Oh my goodness, look at this little fella! She’s just so ding-dang happy to be here! Oddish is simple and round with delightfully-cartoony proportions and is just the purest little Grass-type ever, both in being absolutely precious and in that she’s literally just leaves sprouting from what looks like a planter with lil’ feet. There’s not much to her, but nothing goes to waste with this design. Just a body and leaves, just like a real plant. If anything, there’s a little mythical mandrake in her, but she’s so distilled down into such a simple form that it feels more like a seasoning than her core concept. Like Zubat, this is a very elegant way of communicating a basic idea while maintaining visual interest. Great-looking Pokémon right here; excuse me while I go repaint a succulent pot to look just like her.
Gloom is a lovely natural progression from Oddish. Her body has gotten bigger and gained some very simple limbs (albeit I kind of preferred the “ball-with-feet” look) and her head is starting to bloom. A Gloom bloom, if you will. She also has a whiff of being in a state of decay between the white flecks on her bud and the creepy oozing from the mouth (more on that later), which clues you in on its secondary Poison typing. It’s a little bit of an unsettling direction for Oddish to grow in, but hey – a lot of people really like that as an aesthetic choice, and it really is a more interesting take on a budding-flower monster than what could be a straight progression into a flower or taller grass or something. If anything, I’m just not a huge fan of those pronounced purple lips – it has a pretty bad association with certain caricatures, and none of its other evolutionary stages will have it, so if given the chance I think I’d dial that back to a simple line-mouth, thanks.
Here we go! Vileplume steps a bit back toward Oddish from where Gloom landed, based again on the rafflesia flower that inspired the shrub on Venusaur’s back. Double-dipping on designs already at only the second grass-type? Tsk-tsk, Game Freak. Anyway, she’s a bit more wickedly-cute – look at that smile and the glowing eyes peering out from the shadow of its too-large petals – which is a nice balance between Oddish’s pure joy and Gloom’s eerieness. Using rafflesia again may give her the shape of a big ol’ flower, but even the thicker “petals” make it clear that it’s perhaps a bit less benign than your normal variety – not that it’s getting this gal down! It’s a bit weird that it steps backwards from some of Gloom’s changes, but the resulting look really works!
…and this one dials Gloom’s aestheic so far back that I really wish she evolved straight here from Oddish, do not pass go, do not collect $200. She’s even shaped like an upside-down Oddish, for chrissakes. She drops the Poison-typing for a beaming pure-grass look, with a “grassy” hula skirt and flowers in her hair, plus enlarged eyes and blush stickers to complete that innocent, adorable look. It’s not a bad design, but she’s just so distractingly far removed from Gloom – she even loses an elemental type when she evolves, which no other Pokémon does. She at least keeps two smaller rafflesia flowers as accessories, so that’s something that ties the two together, I suppose.
Vileplume has that rare ability to act as a support and utility Pokémon, with Aromatherapy to heal status afflictions on allies, Moonlight to heal its own HP, and some status moves of its own. Unfortunately, this is less something you want to invest your time in in the main game, but she can be a lot of fun if you have the patience! Bellossom is a little bit simpler and more straightforward in its usage, for better and for worse, making it pretty all right if not distinctive.
This may be where I start slowing down on tracking how heavily the Pokémon franchise actually features these guys unless it’s particularly notable; Bellossom was one of the “ambassador” Pokémon given a spotlight in the anime films ahead of the games’ debut (back when these things got released in international theaters), and Oddish and its ilk tend to show up a lot to fill out forest floors and as small, generic representatives of the Grass type. The second in particular makes it a handy default filler monster.
One additional point that kinda works against Bellossom: she’s very clearly based off a hula dancer, from all the flavor text around how her main gimmick is dancing to how she’s animated as constantly swaying back and forth to being kinda themed around the sun (learning sunny day, supposedly being drawn to sunlight, evolving from a Sun Stone), and yet she doesn’t appear naturally in the games that are set in Fantasy Hawaii, which is the one place you should expect a Fantasy Hula Dancer to show up. Geez, nothing about her really seems to quite “click”, does it?
Vileplume’s incorporation of the rafflesia is an interesting alternate take on the flower from what Venusaur did with it – whereas Bulbasaur is carrying a budding parasite all its life, Vileplume gives the flower itself a life of its own and leans into the not just its status as “world’s largest flower” (it physically dominates her body), but also its unique rotting smell, giving it a clear poison-y vibe and claiming that the smell attracts prey, which it subsequently paralyzes with its toxic pollen. Nice trapping gig she’s got going, there!
In a cool inversion of what you might expect – Gloom’s drool perhaps being a sweet-smelling substance to lure in insects and the like – the “honey” she drools is apparently nothing short of noxious (but still works as bait anyway, somehow). But she loves her own atrocious stench, so she keeps on keeping on and it looks plenty contented for it. More power to you – you do you, Gloom!
This gets even weirder in the show, where it’s used as the key ingredient in synthesizing a perfume. Contradictory, perhaps, but apparently one in a crowd of folks actually really likes the smell of it, kind of like the “does cilantro taste like soap to you?” thing.
Gloom’s “honey” is also apparently used as a fertilizer for other plants, which is potentially an interesting cyclical idea depending on the interpretation. Do Grass-type Pokémon benefit from fertilizers? According to Oddish’s Pokédex entries, yes! It specifically absorbs more nutrients from rich, “fertile” soil; maybe Gloom’s drool is the plant-Pokémon equivalent of a bird regurgitating food for its babies?
Oddish’s entries also claim that it screams when you yank it out of the ground, which does completes its minor mandrake parallel – but to be fair, you’d scream, too, if somebody was holding you up by your hair.
Point of interest: Oddish is one of the two Pokémon with a scientific name: Oddium Wanderus, which brings up another point: how does taxonomy work for Pokémon species and subspecies? Do the four evolutions in this line all necessary belong to the same evolutionary “genus”? Are the higher levels governed by body type, or by elemental type? Either one creates problems, with many monsters changing appearances pretty radically between evolutions, and many Pokémon would belong to more than one elemental “order”. Best not to follow this line of reasoning too far down its rabbit-hole.
Man, Oddish has a lot to chew on for what’s mostly a pretty unassuming design. Gotta love that density! Unfortunately, this line is probably much stronger as a whole without Bellossom in it, which stings because it’s one of the first non-baby extensions of a family we get when going by Pokédex number. Even with that knock, she’s still somewhere between something to keep in Reserve and a Must-Have design. She’s both sleek and a classic, which is a killer combo.
Any and all appreciation for Oddish, Gloom, Vileplume, and Bellossom is welcome in the comments!