Number 1-2-3; isn’t that just so neat and orderly and satisfying?
And isn’t Scyther just so rough and gnarly and aggressive?
Scyther feels like she’s the “cool” Pokémon in the first generation for people who think Charizard is too much of a basic, obvious choice. Honestly, I see where they’re coming from; she’s both satisfyingly chunky and has sharp edges to her, being both solidly-built and lean enough to look like she could run circles around you. Plus, nearly her entire arms are blades, which smacks of a monster that the youths are gonna find totally radical.
It helps that there’s definitely some dinosaur in her D.N.A. – bugs and mantises on their own are creepy-scary more often than intimidating-scary, so giving her a more raptor-like head really helps her image, and doesn’t look a lick out of place. It’s not even that far off-base, since the species name of the Japanese giant mantis (almost certainly what it’s most based on) uses the word for “green dragon”. Thumbs-up to Raptor Mantis.
Scizor trades in the rough-and-tumble look for a hot-rod coat, and that’s not a strict upgrade for everyone. As much as I appreciate Scyther’s “wild” look, Scizor’s armor looks very “action figure” to me, which combined with her new proportions result in a very sleek-looking fighter, if one a little out-of-place in the wild. There’s a grab-bag of cues there from red ants, wasps, and other crustaceans now, but as well as they all come together, it doesn’t quite look like an animal so much as an animal-inspired cartoon hero.
But hey, who doesn’t love a Kamen Rider?
Trading Scyther’s arm-blades away for Scizor’s pincers is kind of a wash – while the former admittedly felt like it was trying to look cool, it succeeded in its way. Scizor’s pincers feel like a more natural expression of a mantis’ limbs, but they don’t have that same Edge Factor™, and the rest of Scizor isn’t exactly going in a natural direction. Well-put-together, absolutely; just in a way that feels inspired by nature more than of it. I really like Scizor as an evolution overall, but she’s enough of a tonal shift that I totally get why some people still prefer Scyther.
Scyther and the evolved Scizor have the same stat totals – a unique feature so far in the series – so they’re actually both viable on a team. Lucky thing, since evolving one into the other requires trading with an item, which used to be a lot less accessible in the schoolyard days. Scizor’s Technician ability gives her a bunch of great attacks with secondary effects, and she only has one type weakness, plus great physical stats at the expense of her speed. Scyther, meanwhile, has more even speed and attack, but with more type weaknesses. Both are pretty solid offensive monsters for the main game, though.
Scyther and Scizor seem to be fairly popular as the sharp, predatory face of the bug-type early on in the series as opposed to Butterfree‘s sweeter look (you’d expect Beedrill to fill that role, huh? Not so much). Scyther is the signature Pokémon of the first Bug gym in the series, two of Ash’s companions in the anime have used one, and Scizor is a regular character in the Super Smash Bros. series in addition to being playable in the fighting-game spinoff Pokken. Lots of major appearances for these two, even if Heracross and Pinsir have overtaken her spotlight with their long-standing rivalry.
In the same vein of The Pokémon Company leaning into Mr. Mime‘s overseas reputation, I feel like they’ve become a little bit aware of Scyther as a counter-choice of “coolest Pokémon”. Its descriptions in the games have gone from “its movements are ninja-like” to “some call it a ninja” over the years, and recently made the note of “it’s very popular in Alola”. Alola being one of the regions based on the United States, that definitely feels like a dig at a certain ninja-flavored show being very popular among U.S. demographics, especially since its supposed popularity isn’t reflected anywhere else in the dialogue or mechanics. Maybe I’m just reading into this too much, though.
Granted, the rest of its Pokédex entries do read like a twelve-year-old describing their favorite anime character. It moves too blindingly fast to track! It can literally cut the air in two, and cleaves logs in a single wicked stroke! It looks like a ninja! It tears prey apart with scythes!
For its silliness, I’ll give Scyther a pass on using scythes for its arms. While generally using a scythe in any offensive way is utterly ridiculous (why would you ever ever ever use a weapon where the blade faces the user?), Scyther’s are bent in a more believable way (out and down). Plus, it mostly just uses them to cut through grass and foliage – y’know, the actual purpose of a scythe – so they do make proper sense on this creature. Also, y’know, Edge Factor™.
