually used for that in the Adventures manga) and it uses them to intimidate its prey. As if, y'know, being a human-sized bug covered with metal plating and gigantic claws that could probably crack a skull like an egg isn't intimidating enough. Scizor also loses Scyther's Flying-type, which normally I would complain about... but the Pokedex actually notes that Scizor's wings aren't used to fly (although both anime and manga like to flip-flop on this) but to control and adjust its body temperature, which is pretty cool. Scizor's cool, and having recently played a fair bit of Pokken, I fell in love with his very cool staple-gun and bullet-punch and insane Gundam-inspired animations. Overall, despite my slight disappointment that Scyther doesn't just evolve into a more elaborate mantis-dinosaur, Scizor's still pretty cool that I can't give it any less than 5. It's just way too cool. 

Poké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.png 5/5.


ShuckleHee hee, Shuckle! I've never really paid much attention to Shuckle at all in the second generation. He's a weird turtle-like thing that doesn't evolve, and he's placed between two far-cooler Bug-types in Scizor and Heracross. I was aware that Shuckle is a Bug/Rock type, but never actually having encountered one in-game (-insert tired speech about how Generation II is shit at representing its new species-) and never seeing one in the anime, the biggest moment that changed my perceptions towards this innocent looking long-necked turtle-thing was when I encountered it at the end of Pokemon Emerald's Battle Pike, where Pike Queen Lucy's team consisted of a Seviper, a Milotic and a Shuckle. The first two are easily dispatched, and Shuckle? Pfft, it's a Bug/Rock... and then it proceeded to murder me in the most hilarious way ever.

See, Shuckle is the true definition of a min-maxed Pokemon. I don't like talking about stats, but Shuckle's defenses are so min-maxed, with 230 on both Defense and Special Defense, and 5's and 10's for everything else. Hell, Shuckle simultaneously holds the highest ranking for the two defensive categories (and this includes legendaries and mega evolutions) as well as lowest special attack and speed, while being strong contenders for the other categories. Combined with its pretty unconventional Bug/Rock typing, it's also very wacky to fight, spewing entry hazards, Toxic and Sandstorms and all other shit around. 

And yeah, from that day onwards, Shuckle has been a Pokemon I've spent way too much time trying to figure out what the fuck he is. Shuckle's whole gimmick is that he's a Pokemon that you get by rock smashing, being hidden in rocks, and he can use his weird shell to compress berries into juice. That's all the pokedex entries ever talk about, and his Japanese name is "Tsubotsubo", essentially meaning jar. It's also known as the 'Mold Pokemon', which adds yet another layer of confusion into it all, and it's glorious. 

Just look at its design! On first glance it looks like a weird alien turtle, but its limbs are all just long blobs, its head is a blob with a face, and its shell is intricate with multiple extra holes. It's called the 'mold Pokemon', but it isn't a Grass-type or looks like any sort of fungi or plant. Scale insects, tiny bugs of the superfamily Coccoidea, are bugs that have a huge hard shell on their body and tend to just not move and stick to a spot, and tend to have their normal insect appendages degenerate so much that they look like blobs. Maybe Shuckle is a scale insect that's adapted to feeding on rocks? That doesn't explain the whole berry juice thing, though. Bulbapedia posits that Shuckle is an endolinth, an organism that lives inside the pores within minerals and rocks, and tend to be weird fungi and algae. The shape of the shell and the name 'Shuckle' have led some to note that it's perhaps a terrestrial barnacle of sorts... and honestly, I like it ambiguous. Shuckle's way too weird, from its in-game gimmick to its design to its lore, that I am happy to just leave Shuckle just be Shuckle. I love this innocent-looking obnoxious murder monster.

Poké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball battle I.png 4/5.


