Patronuses are always animals*

Patronuses in Harry Potter are dope. A definition from the Harry Potter wiki for the un-initiated:

“A corporeal Patronus is one that is fully-formed, taking the shape of bright-silver, translucent animal. The specific animal forms that corporeal Patronuses take vary from person to person and reflect each individual’s innermost personality.”

You might think your favorite animal could be your Patronus, but most likely not. To produce a Patronus that takes the form of your favorite animal is “an indicator of obsession or eccentricity.” (Although the most common Patronuses are dogs, cats and horses, so if any of those are your favorite animal, who even knows). The Patronus Charm is extremely advanced magic, not usually taught in standard wizard curriculum, and is the only defense against Dementors. A Patronus is a spirit guide, a magical guardian, a tangible positive-energy force for protection. Its form will be “the shape of the animal with whom you share the deepest affinity.”

Who hearing that doesn’t immediately wonder what their own Patronus would be?

I’ll admit, I’ve taken the official Pottermore Patronus quiz (twice), and even looked through all of the potential animal results. Nothing really stands out as inherently “right” to me. No animal makes me think, “Ah ha! Surely this would be my protector if a Dementor were to suddenly attack!”

Of course, Harry Potter is fictional, and this is a hypothetical question. Much like personality quizzes though, it can be comforting to be able to know and classify yourself. Like a piece of knowledge that has always been in your mind – you’ve always known – but you could never put it to words for yourself until you saw a quiz result, or heard someone else explain it a certain way.

I put this off in my mind as A Thing I Will Never Truly Know About Myself and was done with it. However, I recently saw a Pinterest post (originally a tumblr post I believe) that gave me a different perspective.

What if a meek muggleborn, also a fan of Jurrasic Park, cast the Patronus and WHAM! Dinosaur! Huge T-Rex! How awesome would that be? I loved the idea, even if it was a bit more Green Lantern-ish than based in the theory laid out in Harry Potter. Regardless, it opened up my mind to other possibilities.

Patronuses are always animals…but how far can we stretch that definition?

There is documentation of one wizard, Hedley Fleetwood, casting a rare Patronus of a Woolly Mammoth – rare even for the magical world because extinct animal Patronuses are very unusual. Well…what about a woolly mammoth Pokemon? What about Mamoswine or Piloswine (one of my Top 10 favorites)?

My mind began to race. What’s my Patronus? Definitely a Pokemon.

As for which Pokemon, that isn’t so important. Patronuses can change after all. If I had to choose one today, it would definitely be my favorite, Meganium.

I can hear you now, young reader (or old reader), “Who cares? So you figured out your fictional spirit animal. Big deal.”

It matters because I never connected with the idea of a Patronus before, but when I thought about my favorite Pokemon being a force for protection, especially against Dementors (which are the Harry Potter series’ personification of Depression), I felt immense peace. It felt right. Like a final puzzle piece sliding into place, completing the picture. A deep exhale. I can’t explain to you exactly why “knowing” (if you can call it that) this information about myself gave me such satisfaction. I only pass on this idea of Patronuses as Pokemon to encourage others to think outside the conventional definition.

It always seemed strange to me that a witch or wizard probably wouldn’t know the form of their Patronus until conjuring it for the first time. The charm itself is a bit problematic in that way; a stressful situation can make casting a coporeal Patronus difficult when it was much easier in practice. To cast a Patronus, you have to think of a powerfully happy memory, and concentrate on it with all your might. The anxiety of worrying about “Will I be able to do it?” might prevent you from doing it. Even Harry’s first powerful Patronus was cast with the knowledge that he had already done it (because you know, the Prisoner of Azkaban had time travel shanigans). I think envisioning yourself casting the Patronus, succeeding in casting it, would be a huge help to actually doing it. To achieve this visualization, thinking of what form your Patronus will take is helpful as well. This is why the answer to “what is my Patronus” can be so important for those with anxiety. The happy thought of “seeing” yourself do it, in having confidence that you can it, will allow you to succeed. And I think this can carry over to other aspects of life too.

Breaking Up (hopefully temporarily) with Pokemon

Spoilers for Pokemon Sword and Shield!

(No images, just information/discussion).



