There’s so much to say about Mr. Mime, but on the whole, I really like what he has going on. The round body and skinny limbs with pronounced joints paint him as a marionette puppet, and he absolutely looks like something that would be found in an old-timey toy chest, especially with the jester-hat-like ears and curly-toed boots. Those pads on his fingers make his pantomiming more pronounced, and I love how much mileage they get out of his look with relatively simple shapes and colors. Having three dueling themes in “mime”, “marionette”, and “clown” kind of muddies things, but at least they’re all street-performer themes.
Good golly gosh is this thing adorable. It’s like somebody made a hand-puppet version of a baby Mr. Mime, complete with some very Muppet-y arms. I don’t even mind that he overtly looks more like a clown than a mime here, just because the red clown-nose is so perfect on a tiny tot and jives so well with the baubles on the rest of him. And he’s just so happy to be here, to boot! I just love how Mr. Mime and Mime Jr. both seem to be in a perpetual good mood – games are supposed to be fun, and the Mime family seems all about that.
I’m less stoked about their Galarian cousins, though. Galarian Mr. Mime seems to drop all of his actual mime influences to switch careers to an icy tap-dancer? I like the idea of him at a glance – he pretends to slip on ice, but turns that into a comedic tap-dancing performance – but it has nothing to do with his actual name, and he can’t skate by on pure charm like Mime Jr. can. He’s fine on principle – using ice for the hard soles of tap shoes is pretty clever and that snow-suit looks great on him – but I just feel like he’s more of a split evolution than an alternate Mr. Mime.
I’m much more down with Mr. Rime, though. He feels like he follows both Kantonian and Galarian Mr. Mime’s themes much better, being a full vaudeville performer or comedic actor. That Charlie Chaplin angle feels like a proper progression from both a tap-dancer and a street busker, which is exactly what an evolution should be doing thematically. Using the ice for both tappin’ clown shoes and a cane is a nice through-line from Galarian Mr. Mime here, and I especially love the second “face” made by his coat, which I’m sure doubles as an intimidation tool in the wild and a comedic tool in domestication. Granted, his “real” eyes are a bit much, but I’ll write that off as the Psychic-type influence.
Mr. Mime is in a weird spot usability-wise. He’s got great special defense but miserable physical defense and abysmal HP. His special attack is pretty good and he has lots of varied moves to use, but most of them seem to point toward setting up barriers and bolstering allies’ stats, which he doesn’t have the staying power to do well. Nothing about him really gels, unfortunately. On the flip-side, Mr. Rime has the stats to actually stay in and take a hit, so while he doesn’t specialize in anything (and has way more type weaknesses than resistances), he seems to be a super-flexible teammate for the main game.
Mr. Mime is a really popular Pokémon. He’s a regular member of the anime’s cast (especially in the current season), he had a really stand-out scene in the Detective Pikachu movie, and in general he seems to be one of the monsters that people are more likely to remember. Big brand recognition on this boy.
The elephant in the room here, so to speak, is that a lot of people seem to find Mr. Mime a bit creepy. That seems to be an extension of the “evil clown” archetype, which has a whole lot to unpack. The gist of it is that the modern idea of clowns being inherently creepy is almost entirely the artifact of both a certain late-’70s serial killer and It (the Stephen King story). Sure, you had a few murderous clowns and the Joker before that, but that was more a subversion than the expectation, apparently.
This also makes creepy clowns a predominantly western-culture idea (more specifically a U.S. culture idea), which means that Mr. Mime was probably designed with absolutely wholesome intentions. You even have some evidence of this from a very recent Nintendo game, ARMS, which features a balloon-animal-flavored clown character in Lola Pop. Apparently the designers were taken aback by how Nintendo of America commented on Lola’s design as being “scary”, since she’s otherwise pretty happy-go-lucky and the phobia of clowns is next to non-existent in Japan. The game’s director was quoted as being amused at having “learned a weakness of Americans” in the exchange.
That said, I’m tickled pink that the official stance since about 2013 seems to be to lean into into the Western rejection of anything clown-related as being creepy. His appearance in the Hollywood movie adds some very odd textures to his joints (making them look like synthetic rubber, complete with seams from molding), and the best example has to be his current idle animation in the games as of time of writing, presented here in all its glory:
He’s one of the very few monsters with a face (and definitely the most human-like one) to never blink, and that perpetual movement is deliberately unnatural in a way that his pixel-art appearances never were, even when fully animated. It way not have been part of the original plan, but I love that the designers have kinda just rolled with it.
One thing that’s not clear about Mr. Mime is the extent to which his miming abilities can actually affect the real world. His main shtick is solidifying air to create barriers, which is already a little physics-bending, but we’ll roll with that since it’s reflected as an actual gameplay move. The tricky bits come from when he starts miming something more complex.
