Man, does Pinsir look tough as nails. He’s a little dull and dusty-brown, but to be fair, that’s in-line with actual insects. Speaking of, a lot of them have really weird, unseemly body configurations like the great maw that dominates Pinsir’s torso, so it’s easy to forgive them moving his face to somewhere less-than-anatomically-correct in the interest of making a better visual statement.
In general, this thing just looks immovable. Those three-toed, stubby legs are made for planting itself on the ground, his stout shape and carapace have this “tanky” look, and mandibles the size of the entire rest of its body are just gnarly. I love how even Pinsir’s long, spindly limbs seem to exist exclusively for maneuvering prey into The Crushing Zone™. From a biological perspective, it doesn’t make much sense for spikes to be around the whole of Pinsir’s pincers (he’s not gonna side-swipe someone with his noggin), but man does it contribute to the “step off my ground” look. Not the flashiest bug monster, but one of the most effortlessly-intimidating ones in the game.
Game-wise, Pinsir is surprisingly great for a singular Bug-type; he has fantastic attack and acceptable speed, albeit maybe not the health to take special attacks very well (granted, two of the three types he’s weak to lean toward the physical, anyway). He gets some great-if-not-exciting moves to use with it, too, including a few all-in-one ways to deal with his type weaknesses. In short, he’s built to hit hard, and often enough that’s just what you want.
Pinsir unfortunately isn’t as popular as his peers, appearing almost exclusively as part of a set in the show and generally less often in the merchandising, which feels like a shame. I mean, look at the guy. He’s built like an action figure, complete with obvious points of articulation and a clear action feature. Seems like an easy win.
Speaking of it appearing as a set, I’m gonna take this as an opportunity to veer off into bug-collecting talk a bit. It’s pretty clear that bug-collecting (and, to a degree, the sub-niche of insect fighting) is a major inspiration for Pokémon as a concept, especially considering how bug-collecting (especially beetles) is by all appearances a massively popular summer activity for kids in Japan. It’s reflected everywhere just in video games, from Rogue Galaxy to Animal Crossing to Twilight Princess to even Monster Hunter.
But Pinsir really feels like the embodiment of that directly as a stag beetle. They and rhinoceros beetles (like Heracross, which Pinsir has something of a purported rivalry with) are far and away two of the most prized subjects of the bug-collecting obsession. With Heracross not showing up until the next generation, that leaves Pinsir at the forefront as a stalwart testament to Pokémon’s roots.
To that end, Pinsir feels like an especially bug-like Bug-type, with most of its flavor text revolving around its carapace and its massive mandibles (which are, to be honest, defining features of most simple insects). It slows to an immovable state in the cold, uses those pincers to burrow, hangs around in damp soil, and lives in trees. Yup, all very buggy.
Amusingly, its standing rivalry with Heracross is apparently less pressing than how territorial it is with other stag-beetle Pokémon. The two get into disputes all the time except in Alola, where the two get along great, presumably thanks to their mutual disdain for Vikavolt. It’s a nice way of the games acknowledging that they’ve re-used an animal as a monster design while leveraging it to deepen the world’s ecology, so that’s a big ol’ thumbs-up from me.
Diversion into the foreign naming corner: Pinsir’s Japanese name, Kailos, has about four puns packed into the first syllable of his name, between “X” (the Greek letter “chi”) and a triple-entendre on “large”, “brawny”, and “cut”. It feels like the homonyms’ equivalent of a Scrabble score multiplier. Also, his French name is Scarabrute, and while he’s definitely not a scarab, that name rolls off the tongue so well that it’s easy to forgive.
Pinsir isn’t a super-flashy bug, but he’s probably the most rock-solid specimen of a Bug-type monster out there, which should earn him a solid spot on the Reserve roster. I’ll admit that the games aren’t exactly hurting when he stays on the bench, but I deeply admire how well-put-together he is as a critter.
Any and all appreciation for Pinsir is welcome in the comments!