Pokemon Sword and Shield’s release date is November 15, 2019, less than two weeks away. Digital pre-downloads of the games have already begun. Within the last few days, images and information on the Pokemon new to Generation 8 have slowly leaked online. Yesterday, the entire Pokedex leaked. And I mean all of the Pokemon available to use in Sword/Shield – new and old Pokemon. Spoilers ahead, this is your last warning.

There will be 400 usable Pokemon in Sword and Shield. That number includes 75 new Pokemon, with 7 of them having 2 forms (Morpeko, for example, has a “normal” form and a “hangry” form, but they are essentially 1 Pokemon). Nineteen Pokemon from previous generations have new forms specific to the Galar region, including Galarian Ponyta, Weezing and the Zigzagoon evolutionary line. And 17 Pokemon (new and old) have alternate Gigantamax forms, including Butterfree, Meowth and Eevee.

Before Pokemon Sword and Shield added to the total, there were 809 unique Pokemon, not including alternate forms or Mega Evolutions. By this math, less than half of the total Pokemon are included in the newest Pokemon games. Producer Junichi Masuda has said that developer Game Freak will not being adding or “patching in” more Pokemon after the release date. So what’s available on launch day is it.

For those not in the loop, all Pokemon being transferable to subsequent or “next” games has been a staple in the franchise for many years now. The data behind Pokemon got an overhaul in Generation 3 with Ruby and Sapphire’s release in 2002, and since then all games have been designed to accept all Pokemon from previous games. With a lot of time, effort, and a Pokemon game from each generation, it is possible for players to migrate Pokemon from their copy of Ruby/Sapphire all the way up to the current Generation 7 games: Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.

I have done this myself and can honestly say it’s more emotional than it sounds. Of course it is exciting to use the new Pokemon designed for that Generation, but it is also immensely rewarding to bring previous partners forward into new environments. I don’t ever feel like I’m “wasting time” planning, building or training my Pokemon team because they can advance with me. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire even rewarded players that migrated a Pokemon all the way forward from the original Ruby and Sapphire with a certificate.

Hearing that not all Pokemon will be transferable to Pokemon Sword and Shield was disheartening to say the least. Apparently this is the strategy for all future Pokemon games though, so there was little option but to get over it. Game Freak has cited a few reasons for this choice, but the shear number of Pokemon seems to be the ultimate answer. It had to stop somewhere, right? After all, eventually there will be a Pokemon #1000. Coding every single Pokemon into all games going forward would just become a larger and larger task. I wasn’t happy about the idea, but I accepted the concept. Some future games would not feature some of my favorites.

The problem with a selective Pokedex is who does Game Freak choose to include? Pikachu is a given, of course. All of the previous starter Pokemon from each generation were also a given, of course. The most popular, semi-mascot Pokemon, like Snorlax and Meowth, are a given. Right?

Even if this logic was correct (ahem, not all of it is), it creates a problematic feedback loop. If only the most popular older Pokemon make it into new games, the more obscure Pokemon never get their turn in the spotlight and continue to be forgotten. Over 800 Pokemon might exist, but if a Pokemon goes two generations without being in a game (a period of possibly 4-5 years), that Pokemon is basically dead. It’s never coming back.

All of this was concerning to me, but I still pre-ordered the game. My only comforting thought was I would fight back by only purchasing one copy of the pair of games (I chose Pokemon Sword). In the previous generation, I bought Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. I was happy owning a copy of all 4 games and played each one. This generation, I planned to protest with my wallet, and that was enough for me. I still intended to buy the game. After all, what kind of fan isn’t going to buy the latest games? I was itching for a new, great-looking title to play on the Nintendo Switch. There were still features to look forward to and enjoy.

Things changed when the Pokedex leaked.

If I had to put a number on my expectation of the total number of Pokemon included in the new games, I would say 600+, maybe 650. To find out that number was only 400, less than half of the 809 total before adding in Gen 8, was awful. I mean…that’s worse than a Thanos snap! If the new total number of existing Pokemon is truly 809 (Old) + 75 (New) = 884, then 400 is just pitiful. Forty-five percent of all existing Pokemon are programed into Sword and Shield. And because premium Switch titles sell for $60 each, players are spending 50% ($20) more, per game, for significantly less Pokemon.

