Koffing – so called because that’s what it looks like you’ll be doing anywhere within fifteen feet of this happy lil’ fella. Seriously, between this guy and Grimer, there has to be some statute of limitations on what trainers are allowed custody of certain Pokémon.
He’s pretty straightforward at a first impression – a floating piece of rock that always read as “pumice” to me, but looking at him now, he’s not porous so much as he has wart-like vents. He’s also got a skull-and-crossbones on him in the old-timey symbol for “poison”, which after the likes of the Hitmon family I’ll totally buy as a natural adaptation taking after the human world. It makes for a pretty basic but effective “poison gas” design without retreating into the “literal cloud of gas” approach.
Wheezing is something of a more advanced form of coughing, and so it follows that Koffing evolves into Weezing – yet another form of the “now there are two of them!” approach to Pokémon growth. In what looks like a deeply unhealthy development, the toxins he’s bathed in have mutated him and fused him to another Koffing, resulting in a pair that are visibly less pleased with their situation than they were before evolution.
We don’t see a whole lot of asymmetrical Pokémon, especially in the early days, but it’s nice in this case. One head has grown into something big and tired, with heavy eyebrows and big tusks, while the other just looks a bit sadder and has lost its crossbone markings. They’re a horrid, lumpy mess, but hey, charisma isn’t a virtue here. Creativity is, and this feels somehow both alien and a totally believable rock monster (if rock monsters were believable in the first place), even and especially because they’re the most visibly malformed of the lot so far.
Also, their Japanese name is basically “Koffing-again”, which is simultaneously very lazy and amusingly literal.
Many many years later, we got another, grey-er take on Weezing, and it seems like a real oddball at first glance. They’s a coal-grey now with sickeningly-green smog forming a sort of facial hair (man, I’d love to see different variants – where’s my mutton-chopped Weezing?), and most egregiously of all, they don a pair of ridiculously tall top-hats that double as chimneys and triple their listed size. It’s such an exaggerated, fantastical stereotype of jolly ole’ London men that overshoots “dumb” and lands in “very very silly” territory.
Weezing is an absolutely fantastic defensive Pokémon both stat-wise and type-wise; their only weakness is Psychic thanks to their passive ability, with five (!) type resistances. Galarian Weezing gains a Steel weakness, but in exchange for a double-resistance to Bug and Fighting and the option to trade their Ground immunity away for something that totally neutralizes other monsters’ passive abilities (with a few presumed exceptions). They also gets some useful status-clearing moves, some status-inflicting moves, and a pretty good range of attacks to use with its perfectly-average offensive stats. Not a superstrong powerhouse or anything, but they’re a safe pick with lots of options, which makes them a fantastic team anchor or utility ‘mon.
Koffing and Weezing both get most of their screen-time as lackeys of the ever-recurring Team Rocket (especially in the show), but in general they’re probably the most prevalent Poison-type that isn’t also Grass, Bug, or Zubat, what with being in the original 151 and getting used by literally every Poison gym leader so far.
It’s easy to throw our hands up in the air at Koffing and say “hey, it’s a modern fantasy setting; we can get away with floating rocks”. But just like one Mr. Kojima, the series’ writers couldn’t let that tasty mystery go unexplained. Being a gas-focused monster, it actively retains the lighter-than-air gasses and keeps them hot, allowing it to float – then it steers itself by spewing these out in jets from the nodes all over its body. He’s basically a balloon with a rocky coat on him! Weezing even takes this further by alternately inflating and deflating its heads based on which one contains more hot gas at the time, which must be a deeply disturbing thing to see happen to a creature with a rocky texture to its skin-shell.
Considering how he floats and naturally leans self-destruction moves, it’s entirely possible that Koffing and Weezing are based partially on an ocean mines. Fusing with a tumorous second head during evolution makes it seem more like a manifestation of that supposed fear of radiation-induced mutations, though, which makes it a double take on the Poison type. Koffing seems to be the only Pokémon to borrow anything from nuclear radiation in particular, with most other Poison-types being focused on venoms or more generic toxins – albeit Pokémon came after the nuclear-radiation scare, so maybe we would have seen more horrible, mutated monsters in the roster if these games had been made a decade or two earlier.