HeracrossBugs are super-popular in Japan, and none moreso than beetles, often associated with superheroes (Kamen Riders, Time Bokan, Beetleborgs etc). And as such, it's no surprise that we've got a good selection of bug monsters in the first two generations of Pokemon. With Scyther getting an evolution, Pinsir needs a new 'rival', and it comes in the form of Heracross, who is based on a kabutomushi -- the Japanese rhinoceros beetle (Allomyrina dichotoma), often portrayed as the rival to the stag beetle in popular Japanese culture, as well as in general insect-fighting matches which are apparently a thing in Japan. Heracross was one of the earlier Pokemon to be 'leaked' for the second generation, and I really, really love the dude. Heracross certainly took a far more heroic take on turning a beetle into a humanoid compared to Pinsir, without the gigantic monstrous ribcage mouth and having far more friendly-looking eyes. I've always loved the design -- as a kid, I always thought that Heracross had no mouth and that line that connects its eyes was just part of the segmentation that separates its horn from its cephalothorax. Heracross, of course, actually does have an adorable mouth, and is extremely memorable in the anime for continuing to suck Bulbasaur's sap against his will. In both games and anime, Heracross is often shown to be gentle but immensely strong (the insanely powerful Megahorn was exclusive to Heracross in the second generation), and also very, very gluttonous and obsessed with honey.

It's a neat design, very well-deservedly utilized a lot in the anime, and I've always loved the fact that Heracross is Bug/Fighting. I really do love how it also has little spikes on its lower arm that both bulk its silhouette up and also a neat callback to the insectoid origins of this design. Heracross, like actual beetles (and not Pinsir, at least not until the sixth generation) actually has clear wings folded against his back, covered with the thick carapace. I'm not as fond with the female variant of Heracross with its heart-shaped horn, with this change introduced in the fourth generation. I do realize that female beetles don't actually have the large horns, but I really wished they had gone all the way and turned the horns much shorter or leave the design be -- the half-assed heart horn just looks weird.

While Heracross is already pretty cool, I gained an extra love for the bug happy bug when I did a Nuzlocke challenge (for those unitiated) of the second-generation games, and one of my heavy-hitters was a Heracross (which was a pretty uncommon find, but not as bad as many other non-evolving Generation II Pokemon).

Poké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.png 5/5.


SneaselSneasel is one of those designs that are just classic. I've always loved Sneasel from the moment I first saw him in the first chapters of the Gold/Silver arc of the Pokemon Adventures manga, and he just looks so stylishly fucking cool, with those two-fingered claws, the beautiful asymmetry of its ears, and it just looks like a speedy, scrappy fighter. It's also Dark/Ice, a typing that I wouldn't expect from the design, but it just adds to the coolness factor because, well, manipulating ice and creating icy claws is just a cool ability to have for this awesome-looking weasel.

Sneasel's design seems to be drawn from the Kamaitachi, literally meaning 'Sickle Weasel', which is one of the more popular yokai in Japanese culture -- a magical weasel that rides the wind (some versions of the legend has three kamaitachi brothers) and cut you with sickles on their heads or hands, leaving cuts but not drawing blood. And just like the sneaky kamaitachi cutting people up without them even realizing that it was there, Sneasel is portrayed in Pokedexes and its manga appearances as a sneaky bastard that uses darkness as cover, steal eggs, and beats up its opponent until they can't move. I'm not sure where the Ice bit comes from, but Sneasel has always been consistently found in icy environments, being a 10% rare encounter at night on a post-game area in Gold/Silver or the Ice Path in Crystal. Yep, insert a tired "poorly represented Generation II Pokemon" tirade here.

Spr 3r 215 s.pngSneasel's design doesn't particularly look that much like a traditional weasel, and honestly more resembles a cartoon cat... but I've always loved just how sleek and unique Sneasel's design is. From the three feather-esque tails, to the jewels on its head and chest, to its sleek claws, to the weird ears... Sneasel has always been one of the highlights of the second generation, and one of those Pokemon that I can say is just such a classic design. Also, and again, it's hopefully not going to be a habit -- but I really, really love shiny Sneasel. It's just rocking an amazing pink/gold combo that works so fucking well.

Poké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.png 5/5.

Teddiursa & Ursaring

TeddiursaAfter a group of weird and unique Pokemon, we reach Teddiursa and Ursaring, which... well, for me personally has always been kind of forgettable. They're just teddy bears, with the very, very weak attempt at making their design not "just a bear" by giving Teddiursa a moon tattoo on its forehead and Ursaring a ring tattoo on its belly. Both Teddiursa and Ursaring are just Normal-types, and play into the 'cute baby animal growing into a fierce monster' trope. Teddiursa is adorable as all hell, a literal teddy bear, but fuck with it and its huge daddy, Ursaring, will come and it does look like a particularly irate-looking bear. But while I've never disliked this pair, I've never really cared much about them because... well, they're just bears, and while it's nice that we have a bear Pokemon, it's just kind of boring that they don't do anything much. Hell, their dex entries don't even give them anything cool -- Teddiursa likes honey, Ursaring likes to beat people up. There's not really much to go on between the two of those, really.