None of that was the proverbial straw that broke the Numel’s back.

I assumed all starter Pokemon would be, had to be, included in all future games. At least those Pokemon, right? They weren’t the average birds and bugs you see in the beginning of every route or forest. I’m talking about the very first Pokemon you obtain in each game when you choose between grass, water or fire-type. The Pokemon prominently featured on merchandise, in the anime, and the ones many, many fans list as their absolute favorite Pokemon. There are only 21 of them. That shouldn’t be too hard to program into every game going forward, right?


There is only one starter’s evolutionary line in Pokemon Sword and Shield, and it also happens to be the Champion’s ace (usually last, and most powerful) Pokemon.


Generation 1 gets a lot of extra attention from Game Freak. I’m frankly a little sick of it, but I don’t expect it to end anytime soon. So I could understand if all three Gen 1 starters, Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur, were in Gen 8, but no other starters.

Not so. No Squirtle, Wartortle or Blastoise. No Ivysaur or Venusaur.

No Bulbasaur. Listed as #001 in the National Pokedex, and mascot of the definitive source of all Pokemon information, Bulbapedia. Literally number ONE doesn’t make it.

But Charmander makes the cut so Game Freak can make Charizard, an already absurdly popular Pokemon, the ace of the most powerful trainer in the entire Galar region. Heaven forbid they give the Champion an ace Pokemon new to Generation 8.

It was too much. I cancelled my pre-order.

Looking closely at the Pokemon they did choose to include, I feel even better about my decision. The Galar region is based on the UK, but Pokemon you would expect to be in that region of the world didn’t make the cut. The Lillipup/Herdier/Stoutland line, based on the Yorkshire Terrier, didn’t make it. Swanna didn’t make it (apparently there’s a thing with the Queen and swans). Never fear though- Maractus, a cactus Pokemon, did make the cut! Because we all know how hot and arid the UK is known to be…

Ultimately, I’m sad that it’s come to this, but I have to draw the line somewhere. Of my top 10 favorite Pokemon, only 2 made the cut. Lots of popular Pokemon like Ampharos, Absol and Garchomp also didn’t make the cut. The cut vs. included Pokemon do not make logical sense to me, and I find it impossible to justify a $60 price-tag with such slashed content. I have to show my unhappiness with the direction the series is heading with my wallet. I might affect change, or I might not. But I must do something, or else nothing will change.

Only 2 of my favorite 10 Pokemon are programmed into Sword and Shield. I won’t be buying Sword and Shield to only use 20% of my favorites.

Fun fact: Pokemon (as an entire franchise, not just the games) is the highest-grossing multimedia franchise of all time. Pokemon has made more money than the MCU and Star Wars separately, and only a little short of both combined. There is no reason to continue to support Game Freak’s decisions to cut key content when they have the capitol to hire more developers and make a truly revolutionary product. Look at 2017 titles Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. These other Nintendo AAA titles are pulling out all the stops on their games for the Switch. I can’t support Game Freak churning out a sub-par product in order to release new games every year or every other year. Hire more programers. Adjust development schedules. Bring in new management. Do something new. If not, longtime fans like me will have to make a choice. After all, my 3DS still works fine.

The Least of the Grass-type Starter Pokemon is not Chikorita

Every journey starts with a choice. Pokemon trainers starting their journey choose their first Pokemon to be either the grass starter, the fire starter or the water starter of that Generation. The first Pokemon games (Gen 1) featured Bulbasaur, Charmander or Squirtle. With the announcement of Pokemon Sword and Shield being released “Late 2019”, the newest starters to choose from will be the grass-type Grookey (a grass Monkey, such a creative name, right?), the fire-type Scorbunny (a bunny with tape near its nose) or the water-type Sobble (an anxious-looking chameleon). These starters will be the eighth trio of starters released. Which means there are now 24 total grass, water or fire-type starters to date.

If you’re a die-hard Pokemon fan, you already knew all of that and I’m sorry. Intros are dumb, but sometimes we need them.

