That’s right – it’s Meowth! She’s pretty clearly a cat – the creamy fur with dark-tipped ears, tails, and paws pretty clearly evoke a Siamese cat in particular – but the coin on her head and the pose that she’s always shown in (with one arm raised) show that she’s meant to evoke the Maneki-neko, or “Lucky Cat” that you’ll tend to see in East Asian shops and restaurants. It’s pretty cool that the design still translates well just on the cat level, and while I’m once again not comfortable with the whiskers that seem to be extending from her very flesh/fur, I do appreciate that they include the long whisker-y eyebrows that most cats tend to have but most interpretations tend to ignore. She’s a pretty solid take on a cartoon cat, this one, and little touches like the absent nose and odd proportions make her probably the most endearing of the Pokémon that are based directly on house-cats.
Persian is decidedly less of a cartoony cat, and also decidedly not a Persian cat, which is the one thing you should expect from her, especially if they’re going to pass up the low-hanging fruit that would be “Purrsian”. The Pokédex even calls her out as the “Siamese Cat Pokémon” in Japanese, but even that’s less true post-evolution. Instead, she takes elements of “big cats” – mountain lions in particular – which is kind of a sensible if boring direction to go in from a domestic cat. She also swaps out the coin on her forehead for a gemstone that evokes a bindi, so at least there’s some element of “Persian” in there. She’s overall less distinct than Meowth, which is a shame, but that doesn’t make her a bad Pokémon overall – she’s just a bit far removed from the labels she’s given.
Lookit that smarmy thing. Her hair’s slicked back, her fangs are more pronounced, and she’s totally giving off a “Joe Cool” vibe. Her fur pattern doesn’t really match any real-world analogue so much any more, but as a Dark-type play on the original Meowth, it works. She kind of needs the context, but the shifty-eyed look really works out for a Cool Cat.
Oof, This makes a pretty good case for why original Persian was a sensible design choice, since maintaining the juvenile Meowth’s large head leaves it feeling a little off. This one looks like it might be a sort of take on house-cats properly, particularly how breeding them for domestication results in some odd effects on their growth and health – the lore notes that a rounder face is preferred as a symbol of wealth and beauty – and it’s not more than a stone’s throw from Persian’s powerful, regal appearance to Alolan Persian’s spoiled take on regal-ness. In particular, she reminds me of one of those short-haired cats with larger heads and flatter faces. Still something that’s gonna scratch you up, but I could at least definitely see someone other than a mob boss having one as a pet. She even looks a little spoiled by her owner.
Persian is quite fast and has an all right movepool for attacking, but she doesn’t really have a lot else going for her – middling-at-best stats, not great type coverage… she’s just kind of there, and Alolan Persian can take a bit better, but otherwise doesn’t bring any special tricks to the party. Not a total loss if you want to use her just ’cause you’re a cat person, but also nothing to write home about.
Meowth is all over the place in the marketing, though, in no small part thanks to it playing a lead role in the anime since the very beginning – and Persian gets a similar boost for being prominently owned by Giovanni (the series’ original “big bad” human-villain character). It’s probably one of the five most recognizable in the entire series.
Quick note: Seeing as Pikachu is #25 in the roster, I’ve always thought it was a fun little touch that #52 – the reverse of that – is the mascot for the antagonists in the show.
I try to stay more general – or lean into the games if anything – but it’s super-odd how Team Rocket’s Meowth is treated; apparently he learned to speak and walk on two legs through sheer force of will, but very very few other Pokémon demonstrate this without using some trick like telepathy, and few people treat it as especially astonishing, which makes he just a very odd pocket of the universe that we’re not supposed to look directly at? Also, the series has seemed to abandon the idea that him standing and walking like a human is unique, and that’s seen to be common of all Meowth since about 2010.