UrsaringAlso, Teddiursa and Ursaring are, once again, pretty poorly represented in their home games, once more being only found in a single route in Pokemon Gold (Silver in the original Japanese, they swapped around Teddiursa and Phanpy between games for the English releases for some reason). And in the anime they're reduced to just being a replacement for Beedrill as the scary wild Pokemon that can be accidentally disturbed by a wayward attack. I'm not sure why I'm so apathetic about them -- I guess it's because bears are just kind of a boring animal? It's just a huge mammal without anything too special going on for it. Which is a real shame, because turning these two into some sort of tie-in with their weird 'moon' and 'ring' deal, maybe have some sort of connection to the constellations and play into the whole "Ursa Minor/Ursa Major" thing? But nah, they're just cartoon bears with tattoos. They're alright for what they are, though.

Poké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball battle I.pngPoké Ball battle I.png 3/5.

Slugma & Magcargo

SlugmaSee? See, this is how you make a Pokemon. Slugma could've so easily been a giant slug like many other Bug Pokemon, but it's not. It's a slug made entirely out of magma, which is a pretty awesome little concept for a Pokemon, and also believably makes a pure Fire-type without just placing fires on an animal or just painting an animal orange or red and giving it fire-breaething abilities. Slugma is just so weirdly creative, and I really love how the normal slug eyestalk/antennae deal are represented with flames tapering up, as well as globs of dripping magma that act as Slugma's weird mustache-things. I've always loved the description of its biology of how it never sleeps because if it does, the magma will cool and its body will harden. It's the sort of Pokemon that would live in a volcano-like environment, a popular trope in fantasy games. It's a neat, simple and charming design, which, of course.... means that they don't actually utilize Sllugma a lot in the games. Hell, I had to remind myself most of the time that Slugma is a Generation II Pokemon and not a Generation III Pokemon, considering how much more common in the volcanic areas of Hoenn. In Gold/Silver/Crystal, Slugma is a rare encounter (time-sensitive in Crystal) on a bunch of very short post-game routes in Kanto that you're liable to just breeze through.

MagcargoSlugma then evolves into Magcargo, becoming a Fire/Rock, And I really love the concept of this one. It actually pays off on the whole 'cooling lava' deal that Slugma's lore tells us about, and the lava on Magcargo's backhas actually cooled down and became a shell made out of volcanic rock... and thus, Magcargo gains the rock-typing. Genius! I've also always loved how much more chill Magcargo is, lacking the flaming horns that Slugma has, representing how it's chilled down somewhat. Magcargo's shell has also always appealed to me. It's sort of coiled like real-life snail shells, but it's clearly made out of molten rock and it looks rugged and inorganic, with bursts of flame popping out of it as a nice little touch, tying in visually with the dex entries noting how Magcargo's shell is pretty brittle. That sounds pretty painful for poor Magcargo, but that's a neat bit of detail.

Spr 4h 218 s.png
Magcargo is also infamous for its silly third-generation dex entries that gave Magcargo's temperature as 18 thousand degrees Fahrenheit, which is hotter than the surface of the sun and a hilariously silly over-exaggeration for magma. Also, how cool is Shiny Slugma? It's silver, like actual molten magma, and it sadly loses it if it evolves into the purple shiny Magcargo (which is a nice standalone design, but I'd rather it be silver). It's of course a shame that Magcargo is next to useless in actual gameplay, with its Fire/Rock typing being way too weak to literally everything and its stat total being too weak for a fully-evolved Pokemon, so they're always kind of relegated to nothing but egg-hatching machines (Slugmas and Magcargos have the 'Flame Body' that allows you to hatch eggs for half the time). Still, one of the neater designs in the second generation despite being relatively simple.

Poké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball battle I.png 4/5.

Swinub & Piloswine

SwinubI've always adored Swinub. It's such an adorable, sleepy little lump of fur with a pig nose, and it just looks so hilariously snuggly. For our first pig Pokemon, I've always found it hilarious that it's a fun little fat furball as opposed to the more commonly-depicted-in-media pink farm pig. Swinub is an Ice/Ground Pokemon, and the Ice-type is a neat tie-in to how it's always sleeping and very furry because it lives in icy mountains, being found in the Icy Path exclusively in the original Generation II games. (It's actually very common there and Icy Path is a mandatory route, so none of my normal complaints about under-representation) It's ground because it's... brown? Yeah, I dunno. Their 'Ground' typing doesn't actually coincide with the 'lives underground' theme that most of the first generation Pokemon have, so maybe it's the association between pigs and mud? These are ice pigs, though. So... I dunno.