I watched the Gen 8 games’ trailer live when it was aired on February 27, 2019 – “Pokemon Day”, or the 23rd anniversary of the original Japanese release of Pokemon Red and Green. My reaction was pretty lukewarm at first, but within an hour I was solidly #TeamSobble or #SobbleSquad. I can now say I split exactly 50/50 in choosing grass or water starters*: Gen 1 was Bulbasaur, Gen 2 Chikorita, Gen 3 Mudkip*, Gen 4 Turtwig, Gen 5 Oshawott, Gen 6 Chespin, Gen 7 Popplio, and Gen 8 will be Sobble.

( *My first play through of Pokemon Sapphire I chose Torchic. I didn’t like Torchic, or particularly want to choose it, but I felt I had to. The female player avatar looked like May from the cartoon. May had a Torchic. So I picked Torchic. First and last fire-type starter I have ever picked – I never beat Winona and her Altaria until I restarted the game many years later and picked Mudkip as my starter. )

And you know what? If you feel the need to hate on the choices I listed above, go ahead. I have never felt the need to tear down someone’s choice of starter Pokemon. I’ve used many of the other starters not listed above in play throughs as well; for example, I love Charmander, Squirtle, Totodile, and Piplup. I think our differences in what types of Pokemon we like and which ones are our favorites are what make the Pokemon Community interesting. If we all liked the same 6 Pokemon, the games would be boring. Battles would be boring. Talking about Pokemon would be boring. Trading would be boring. But I digress.

Directly after the announcement, I hopped on Twitter (as ya do). I saw support for Scorbunny. Okay, not my thing, but you do you. A lot of people seemed to like Grookey. Uh…okay. I mean, we have lots of monkey-ish Pokemon…I didn’t really want another. But the fact is, Grookey’s existence does not stop me from picking the one starter that I really want. Which is Sobble. My precious anxious chameleon who hides in water and scurries up trees. He will be my son and I will protect him at all costs.

I thought that was the end of my reaction to the new starters, but boy was I wrong. I forget that on Twitter, people will do anything for likes and retweets. The following started out innocently enough:

@JoeyPokeaim posted a photo on March 2 showing all 8 of the fire-type starters and captioned it “One of these Fire Type Starters gotta go? WHICH ONE”, basically meaning, Which of these Pokemon do we Like Least. I believe he was hinting that Scorbunny is the Weakest Design of the lot, which to be honest, yeah. I’ll give him that. That tweet got a lot of favorites, retweets and comments. Many people clapped back by saying Tepig was the worst fire starter. I love Tepig but I’m not a fan of its evolutions, so while I don’t exactly agree, I can see where the opinion comes from. Eh, whatever. Fun times. No harm done.

Charmander, Cyndaquil, Torchic, Chimchar, Tepig, Fennekin, Litten and Scorbunny

Naturally, anything that becomes semi-viral must be beaten to death until we’re all tired of it, so the next day @JoeyPokeaim tweeted the same thing, but for the grass starters. “One of these Grass Type starters gotta go? WHICH ONE?” (Surely no one can possibly predict the tweet that will eventually follow?).

Bulbasaur, Chikorita, Treecko, Turtwig, Snivy, Chespin, Rowlett, Grookey

Unlike the last tweet, I don’t think this tweet was implying that Grookey is the worst of the grass starters. Perhaps it was an honest question to his followers, because he thought the grass-type group was less cut-and-dry: Which would you get rid of? Which one of these is the Least Liked? Certainly I didn’t think this group warranted as clear a “winner” as the fire-type group did.

I made the ultimate mistake. I checked comments.

I was astounded to find that apparently there IS universal hate for only ONE of the grass starters! Apparently no one likes my girl, Chikorita? (Chespin probably was vote #2.)

I’d like to start my defense by saying it’s fine if you don’t like Chikorita. Everyone has their opinions. But do we really, truly, as a community, have less of a problem with ANOTHER MONKEY POKEMON than we do with Chikorita, who is based on a sauropod? Grookey is new, sure. But if we are, as a whole, going to heap hate onto one and only one of the grass starters, I would argue that we should hate the redundant design.

Let me take you down the rabbit hole with me.

