Diglett, Dugtrio

#050 – Diglett

It’s Diglett. Diglett digs. Diglett digs so darned much that he’s distinctly never seen not-digging. He’s just the digging-est digger ever to dig, more than Doug’s dad playing DigDug. Diglett dig Diglett dig, ya dig?

*ahem*

This kiddo is one of those pure expressions of a singular idea. He’s one of those “mole” pegs from a whack-a-mole machine, re-imagined as an actual mole. It’s simultaneously makes for a fairly simple shape that’s also an instantly-recognizable concept, especially considering he’s nothing but the bit of a whack-a-mole that you’ll see, plus three ovals for a face. He’s very understandable while still being more abstract than a direct translation of an animal, and that makes him a great Pokémon in my eyes.

#051 – Dugtrio

Three Digletts make a Dugtrio; it’s the literal embodiment of “three heads are better than one”. You do find whack-a-moles in sets, so it makes some sense that the evolution of a single Diglett would be a collection of Diglett, with the three usually shown as bobbing up and down at alternating intervals. There’s no interesting change otherwise to note, but hey – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

#050a – Alolan Diglett

Diglett got a tan! And the ground around him looks less like dirt, and more like iron chunks – plus that set of gold whiskers on top. Honestly, Diglett is better off for remaining uncomplicated, so the very minor changes really suit him.

#051a – Alolan Dugtrio

…and then this thing happened. Wow. It’s hard to know where to start with Alolan Dugtrio; the brown and gold play off each other really well to evoke the “blond surfer” look – again, these alternate forms are made to reflect some aspect of Hawaii – but this new idea is so bizarrely far removed from the original concept that the two clash in a way that’s impossible to ignore. And the result is… pretty hilarious? I kind of don’t mind that we have oddball picks like this in there.

But that’s just the first layer. The his blonde whiskers are is actually based on “Pele’s hair”, a sort of thin, hay-like formation of glass strands that form when volcanoes melt sand into glass, then stretch it out as the lava flows away. It follows that Diglett and Dugtrio would catch these on their heads as they pop up and out of the more fertile soil that lava flows leave behind, so Alolan Dugtrio turns out to actually be a pretty clever and inspired design when you dig into it. But it’s also still very silly, and each head having a unique haircut is an adorable little touch. Can’t you just imagine those three hanging out and ribbing each other like a close-knit group of buddies (or arguing like the three heads of King Gidorah)?

Diglett and Dugtrio are really good at what they do as Pokémon… but unfortunately that’s trapping opponents in unfavorable positions, which doesn’t always benefit the everyday player. It’s got its uses, but it also kind of paints Diglett into a corner that makes him a little time-consuming if you want to exercise his uniqueness in the main campaign. He does make great use of the mighty Earthquake and Stone Edge (with plenty of speed and attack to back it up), but just like a real whack-a-mole, he’s also smacked down pretty easily as things go. The Alolan variety is more balanced overall, and so I imagine is pretty all right for day-to-day usage – some good resistances, still equipped for attack, just with a little less of those utility moves.

Diglett is pretty popular for what he is, considering that he’s rarely given the sole spotlight. It’s a simple-looking thing that’s easy to pop into places to fill out ranks, plus he’s adorable, so he makes for a solid standby. Plus, he got re-visited for a new game-specific variant, so clearly the designers like having him around. I don’t blame ’em.

Diglett’s distilled design makes it very clear that Nintendo has been passing around the same official art of the original 151 since about 2005 – lead artist Ken Sugimori has naturally shifted in style a bit in the decade-plus since, but seeing the two right next to each other makes it pretty easy to pick out all the little differences.

It’s worth noting that there’s no official word on what Diglett looks like below the chin. When asked, the director for the main series games effectively shrugged his shoulders and said “Maybe it’s like a hand, or something?” It’s canonically a bit of a mystery, which I find every bit as interesting as whatever they might actually come up with, since the natural response is a metric butt-ton of speculative fan-art. People have taken a swing at everything from a chibi-fied little mole to a bodybuilder to a second, upside-down Diglett. The bedrock is the limit – except for the one sideways mention of it having feet, but let’s not let that dampen our creativity.

Diglett and Dugtrio are also among the very short list of Pokémon uniquely immune to the Telekinesis move (which has all sorts of odd and unfortunate effects). Any other moves or situations that should result in him jumping or floating, he isn’t ever drawn differently or given a different model – he just looks like the little peg-head popping out of a clump of dirt. The games take all manner of unique shortcuts to get around this – digging under obstacles in mini-games instead of jumping over them, fading into place instead of being dropped in when appropriate, retreating into his Pokéball so that he can be handed over a service counter… there’s a whole range of delightful little Easter eggs every time he shows up, because he is just dead-set on maintaining his secrecy.

In today’s episode of Pokémon with Jobs: Diglett make excellent horticulturists, and are commonly raised as farm animals Pokémon! Moles make a nasty habit of upturning every square inch of dirt that they move through, so it would follow that a more conscious and agreeable mole could be used to plow fields and flower-beds. Of course, wild ones can be pests in that way, but whaddayagunnado?

On top of them just being a cleverly-applied form of glass (or metal filings, depending on which flavor text you’re reading or how much you read into its Steel typing), Alolan Diglett and Dugtrio apparently use their hair-whiskers as antennae for communication and to sense its surroundings without fully surfacing from the dirt by using vibrations. No part of this guy goes to waste.

It’s actually unclear whether Dugtrio constitutes three unique Diglett, whether they tend to be born and live in triplet sets, or if Dugtrio is three bodies that split off from the same body during evolution. The last of these makes the most gameplay sense, but the various materials have gone back and forth on it so many times that I like to imagine that in-universe researchers still argue about it, leaving it yet another mystery that little Diglett is holding from us. Such an enigma for such an unassuming monster.

I didn’t expect to go on nearly so much about Diglett and Dugtrio, but these two are just so aggressively interesting. I’m not going to claim that they’re a linchpin of the series or anything, but they’re so smartly-made and so very distinctive that getting rid of them would be nothing short of criminal. Very firmly in the Reserve camp, these ones.

Any and all appreciation for Diglett and Dugtrio is welcome in the comments!

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