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
Any and all appreciation for Meowth and Persian is welcome in the comments!