How many sauropod Pokemon are there? Definitely I would consider ice/rock-type Aurorus (Gen 6) a sauropod and also grass/flying-type Tropius (Gen 3). Both of which came AFTER the Chikorita evolutionary line in Gen 2. If you count them all together (Chikorita, Bayleef, Meganium, Tropius, Amaura and Aurorus) the total is a whopping 6 sauropod-ish Pokemon. Out of over 800. But Chikorita is the ‘mon that of most respondents to that tweet wanted to get rid of. Okay. Fine.

Let’s count the monkey/ape/chimp Pokemon.

Mankey and Primape (Gen 1). Aipom (Gen 2) and Ambipom (Gen 4). Chimchar, Monfero, Infernape (Gen 4). Pansage, Pansear, Panpour and Simisage, Simisear and Simipour (Gen 5). Darmanitan (Gen 5). Oranguru and Passimian (Gen 7). And although Slakoth and Vigoroth are based on sloths, I would argue that Slaking (Gen 3) definitely has some ape in him.

The total comes to 17 with Slaking. Nearly triple the amount of sauropod-like Pokemon we have.

Darmanitan, Ambipom, Internape, Oranguru and Passimian

“Well all the monkeys have good designs!” you might think. “It’s fine if all the previous designs have been good. What’s more of a good thing?”

I might, and that’s a big MIGHT, agree with you if Chimchar wasn’t a thing. But Chimchar is already a monkey and ALREADY A STARTER POKEMON. If Game Freak really wanted to create another monkey Pokemon, it would be one thing if it was a random ‘mon. Perhaps found on route 1, or maybe later in the game. Then Grookey would have been just be another monkey to add to the list. But another STARTER monkey Pokemon?!

Not to mention we just got TWO monkey-ish pokemon last generation – Oranguru and Passimian. AND we already had a DIFFERENT GRASS-TYPE MONKEY – one of the elemental monkeys of Gen 5. Which are almost UNIVERSALLY HATED.

Pansear, Pansage, Panpour. No one was a fan.

In summary, we have already seen a starter Pokemon that is a monkey. We have recently had monkey-ish Pokemon. Not too long ago we had a Grass-type monkey. SO WHY DO WE NEED GROOKEY.

I was fine with Grookey after the initial announcement. I was never going to pick Grookey because I have never been crazy about any monkey Pokemon. Yet I was happy Grookey had supporters. But then people on Twitter wanted to gang up on Chikorita, almost universally, and say she is the worst grass starter. No. Just, no.

I’ll agree that there is nothing inherently wrong with Grookey’s design. It’s cute enough. I guess. I mean it’s a monkey. Another monkey. If you’re voting to “cut” any grass starter, cut the obviously redundant one.

But Grookey could become a silver-backed Gorilla! Its final evolution could be grass/fighting! Or grass/ground!

First of all, we have a grass/fighting starter evolution, and he is trash (sorry Chesnaught). A four-times weakness to flying-type attacks, when so many Pokemon learn Aerial Ace, is no good competitively. Grass/Ground is similar. We already have Torterra. Also RIP to ice-type attacks (another quad weakness). So either typing, and I’ve seen both suggested for Grookey’s final form multiple times, are redundant and pretty poor battle-wise. Thank you, next on that argument.

Second of all, and I realize this is my own personal bias here, I plain do not care about Grookey becoming a silver-backed gorilla. It’s not just that I don’t like gorillas. It’s that the world has this odd fascination with them: sees them as the most majestic and the most intelligent mammals and I just…no. I have an appreciation for nature, the wilderness and animals as a whole. If we can label ourselves based on our college degrees, then I am a biologist. And as a biologist I think gorillas are super over-rated.

I don’t find a silver-backed gorilla majestic. A horse might be majestic. Whales are majestic. Wolves are majestic. Not monkeys. Not apes. You want to talk intelligence? Gorillas are not the only intelligent mammals. If we are measuring intelligence by the ability to create and use tools, then crows are the shit, man. Crows are wicked smart: they can solve multi-step problems using tools that they crafted WITHOUT THUMBS. Elephants use tools. Otters use tools. Freaking seagulls use man-made roads to crack open hard shellfish. Monkeys do not deserve this extra-special attention and devotion that people give them. (Jane Goodall would come and find me and kill me if she read that statement.)

This has been an extra long rant, but I just want people to realize…some of use are sick of monkeys.