Side note: Scyther’s French name is Insécateur. No exciting etymology there – insect and clipping-shears – but it is delightfully fun to say. You know what does have a more interesting etymology? Its Japanese name, Strike. Just a straight loan-word for attacking things. A little on the nose, perhaps, but so is Scyther.
Scizor’s main new feature aside from its metal plating would be those crushing-claws, which look less like a mantis’ slender arms, but certainly act more like them, since mantises are generally more about grabbing and crushing prey than cutting into them. Great so far, and they feel like a better fit for a heavy, metallic creature, anyway.
But it also uses them for automimicry – that is, imitating another body part, which is an animal trick that mantises decidedly do not participate in. Actual mantises hunt with Scyther-like ambush tactics. Scizor, meanwhile, actively uses its false eyespots to intimidate and misdirect prey with the illusion of having three heads, which is a snake tactic if anything. Notably, eyespots are much much more often a defensive adaptation than an predatory one, making it an even odder choice.
While this doesn’t make a lot of sense on paper, I do like it as a thematic follow-through from Scyther to Scizor. Scyther has to ambush prey quickly, overwhelming it with speed and sharpness. Scizor, meanwhile, is a more powerful fighter with more technical ability, so it can face opponents more directly, which makes sense as an evolution and a refinement.
Last note: neither Scyther nor Scizor can fly using their wings; they assist more with gaining speed than anything else – and, in Scizor’s case, with cooling its body. Hey, a full metal coat has gotta get stuffy, and where Magnemite isn’t organic enough to probably care and Steelix can burrow into the cool earth, Scizor has to have its cooling mechanism built into its biology. We won’t always get these kinds of touches, but it’s nice when they do show up. It’s one of the things I really like about Pokémon; it’s one of the few monster-taming series to give enough thought to how an iron-shelled fantasy insect wouldn’t die of overheating.
Scyther and Scizor are surprisingly big-league, and earlier on were some of the closest Bug-types to being a Must-Have that isn’t named Butterfree. I’m sure we can deal with only having them on the Reserve rotation – more popular bugs have come up since – but I always do look forward to seeing these two around.
For those of you who wanted a more organic Scyther evolution, Kleavor has you covered.
For those of you who believed Gary Paulsen that a hatchet is the single best tool for the woodland, Kleavor has you covered.
For those of you who just feel disappointed at lumberjack representation in Pokémon, you may be a small audience, but Kleavor still has you covered.
Scyther has been hardened and honed here, gaining a Rock defense and pushing her stats even farther toward well-rounded-with-an-attack-focus. And I like how the look reflects it, too. Obviously she’s built for taking out trees, but she’s also got those chunky hind limbs and stone circles around her shoulders that make it look like a normal attack will bounce right off. Plus, you’ve got those nice chips in her hatchet-arms, at once making it look like she’s an old warrior who’s seen their share of battles and like a rustic fogey getting by with what she can manage.
It’s like a compromise between Scyther’s edge and Scizor’s hardened armor looks, but with a slight shade of a wizened look about her – unsurprisingly a lot like other Hisuian newcomers. I’m absolutely here for a set of ‘dex additions having a shared theme, and I love how that flavor plays off of the existing family here.
Also, it tickles me to no end that she’s got a stony beard, as a woodcutter should.
As Pokémon does so often, Kleavor is a whole-monster pun – and not the obvious cleaver name. Mantises have a common name of axe bugs, and, well, this is the most axe-bug you’re liable to get in this or any other series. On the nose in its original language? Sure. But, as mentioned, Scyther is an incredibly on-the-nose design, so Kleavor makes for a snug-fitting evolution.
In short, my opinion of this family hasn’t changed. They’re solid designs with a strong following, and while the series doesn’t always push for them in center stage, they’ve got a lot going for them as series regulars.
Any and all appreciation for Scyther, Scizor, and Kleavor is welcome in the comments!