 It's such a dopey-looking adorable little cute mush that I can totally imagine just plods on its own sweet time, sniffing mushrooms out of the snow as its dex entry describes it doing. Some people speculate that Swinub is based partly on the guinea pig or the groundhog as puns on the whole 'pig' thing, but I don't see it honestly since those are puns that only work in English.

PiloswineSpr 4d 220.pngSwinub and Piloswine both have tiny little legs under all those fur, an added bit of detail that isn't immediately apparent in their official artwork, but far more visible in game sprites and anime appearances.

Swinub evolves into Piloswine and it still looks pretty cute, too.  It's a very shaggy lump with a fun pair of ears, and tusks similar to a wild boar. I've always loved Piloswine -- it actually has little pinpoint eyes under those bushy eyebrows, rarely seen in the pre-3D games. I love that the dex entries note that its shaggy fur obscures its eyes, so it attacks by just charging blindly forwards. I don't really have much to say about Swinub and Piloswine, and while they may be relatively simple designs, I still kind of like them. They're pretty neat-looking.

Poké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball battle I.png 4/5.


CorsolaCorsola is another one of my favourites from the second generation, another weak, non-evolving Pokemon... that's actually pretty  prolific if you fish with Good and Super Rods. This little Water/Rock buddy is a living chunk of pink coral, which I've always found to be pretty cool, and it just looks so pleased to just exist. It may not be as adorable as Wooper or Hoppip, but I've always loved its design. More than anything else from this generation, Corsola is a 'flavour Pokemon' first and foremost, with pitiable stats and a crappy movepool. I really love how the third generation introduced Pacifidlog Town to us, a town floating on top of the sea, built atop a colony of Corsola (something foreshadowed in the second generation dex entry). Generation VII also gave us some neat bits with Corsola, painting them as being very common in the tropical region of Alola, but has became endangered due to overpredation from Mareanie, a starfish Pokemon introduced in that generation.

As someone who tried dabbling in raising a marine aquarium, Corsola is apparently very sensitive to the cleanliness of water and will die in any sort of polluted water. I can definitely confirm that real-life coral is pretty fragile as well. Corsola's design has always made me adore it. From the way its pink tapers off to white at the bottom, to its six feet (two of which serve as hands) to how it just wobbles around to move in the 3D games, to the coral horns it has on its back... I've really liked this chunk of living coral, even if it's not particularly good in-game it wins a place in my heart due to its cute design and pretty neat concept.

Poké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball Love Ball battle II.pngPoké Ball battle I.png 4/5.

Remoraid & Octillery

RemoraidYeah, these guys... I'm not a big fan of them. I get the concept that their evolution is based on their concept -- of Remoraid being based on a gun and Octillery based on a cannon... but their designs don't actually reflect this too much until you're actually told, and their evolution is just way too different -- Remoraid its light blue with all sharp edges, while Octillery is bright reds and yellows and all squishy-looking. Again, I don't fault the concept. I really feel like they could've gone through some revisions to make them actually make far more sense immediately. Maybe make them water/steel-types and add some actual mechanical aspects to communicate that Octillery is supposed to be a cannon octopus and not just a generic ink-squirting cartoon octopus?

Even their design feels rather confusing and underwhelming. They're both pure Water-types, and Remoraid is ostensibly based on the Remora fish, little quasi-parasitical fish that latch on to larger fish like sharks and rays to eat the scraps that these predators leave behind. Remoraid is even featured in most official artwork and sprites of Mantine! I've always thought  that to be a cool touch. But Remoraid doesn't look much like an actual remora fish and without its name I wouldn't have put two and two together. Being based on the shape of a gun and learning a lot of shooting moves kind of brings to mind the archerfish, a freshwater fish that can actually in real-life use water gun to shoot down bugs flying above the surface of the water. The fact that Remoraid is a pretty bland design makes it pretty m'eh in my books, too.