BUT…even after all that, I wouldn’t vote to get rid of any of the starters, even Grookey. As popular of a franchise that Pokemon is, it will probably not be around forever. I appreciate that each design is the brain child of some developer at Game Freak. A lot of time and care is put into the creation of every Pokemon, particularly Starter Pokemon. I know that no matter what the design is, at least one kid will play Pokemon Sword and Shield, and Grookey will become their favorite Pokemon. Grookey might even be their first Pokemon.

I’m not gonna knock someone’s first Pokemon.

My first Pokemon was Bulbasaur. I was very young when I first played Pokemon Blue version (was I 5? I don’t know). I liked all three designs, Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Charmander, but for some reason associated fire with bad. (I guess the fire safety lessons they drilled into us at school stuck in a subconscious way.) So Charmander was out, but it was a pretty even toss up between Bulbasaur and Squirtle. I don’t know what made me choose Bulbasaur. Maybe because he is #001? I think I had this mental image of grass being a peaceful element, and I was an anxious kid. Who knows. I guess I was a tree-hugger from a young age.

All y’all sleepin’ on Bulbasaur need to wake up. Cuz dinosaurs are the shit.

I never completed Blue version as a kid. I got 4 gym badges pretty easily, but after that leveling started to really slow down. It was more fun to restart the game, and replay the beginning, where progress was fast. So I did.

I liked Bulbasaur and still consider it to be my first Pokemon. But my first starter that I finished a game with? That was Chikorita.

Obviously, there’s a sentimental connection with Chikorita, and that’s why I want to defend her. But I think my appreciation is justified. Let me now take you down a different rabbit hole…an appreciation rabbit hole.

Earlier I said dinosaurs are the shit. Well sauropods are some of the best dinosaurs. Ever see Jurassic Park? The scene with the sauropods is quite beautiful. The gentle nature (ahem, vegetarian diet) of the sauropods allows the kids to rest and re-group before starting the next leg of their journey to safety. Similarly, Chikorita represents calm and relaxation. Its Pokedex entries read, “It is docile and loves to sunbathe. In battle, Chikorita waves its leaf around to keep the foe at bay. However, a sweet fragrance also wafts from the leaf, becalming the battling Pok√©mon and creating a cozy, friendly atmosphere all around.” Chikorita has a cute design that isn’t too overdone. I love that she seems to be wearing a necklace. In the show, Chikorita are shown to be extremely loyal. Casey was a trainer who loved yellow and black Pokemon and dreamed of catching an Electabuzz. Despite the fact that Chikorita was Casey’s starter Pokemon, do you think Chikorita was jealous? Did Casey’s Chikorita ever give less then 100% in order to give Casey her greatest wish (which was a differently-colored Pokemon)? No. Chikorita fought hard for Casey and eventually evolved into Bayleef and then Meganium. And Casey got her Electabuzz.

Ash’s Chikorita was so affectionate towards him that she would run over to hug him (read: tackle him with love) every time he called on her for battle.

But Chikorita is the worst grass starter?

Maybe you’re thinking, but what about the games. I’ll admit Chikorita is difficult to start out with playing Pokemon Gold or Heartgold. The second gym, a bug-type gym with Scyther as the ace, can be especially difficult. But Chikorita has a great support moveset. It’s not meant to be the heavy-hitter of your team. Moves like Reflect, Light Screen, and Poisonpowder allow you to set up defenses and then switch to a different ‘mon, heal up, and then gradually chip away at your opponent. At later levels, it learns Aromatherapy, which heals your entire team of status conditions. If you use Chikorita/Bayleef/Meganium in a Nuzlocke, they could seriously save your entire run if every other team member is paralyzed/poisoned. If anything, the Chikorita line is going to take the sacrificial blow to allow a stronger member of your team to survive.

And again, there aren’t like…17 other sauropod Pokemon.

In conclusion, Chikorita doesn’t deserve your hate. If anything, hate the very question of, “if you had to eliminate one, which would it be?” I guess it can be a fun concept, but it’s not positive at heart. Any Pokemon could be someone else’s favorite Pokemon. You don’t have to like them all. You do you and I’ll do me. But turn down the hate for my girl. She’s awesome.