I’ll admit, I used to be pretty lukewarm on Tentacool, but the more I dig into her, the better she gets – luckily, these creatures having more going on below surface level is pretty common. Anyway, Tentacool is a take on a box jellyfish, but mashed up with a Mars-Attacks-style alien head and given some UFO lights for good measure. All this makes for a perfectly sensible crossover, considering that jellyfish are an objectively really weird and unique family of creatures that most of us have a tough time categorizing – and between their invertebrate anatomy and penchant for regeneration, jellyfish look positively alien in comparison to other sea life near surface level. Manifesting that through elements of pulp sci-fi sure makes for a tight little thematic loop – she’s even got what looks like a little cape! I’m honestly surprised that this thing isn’t a Psychic-type who shoots mind-controlling laser beams, but Poison is admittedly more sensible for a jellyfish.
If Tentacool was an alien, this thing is the mothership. She’s definitely shaped up top like the “flying saucer” image of a U.F.O., and we’ve taken a page from other tentacled invertebrates to give it a claw-like pair of beaks – presumably for abductions in the aesthetic sense, but more likely for crushing crustacean shells or shredding through captured prey. It seems to have an entirely spherical, black inner “core” from which her beaks and many many tentacles seem to be growing, which kind of give her the impression of either an unfathomable otherworldly creature or a B-movie alien monster. All of this is so cool that I reckon it totally bypasses any low-effort attempts to just call her “The Kracken”, because an interstellar jellyfish is just so much more fun. She’s right in that sweet spot where she’s properly frightening but also just a touch goofy, which makes her a really interesting design overall. Inspired choices for something you’ll see in water almost as often as you’ll see Zubat in caves.
Tentacruel has some great qualities, but offense isn’t really one of them. She benefits a lot from keeping opponents trapped in the arena and sapping them with Poison while soaking up a lot of damage with her defenses. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly a riveting way to play the games, so I imagine most people will want to leave her behind.
Tentacool is up there with Oddish as a Pokémon that they’ll use to fill out a scene, and she’s nothing short of ubiquitous in the video games (she’s hyper-common in every main game not set in Unova). Unfortunately, she’s not as traditionally-appealing, so she ends up more in the Zubat camp PR-wise.
Much like real jellyfish, Tentacool will shrivel up and dehydrate into a useless mess if they wash ashore – but the claim here is that this is because its body is made of 99% water. That must either be by weight, or this thing is just all water inside a very thin layer of skin, because that’s a crazypants number – even normal paper-thin jellyfish are only 95% by any reasonable measure. It does explain why these two only have about half as much physical defense as they do special defense.
Tentacruel has a few additional features that tie her into the U.F.O. look – her tentacles can withdraw into her body (which would very much leave her looking like a flying saucer with a pinching claw), she’s hiding a full 80 tentacles somewhere inside her body (up from the fourteen that any reasonable artist or animator ever depicts), and it can make its red orbs light up for all sorts or reasons – communication with other
space vessels school-mates, as a warning signal, or just to look freaky.
To be fair to Tentacool, it does fire beams from its jewels for that sci-fi authenticity, but the way things are worded make it seem like this gal is just absorbing light through her transparent body and refracting it into a blinding light that looks like a laser. She doesn’t get many moves that take advantage of this, much less by the leveling up naturally, so I’m going to mark her down as a poser with a very cool sense of aesthetics. Sorry! She does get to use them to create funky and damaging ultrasonic waves, though.
You know what doesn’t make her look like an alien poser? Her first anime appearance, where a herd of Tentacool display the ability too mind-control people and Pokémon, and a fifty-story Tentacruel demolishes a seaside resort Gojira-style in protest of construction practices destroying the local coral reef. 100% an invasion-movie plot, but with the kaiju twinge of an eco-conscious message. This mind-jacking ability and the existence of a supermassive variant of Tentacruel are, of course, never ever mentioned again because the series was blissfully unconcerned with its own internal logic back in 1997.
Another pair of very unique designs, taking a dirt-common creature in the series and giving it a distinctive personal identity. It’s a pretty strong pick – not going to set the world on fire, but certainly enough to keep her in Reserve.
Any and all appreciation for Tentacool and Tentacruel is welcome in the comments!