OctilleryOctillery is just a generic Japanese cartoon octopus. In Japanese culture, octopi are often portrayed as having their  mouths be the 'sucker' that they use only to shoot them forwards in water like a little jet engine, whereas their actual mouth is a beak located underneath all those tentacles. Regardless, though, Octillery is honestly a pretty bland cartoon octopus, and while there's nothing wrong with just being a cartoon animal (and octopi is actually one of my favourite real-life animals), Octillery ends up being a confused concept that isn't executed as well as it could.

At least Octillery has one of the most badass-sounding species-exclusive moves, though. OCTAZOOKA! And Remoraid is at least somewhat involved in Mantine's lore, although as a literal satellite Pokemon. I don't really hate these guys, because they don't offend me in any way, but at the same time I've always felt that they're lacking something from a finished product.

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DelibirdI have never realized that I didn't get the joke behind Delibird until much, much later than I should. I first was introduced to Delibird in the Adventures manga, where Delibird was the ace Pokemon of the mysterious villain of the Gold/Silver arc, the Masked Man, being a hilarious-looking yet powerful Pokemon that spews ice everywhere and freezes everything in its path and lobs bombs out of its weird little bag. After encountering this quirky Ice/Flying Pokemon in the game's Icy Path and realizing it's not particularly good, I kind of only remembered Delibird for his appearances in the manga. It's a fun little bandit-eyed ice penguin with weird stubby hands, and I shrugged it off. It's design is apparently based on the rockhopper penguin, and it was originally exclusive to Silver, with its counterpart seemingly Gligar.

And then I came across Delibird again when I was older, looked at its design and realized that it's... it's a Santa Claus bird, and I cannot believe I didn't realize that as a kid. From its red-and-white coat, to being based partially on a penguin, to its beard-like white feathers, and that's not just any bad, it's a little Santa bag! And its exclusive move is 'Present', a hilariously bad move that deals random damage and sometimes even heals the opponent. Hell, it's even in its name -- delivered! Delibird's bag is actually its tail, and looking at its 3D model will show you that the tip of the bag is connected to Delibird's ass. It's perhaps not the most memorable Pokemon out there, even with the manga appearances, but I do like him.

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Manta rays are one of the ocean's most majestic and mysterious-looking animals, looking just so freaking different from the traditional shape of aquatic animals. And Mantine is essentially just a ray without a huge gaping mouth, replacing those with a happy mouth and two cartoon eyes and slight exaggeration of its tail and whatnot... yet Mantine isn't just a boring old water-type. No, it's Water/Flying, a vast exaggeration of a real-life manta rays' tendency to breach above the water. Mantine's flight is even depicted as a hang-glider in Pokemon Adventures, albeit aided with a swarm of Remoraids and a pool cue -- perhaps the coolest little addition to Mantine's lore in my books.

Also, as a neat little addition, Mantine has always been depicted with a Remoraid under its left fin ever since its first appearance, making Remoraid far more interesting by proxy. While the current artwork, revised during the fourth generation, featured a very on-model Remoraid, the original second-generation official artwork, as well as the original sprites, featured a bizarrely off-model Remoraid, without fins and a circular mouth. Has this Remoraid degenerated to adapt to exclusively latch on to Mantine as a parasite? It's an interesting tidbit, although the fourth generation gave Mantine a brand-new artwork with a 'proper' Remoraid attached to it, while the sprites in the games from the fourth generation onwards drops Remoraid from Mantine's in-game appearances altogether. Pity. Overall, Mantine's a neat design and always a cool Pokemon to encounter in the seas, even if it's not particularly useful in-game and somewhat subjected to the "so rare it's hard to actually find" deal that most standalone Generation II Pokemon suffer. Mantine forms a duo of version-exclusive defensive Flying-types with Skarmory, with Mantine being exclusive to Gold. Overall, a pretty cool manta ray. Now give me a water/poison stingray, Gamefreak!

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SkarmorySkarmory is a Pokemon I associate far more heavily with the third generation, like Slugma, at least as far as the games go, because I remember actually hunting for one in the ash-covered routes of Hoenn, while in the original Generation II games Skarmory is another rare encounter in a late-game route. Skarmory is still one of the most badass motherfuckers in the entire second generation, though, being a bird made out of metal. From its sharp dagger-like tail, its mean-looking claws, its striking head design (I love how it only has teeth on the lower jaw) and its wings, which are just a bunch of metal blades... Skarmory is just badass looking, and exactly what I imagine a Steel/Flying Pokemon would look like. I love the details that it sheds those red giant feathers, and how in the past, people would scavenge Skarmory feathers and use them as swords. In the Adventures comic, Falkner, gym leader of Violet City, uses a far more impressive Skarmory and uses the feathers as boomerangs.

