For the first time in a Pokemon game, trainers are choosing from a mix-and-match of starters across three separate regions: Alola’s Rowlet, Johto’s Cyndaquil, and Unova’s Oshawott. All legends have an origin story, and the reason for these three Pokemon starring in the PokeWorld’s first prequel may not be as coincidental as it seems.
Legends of Arceus will star in Sinnoh, but it’s not quite the same Sinnoh that most fans already know. This era of Sinnoh begins during an older time period: one where pokeballs are still in development and the pokédex was not yet invented. While it hasn’t been officially confirmed, Legends of Arceus appears to draw inspiration from the Heian period of Japan, notable for its time of samurais and the use of monogatari, a literary form of narrative that retells a historical event in an almost fictional manner.
The trailer itself begins in a story-telling fashion using aged parchment and paint in a Japanese-bound book. Not much is said before the ‘story’ draws to a close with a sketch of the three starters of Feudal Sinnoh, but Arceus is revealed soon after. Arceus is a legendary Pokemon said to have the ability to create other Legendary Pokemon, and it is deemed to be the Original One who created all Pokemon and the regions, Sinnoh and Ransei, with the latter appearing in Pokemon Conquest and taking place in an alternate feudal Japan – yet another link to the lore and speculation of Legends of Arceus and why the revealed starter Pokemon were chosen for pre-Sinnoh.
The water-type starter Oshawott’s final evolution is Samurott, a sea-lion-like Pokemon known for its use of seamitars, which were inspired by pen shells and katana, a Japanese sword. Katana were popularly associated with samurai, who wielded them in battle during feudal Japan. Samurott’s design itself was based on the combination of sea lions and an armored samurai, and according to its Bulbapedia page, the Oshawott line was made to represent the lifespan of a samurai from childhood (represented by Oshawott) to one who was rose in rank to become a military commander (represented by Samurott). Its tail may even be based on the Japanese war fan, and its name is a combination of the words, samurai and otter.
Although owls are commonly associated with the supernatural and can thus be seen as bearers of death, the Japanese viewed these wise animals in a different light. Pronounced fukuro in Japanese, owls are often viewed as symbols of good fortune and luck in Japan and is synonymous to fukurou, which means “protection from hardship.” The owl-like Rowlet evolves into the Grass/Ghost-type Decidueye, who, since its appearance, has been compared to the infamous Robin Hood, known for ‘doing evil for good,’ much like the representation of the owl, and his unmatched skills in archery, called kyūdō in Japanese. While Decidueye may find its roots closer to Hawaii’s pueo owl and the common barn owl, fans might be interested to know that the latter was also known as the ‘ghost owl’ (referencing to Decidueye’s Ghost-typing) and ability to strike from the shadows. Furthermore, kyūdō (archery) was based on kyūjutsu, an art of archery that was [also] practiced by the samurai class in feudal Japan.
Cyndaquil and its evolutionary line are a little less obvious in its relation to feudal Japan. However, Typhlosion’s Japanese name, Bakufuun, is closely spelled to bakufu (translation: military government), which can then be linked to the shogunate and shogun, a title for hereditary military leaders in Japan’s warring period. Being the Volcano Pokemon as well, Typhlosion may very well be a nod to the volcanoes that do exist and have erupted in Japan, particularly in reference to twelve of sixteen of Mount Fuji’s eruptions having been recorded during the Heian era.
The release date for Legends of Arceus is still a secret, but fans are excited to see a change to the tradition while remaining loyal to its roots. The release of the game will be the start of another legend, and we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below! What are you most excited to see in Legends of Arceus: the lore, the origin, the starters, or something else entirely?