One answer that the games point to is that Mr. Mime is placing a sort of thrall over the audience. They use a lot of variations on the phrase “Once the watchers are convinced, the unseeable thing exists as if it were real.”, suggesting that Mr. Mime is using some form of hypnotic suggestion, which definitely plays into Mr. Rime’s quirk of emitting psychic power from his bizarre belly-pattern. But this doesn’t quite cover for how we repeatedly see Mr. Mime’s “creations” definitively interacting with the physical world.
My absolute favorite instances of this probably come from the current run of the Pokémon anime, where Mr. Mime is a regular in the cast. In one episode, he’s seeing miming a vacuum cleaner, which produces audible sound and sucks up items in a room, implying that he can create objects at will that are real enough to, in turn, affect other objects and generate noise. In another, he mimics pouring a glass of juice and serving it, which another character “picks up” and unsuccessfully tries to drink, suggesting that there’s nothing actually being created. Then there’s the Detective Pikachu interrogation scene, where his “ears” are visibly blown back when he mimes a motorcycle chase in a way that doesn’t make sense unless he’s creating some sort of wind. It’s all delightfully inconsistent.
I think the sneaky answer here is that Mr. Mime, being a Psychic-type, is using telekinesis to move other objects around in conjunction with his performance. I don’t know that it’s the actual explanation, but I love the idea as a reversal of how stage performance usually works: magicians typically use slight-of-hand to fake some sort of supernatural powers, whereas Mr. Mime uses actual psychic powers to put on a relatively normal pantomime show.
Granted, I am 100% over-analyzing a cartoon with an all-ages audience, but boy does it create something interesting to think about.
Galarian Mr. Mime is a bit more practical, freezing the ground to create a smooth tap-dancing surface and then kicking it up to use as a barrier. Much more believable than creating objects wholesale, though what’s less believable is the idea of them “radiating chilliness” from the soles of their feet. Chilliness isn’t something you can radiate; it’s by definition the absence of energy. So wouldn’t Galarian Mr Mime really be absorbing heat from their surroundings? Where do they vent that heat? This feels like a rabbit-hole that could very quickly turn to questioning the very concept of Ice-types, so I’d rather just put the “weird” stamp on him and keep going.
On the other hand, Mime Jr., being a toddler-form of Mr. Mime, doesn’t know how to do any of this yet. Instead, he just mimics other people and Pokémon, which is both kind of a basic form of pantomime and also absolutely something that actual children do. This makes it the rare “baby form” that makes total thematic sense and absolutely deserves to exist on the roster. This mimicry is both adorable and apparently just perplexing enough to use as a diversionary survival tactic. That said, the games don’t seem to agree on how effective the little tyke is; two Pokédex entries from titles released literally on the same day read:
|Ultra Sun||It does its absolute best to mimic the movements and expressions of its opponents, but it’s still not very good at it.|
|Ultra Moon||When this gifted mimic surprises an opponent, Mime Jr. feels so happy that it ends up forgetting it was imitating something.|
Consistency is for suckers, I guess.
Apparently the reason Mime Jr. specifically evolves into Galarian Mr. Mime is because of studying and mimicking Mr. Rime’s movement routines. But Mr. Rime by definition evolves from Mime Jr., so that creates a bit of a closed loop; how did the first Mr. Rime come about? The Galarian forms continue to feel like weird and barely-related cousins here.
While I’ve been arbitrarily using masculine pronouns to write about Mr. Mime, it’s worth noting that there are absolutely female Mr. Mime (and Mr. Rime) – their original name (Barrierd) is gender-neutral, so it’s really just the translations that give Mr. Mime an arbitrary gender, which was deliberately ignored when programming male and female Pokémon into later games. Maybe “Mr. Mime” is just a stage name?
Something I didn’t catch until writing this: “rime” is the name of a kind of sugar-like ice frost, so “Mr. Rime” actually has another layer than just being a corruption of “Mr. Rhyme”. His very name being a pun is very on-brand for a comedian Pokémon, though, so thumbs-up for that.
Mr. Mime is fantastically bizarre. He raises so many questions that have interesting potential answers but no solid answers, which makes him an interesting sucker to think about. Plus, his baby form actually justifies its own existence for a switch! The Galarian offshoots don’t do it for me thematically, but Mr. Rime looks like a right goober (in a good way) and the main line is just a very strong, distinct creature. Leave your anti-mime prejudices at the door, I vote the series absolutely Must Have this creature going forward, or in the very least keep in in Reserve on a very heavy rotation.
Any and all appreciation for Mr. Mime, Mime Jr., and Mr. Rime is welcome in the comments!