While Skarmory's design as a metal bird with detachable metal feathers might resemble the Grecian Stymphalian birds, who are described to be savage bird pets of the hunting goddess Athena that launch their metal feathers, their origin seems to be another Japanese wordplay deal, being a combination of tsuru (crane) and tsurugi (sword). You don't have to know any of those to really enjoy the coolness of a blade-winged metal bird, though, and I've always thought that Skarmory was just pretty cool.

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Houndour & Houndoom

HoundourI'm not sure why so many people clamoured for a 'wolf Pokemon' leading up to the release of the newer generations, when the second generation gave us the perfectly fine one in Houndoom. Like, I know wolves and hounds are not exactly the same, but the way they behave are definitely more wolf-like. They're not even mere wolves or hounds -- they're hellhounds, as noted by their design and their awesome Japanese names of "Delvil" and "Hellgar". Of course, the translation team one-upped the Japanese by giving us the awesome name in Houndoom. These Fire/Dark Pokemon are just pretty cool. Houndour starts off as this angry Rottweiler-esque guard dog, with a skull design on its head, little bony growths on its back and around its legs, sort of looking like the PG version of bindings often associated with demons in popular fantasy.

Sadly, they fall into the same syndrome of being near-nonexistent in the original Generation II games, relegated to a couple of specific routes in the post-game Kanto, and not being particularly prolific either. Thankfully the anime and manga gave us a far greater showing by portraying all of these as ravenous angry pack hunters. Houndour focuses mostly on pack hunting and communicating with howls...

But when it evolves into the mighty Houndoom, with its awesome devil horns, devil tail, a skull shaped necklace-like growth and a more lupine, wolf-like shape, and Houndoom's status as a hellhound isn't even subtle anymore. In retrospect, considering the large 'Satanism' charges levied at Pokemon at the height of the first generation, it's a good thing Houndoom wasn't included in the original 151, huh? I really love how the pokedex entries note that Houndoom's flames are special in that anyone burned by the flames, "the pain will never go away", explained by some later dex entires as being caused by some specific toxins in its mouth. How horrifying is that? Like, you can cure the wound, the skin will grow back, but you'll still feel the pain of being burned by the hellfire spat out by this hellhound. It's definitely a neat design and one of the coolest ones in the second generation, and one of the coolest-looking doggos in the Pokemon world.

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KingdraKingdra is the only brand-new Dragon-type Pokemon introduced in the second generation, and I've always loved this fact. As the evolution of Seadra, Kingdra is the payoff to the whole 'dragon pokemon' species identification of Horsea and Seadra in the original pokedex, as well as the 'mysterious gene' that Seadra has. When traded while holding a Dragon Scale, Seadra will evolve into the mighty Kingdra, finally evolving into a 'proper' dragon. Being Water/Dragon, Kingdra plays into the myth in Japan of seahorses being supposedly infant dragons. And Kingdra does diverge from Seadra a lot. It is a lighter shade of blue, it is less spike, and it has these cool-looking graceful designs as horns and fins and everything. Its dex entries attribute the ability to control whirlpools and tornadoes by the simple act of waking, and the "yawning of this Pokemon creates spiraling ocean currents". It's got some of the neat mysticism that Eastern depiction of dragons are often depicted with.

It's also somewhat similar to the weedy seadragon, which might add to the whole dragon pun. I've always thought that Kingdra was particularly cool and unconventional as dragon types go, without feeling arbitrarily handed out like, say, little Goomy was, being earned only when Seadra finally reaches its true, final form. Kingdra's pretty neat. I like it a fair bit, and always thought that the second and third generation's usage of Kingdra as the final Pokemon of the final gym leaders Clair and Juan to be particularly tough if you're not well-prepared.

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Phanpy & Donphan

PhanpyPhanpy is exclusive to Silver (or Gold in Japanese releases), replacing Teddiursa as a two-stage evolutionary line found in route 45. But Phanpy is just so, so much more memorable. Both Phanpy and Donphan are pure Ground-types, and Phanpy is perhaps the most adorable little elephant baby ever. Look at this thing! It's adorable. With its stubby trunk, its light-blue colour, its smile and the little red bands adding colour without being too disruptive to its design. Phanpy is always somewhat forgotten in the games, although it had a massive presence in the anime with Ash owning one throughout the Johto saga, and in the manga Sapphire uses a Donphan during the Hoenn saga. There's not much to talk about Phanpy -- it's a baby elephant, and it behaves in all the adorable ways that baby elephants do.