Weezing’s mutation has manifested in a bunch of ways over the years. Usually the smaller head is attached smack on the right side of it – and it probably will consistently now that they’ve picked that configuration for their standard 3D model. But back in the pixel art days, it seemed to shift around from game to game; in Red it was behind the main head and on the left, in Silver and the Hoenn games it seemed to be attached to the forehead, and in Gold and Crystal it was more directly behind and to the right. Even Koffing dabbled in this a bit, with just its very first pixel art showing the skull-and-bones on his forehead. I suspect we’ll get fewer of these game-to-game discrepancies going forward, which is nice for consistency but feels like a bit of a shame creatively.
Speaking of design shifts that we saw only briefly and never again, a few of Koffing’s early non-anime appearances showed the clouds above the head forming a pair of crude “hands”, though these seemed to be more for intimidation than actual use, and they were dropped pretty quickly. I guess the designers figured that Haunter kinda had that beat covered?
One variation that we haven’t seen is the supposed “triplet” Weezing with three heads, purported to exist but shown nowhere in the series. The fact that it hasn’t even shown up once as a feature-of-the-week curiosity in the show’s 1000+ episodes at this point (even the 600+ since the games first mentioned it) makes the idea of a three-headed Weezing feel like more of an urban legend than anything else. I can totally imagine superstitious people conflating a third head with the small rock growth between the two heads, at least.
Amusingly, its internal gasses seem to have a ton of different properties for whatever the series’ flavor needs at the time, from toxic to highly explosive to intoxicating – these guys are used in captivity to produce gasses that are collected and then concentrated into perfumes. No accounting for taste – maybe Koffing are perpetually grinning because they’re trapped in a cloud of what they perceive as a sweet scent?
Or maybe floating in all those gasses is doing something else to its little rock-brain.
Much like his Poison-type peer in Grimer, Weezing get their sustenance from foul odors and human garbage, which could presumably make them additionally useful in domestication as an anti-pollutant. Assuming you could safely capture and filter the noxious gas by-product, you’d have a totally natural waste disposal system. And that brings us to Galarian Weezing.
Galarian Weezing seems like a real oddball until you start reading up on what they do – two distinct kinds of smoke in his design, one forming a mustache, and an absolutely ridiculous top-hat-slash-chimney design that feels like it’s incorporating a chimney-sweep vibe just for the sake of being native to Fantasy London. Plus, they look nothing like any conception of a fairy-tale creature despite being Fairy-type.
Then you look at the flavor text – that ‘stache is residue from sucking in polluted air through their mouths, the opposite of Koffing and Weezing’s exhalation of noxious fumes. Then they filter that throughout their body, and “exhale” purified air through the chimney-hat-spouts on their heads, reserving the concentrated poison by-product as a defensive weapon. For being a monster native to the equivalent of London, heart of the Industrial Revolution and notable site of the Great Smog, they represents the inversion of industrial waste, which is a clever little turn.
What’s possibly best of all is that Galarian Weezing reportedly evolves from the old form of Koffing, making a purifier of a previously-polluting Pokémon. It helps explain why Weezing is suddenly Fairy-type, aside from just the benevolent behavior. Galarian Weezing is the eco-friendly redeemed counterpart to Kantonian Weezing. A Koffing who looked in the mirror, didn’t like what he saw, and decided to be better.
This Pokémon is an inspiration.
Koffing and Weezing are too recognizable to quit using in the series now, and they have a lot going on beneath their deceptively simple surface. On paper they’re a great Pokémon, but the fact of the matter is that I can’t think of many if any people who would point to Weezing as a favorite, and they’re not super unique in a gameplay sense (at least, they weren’t before the Galarian form came around). It’s a close call, but these seem to belong on the more favored end of the Reserve bench.
Any and all appreciation for Koffing and Weezing is welcome in the comments!