Well here’s a nice, pleasant-looking little kiddo. He’s pretty much the image of an elementary-school kid’s crayon drawing of a flower: a slightly-curvy stem, one big petal on each side, and a yellow head with cute beady eyes. Except this one has a bell-bulb instead of petals or even a bud, hinting that it’s going to go in a different direction when it evolves. It’s a fairly simple design, and that’s why it works so well. Absolutely darling lil’ plant thing, that’s all he needs to be.
Hey, this one’s not weeping! He’s surprised, if anything! Weepinbell is moving along the evolutionary line quite nicely, and while it’s got some miles to go, it’s stopped along the way to evoke the image of a cornucopia – that image of horn-shaped basket that has fruits and vegetables falling out. Except this one has nothing for you, and instead he’ll probably bite your hand off or spit up noxious acid with its mouth. These middle evolutions in a three-stage line are always a bit awkward, really, and Weepinbell feels like a poster child for that, but here it results in something with one foot each in the “dopey” and “odd” camps, which is delightfully off-kilter.
Now this guy looks gnarly. He seems to be entirely upside down, after doing a complete somersault throughout his life from mouth-down Bellsprout to mouth-out Weepinbell to mouth-up Victreebel. He’s pretty clearly a pitcher plant, which gives you pretty immediate context for how he’s going to execute on every one of his Poison moves. Yuck. He also looks incredibly immobile, which isn’t a huge problem in the wild where he can sit and wait for prey to fall into his gob, but requires some generous hand-waving in the context of a trainer-vs-trainer battle.
Victreebel got a head-start in popularity with being one of the recurring villainous Pokémon in the anime, and Bellsprout is only a bit less popular as “standard, identifiable Grass-type” than Oddish is. They’re not hugely popular or anything, and they’re not cute enough to get plush animals of them, but they make the rounds.
Victreebel has some surprisingly solid attack stats, plus lots of poisoning options, a few status-inducing spores, and a great range of options to heal itself like Leech Life, Mega/Giga Drain, and Ingrain. He pretty much covers all his bases, which makes him a reliable choice within the games’ single-player.
Quick reminder that all Pokémon that reproduce will do so by laying and hatching avian-like eggs. For a series that makes plays at giving these things an actual biology, it’s really really weird to think of a plant spout hatching from an egg, then rooting itself in the ground after it’s past its seed seed stage would be.
It’s equally-odd to think that spindly little Bellsprout is actually the most actively predatory of these three, using its roots as legs to hunt down bugs to eat. The series seems to go back and forth on whether or not non-Pokémon animals (particularly insects) exist within the setting, so there’s a real interpretation wherein this bell-head on a thin little vine is chasing down and devouring Weedle and Caterpie. I suppose the poison immunity that all Poison-types get would certainly help with that.
Weepinbell drops spores and vines from its tree-perches before approaching to chow down (and use its leaves to slice apart whatever it can’t just swallow whole), and then Victreebel just… sits and waits for things to accidentally feed it. He’s gotten lazy with age, but he’s also got things figured out – the stench of its stomach-acid isn’t great at first, but it reacts positively with its prey’s innards to melt them into a sweet, honey-smelling liquid, which in turn attracts more victims. It’s even got a leaf on top to trap things inside its mouth and a vine-tail to use as a sneaky lure, in case some minimal effort is required to draw things in. This leafy anglerfish has got it figured out.
English name corner this time! You’ll notice that the “bell” in Victreebel’s name is misspelled, missing an ‘l’ compared to it pre-evolutions. This is almost certainly because the original Gameboy could only store names ten characters long for a Pokémon, so they lopped off a letter at the end to make things fit. Rather than retconning its name to what was presumably intended once in-game memory could accommodate a whopping eleven characters, the altered spelling just… stuck. Forever.
This line’s international names are all over the place, though. While the English just uses various syllabic abbreviations (including a pun on “victory bell”), most reference its growth, the French specifically references its increasing appetite, and the German borrows the names of two plants that this line distinctly does not represent (fennel and geraniums) before finally arriving at a corruption of the name for trumpet-pitcher plants.
Side-note; in the original games, Victreebel is indexed last in the game’s internal references (interesting in itself that they’re out-of-order from how the player-visible index lists things), which implies that this line was either the last to be thought of or just the last to be finished up in development.
Second side-note; Bellsprout is the star of my personal favorite episode of the show, wherein a trainer brings a tiny little Bellsprout to a region-wide League championship… and it proceeds to stomp across almost the entirety of Ash’s team, because its spindly body is just too darn hard to hit. The only way he wins is by using Muk to body-slam the thing and suffocate it out – the whole situation is a parade of great comical imagery. I do really like the idea of a properly-experienced trainer having one of the meekest Grass-types as an unorthodox trap card, kind of like the F.E.A.R. strategy in the games.
I really like Bellsprout. He’s great! Is he something that the series absolutely needs? Probably not! These games are pretty flush with Grass- and even Grass/Poison types, but Bellsprout is just so fun, and how often do you see pitcher plants of all things represented as fantasy monsters? I’d be willing to keep him in Reserve on style points alone.
Any and all appreciation for Bellsprout, Weepinbell, Victreebel is welcome in the comments!