DonphanPhanpy evolves into Donphan, which is a lot more memorable than Phanpy. It's an elephant, but its body is built more like a rhinoceros or some sort of prehistoric pachyderm. It's not as tall as a real-life elephant, with stumpy little legs and a head that is joined to its body, but the tusks jutting out of Donphan's cheeks and the trunk makes it clear that, yes, this is the Pokemon world's version of an elephant, and it's an insanely cool design. Everyone that grew up with the first generation can remember when the prologue section of the first movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back, appeared and Ash battles this random dude who sends out a Donphan... who's a Pokemon we've never seen before! And it can roll up into a spinning wheel, which is just such an insane ability to give to an elephant-based Pokemon, but I really liked that tire-esque armour that runs from Donphan's trunk down its spine, with its large ears tapering to the side. And I absolutely love that Ppokemon's first elephant is such an unconventional creature. Really love Donphan, and the big dude really deserves a lot more love.

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Porygon2I've always liked the concept of Porygon2. Remember Porygon from the first generation? The wackily hard-to-obtain Pokemon that's just a bunch of red and blue polygons with sharp edges that form a 3D duck? Well, Porygon evolves into Porygon2 when traded while holding a disc called 'Up-grade', and it smooths out into Porygon2, being a far more curved duck-like creature that still looks artificial and everything. Looks like the Up-grade gave Porygon a lot of new pixels to smooth out its edges! I also loved how hilariously tech-esque the Porygon2 name is, since Porygon, after all, is a digital,  artificial Pokemon.

Porygon2 is still intended to travel into space, but fails because, y'know, it can't actually fly. It's neat, and apparently the up-grade allows it to actually make proper gestures and have some sort of intelligence. And "it may exhibit motions that were not programmed",  showing that Porygon2 is actually starting to develop into its actual living thing. Soon it'll become Skynet and take over the world! Overall, a neat little evolution to an under-appreciated Pokemon, and one that feels so appropriate to the theme of the Pokemon.

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StantlerYeah, Stantler... Stantler's just another Generation II Pokemon that doesn't evolve and is found as an uncommon encounter , and it's just a boring Normal-type. It doesn't even have anything particularly interesting or gimmicky in its backstory. It's just a deer whose horns resemble the eyes of a larger creature. And apparently the antlers can 'change the flow of air' to create a strange space where reality is distorted or something? Couldn't they give Stantler the Psychic typing at least if that's what they're going for? And even then, comparing Stantler to Girafarig makes Stantler just look so freaking boring. And ugly. Look at those floppy cheeks and that gigantic tail. Bulbapedia gives us an elaborate explanation about how Stantler's horns are supposed to resemble shishi odoshi (deer scarer), Japan's equivalent of scarecrows that are often giant eyeball-like balloons... but Stantler really doesn't do much in design to really show off some sort of fear-inducing animal. A pretty forgettable Pokemon. 

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SmeargleWe close this particular set with Smeargle (originally this part was supposed to go all the way to Celebi, but I had to split it due to length) which is also a rare, non-evolving Normal-type, and a particularly rare one... but it's the exact opposite of Stantler. Smeargle's a humanoid dog-man which, instead of pissing on trees, uses paint to mark its territory. Oh, and its head and ears are shaped like a painter's hat, and its tail ends in a paintbrush.

But it's entire learnset is the move 'Sketch', unique to Smeargle, which allows him to permanently copy any move that the opponent uses, replacing Smeargle's Sketch permanently. It's such a unique take on the general anime trope of having mystical warriors who use a paintbrush to bring ink drawings to life (a common trope in Eastern wuxia stories). Smeargle is definitely more of a gimmick pokemon akin to Ditto, but its unique ability and portrayal in the manga has always endeared itself. It's ultimately not my favourite design, and ultimately way too gimmicky, but I do like the effort in making Smeargle somewhat unique of a pokemon. Not the best looking Pokemon out of the second generation batch, but one who ends up feeling pretty neat and creative from both a design and gameplay standpoint.

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