The most explicit the games get about Alolan Meowth’s sudden dark-typing is that they’re of foreign royalty (explaining Persian’s bred-cat flavoring), and so got prideful and started living independent of humans. They’re pretty much the definition of a “feral” neighborhood cat – getting pressy when their coin is dirtied, or when it’s given improper attention. Spoiled brat. I’d still like to believe that the Dark-type feral-cat bit comes at least in part from the urban legend around the Stephens Island Wren and how it was supposedly made extinct by a pack of feral cats on the island (or, if you’re one for grandstanding stories, a single domestic cat named “Tibbles”).
Side note: the games claim that Persian is temperamental, but will become docile if grabbed by the whiskers, which any reasonable person will recognize as something you should absolutely not do to any cat, period. Should we swing her around by the tail next? Jeez.
Regardless of anything else Meowth is doing, it’s and its evolution are two mascots for the villains in the show and early games, so you’d be hard-pressed to do away with them. Must-Have.
…you’d be so hard-pressed to do away with them, in fact, that the series insisted on revisiting the line again, giving Meowth it the distinction of being the only Pokémon (so far) with three significant regional forms.
Galarian Meowth definitely looks more feral than the other forms of Meowth, I’ll give it that. Honestly, she looks like she should be the Dark-type rather than Alolan Meowth. Instead, she’s part Steel somehow? I suppose that references her harder claws and now-black coin. Aside from the odd elemental type, I really like the idea of different breeds of Meowth that don’t necessitate a whole new monster. And speaking of new monsters:
Perrserker is everything they changed with Galarian Meowth, but dialed up. That mane of unkempt fur is now a full unkempt beard, which leaves her head looking like a proper steel helmet. The rest of her body appears fairly naked by comparison, with just some decorative tufts around the legs. Reinforcing her more hard-hitting nature over Persian, Perrserker’s sharper claws now form a proper dagger-like weapon; where Galarian Meowth is a scrapper and scavenger, Perrserker is a raider and a ravager. Losing the interesting two-to-four-legged evolution is a bit of a shame, but as a certain Ice-type will show, portraying still-extant cultures is inherently dicey. I feel like this is a fair trade-off for not putting a bindi on a supposedly-persian cat.
The thing that strikes me most about Perrserker (and, to a lesser extent, Galarian Meowth) is that they look and are described as being distinctly Viking-themed. It’s not a particularly notable choice in isolation, but it gets much more interesting when you consider how the other Glalarian forms of old Pokémon are almost entirely take their inspiration from the culture of the United Kingdom – the modern idea of unicorns stems strongly from English imagery, one is very plainly the idea of a medieval knight, and the Industrial Revolution was strongly seated in Great Britain. Vikings, by comparison, are a distinctly Scandinavian group.
And one that repeatedly invaded and imposed their will on the English empire.
One of the many other things the Vikings imposed on the English were their cats, which were regularly taken along on voyages to help keep vermin out of their food supply (as well as, I’d assume, being a source of morale). History is very clear about what happens to animals brought overseas: they get loose somehow, breed voraciously with no natural predators, and end up becoming an invasive species, albeit a cuddly one ripe for domestication in this case.
Depending on who you ask, most house-cats in western Europe even have Nordic kitty ancestors nowadays. Heck, the modern English words for cat – particularly the colloquial pussycat – even largely came around from the Swedish (kattepus) and Norwegian (pusekatt) names for domestic cats. So while the Vikings certainly weren’t the only source of cat migration to Europe, they’re certainly enough of a factor that it makes sense for the series’ token villain-cat to take notes from them as a long-time enemy of the English empire. And now when they get around to making that region based on Fennoscandia that I so deeply desire, I hope that Galarian Meowth is there as a little dig at the lore.
Galarian Meowth and Perrserker are of a different sort that don’t make immediate sense, but on a little bit of digging, they’re a great extension of Meowth’s role as a villainous cat. Absolutely fantastic addition that only solidifies my stance that Meowth is a rock-solid Pocket Monster.
Any and all appreciation for Meowth, Persian, and Perrserker is welcome in the comments!