Spinarak, Ariados

#167 – Spinarak

Spiders are possibly the most obvious insects to put into a game as an enemy monster, and I’m honestly surprised we didn’t get one in Kanto. But we get one surely enough in Johto to right that omission, and she’s a cute lil’ bugger.

Pokémon really plays up the color palette in its roster compared to real-life animals – hence why so very few Bug-types are black, despite that being the overwhelming color choice of insects in nature. All the better to hide in shadows from a predator and all that.

But Spinarak really leans into the vibrancy; she’s all bright greens and yellows and reds, the latter two in particular being colors that the real-life animal kingdom has converged on as signs for “venom”. Little surprise there – spiders are somewhat notorious for being poisonous and aggressive, deservedly or not. I especially like that she uses Danger Colors on her little legs, though; it gives the impression that each one of those appendages could sting you, making her look four times as deadly.

The one thing that doesn’t work for me, though, is the choice to give the little gal both mandibles and a horn. We even get confirmation that Spinarak’s venom comes from her fangs, so what’s the point of having that horn there? A little one-foot-tall critter isn’t exactly going to get up to ramming speed, is it?

It seems to me like that spike on its forehead is just there to break up the design and make her look like she’s not just made up of two circles. Sure, fair enough. But there are other ways to accomplish that, namely by leaning into the creepy-cute notion of spiders having eight round, blank eyes. Heck, not to echo a refrain, but this is something we’ll even see in another monster later, so we know it can work. Give us something properly arachnoid instead of another decorative horn! And a fourth pair of legs while you’re at it!

Otherwise, though? Precious little spider, and I love the implicit venomous markings and pattern on her back. Good stuff.

#168 – Ariados

I’m fond of Ariados, all things considered. Like many of the better evolved forms, she’s got all of Spinarak’s better points, but refined and emphasized.

Those warning colors? Her whole body is all bright reds standing out against blacks now, or yellows against purple, the de facto visual shorthand for poison (her “Shiny” form is even more purple). She’s even got purple in her eyes – a literal “killer gaze”.

Additional upgrades include making her mandibles match her horn in color (at least that spike feels like it belongs now), adding two defensive poison barbs to her back, and Spinarak’s subtle back-pattern growing into a full facade of a face on the monster’s rear end, not visible here (but visible here, looking admittedly goofy). Automimicry for the win.

In fact, Ariados mimics a lot of things while maintaining her spidery aura. Her reduced leg count makes her look almost more wasp- or ant-like (ants and wasps are in the same order of animal, by the by), and her top and bottom mimic each other through limb placement such that a predator might confuse one for the other. What a tricksy monster to try and get a read on.

She’s a big, vibrant, dangerous spider with lots of spiny appendages. What more could you want?

Spiders are trappers by trade, so naturally what you’d hope for out of Ariados would be a little more staying power to take advantage of her poison-and-entrap kit. Unfortunately, all her stats are at are below average, she’s got some common elemental weaknesses, and no real recovery options or snazzy passive abilities. Ariados does have a unique signature move, but it’s not much to write home about; unfortunately, she’s mostly good for setting up for her teammates and then getting out of Dodge, which just isn’t fun to do outside of a player-vs-player setting.

Rather than any specific species of spider, Spinarak and Ariados seem to be a “greatest hits” album of all the best spiders. Japan’s native Joro spider is almost surely the inspiration for its coloring. Happy-face spiders and a slew of other arachnids have the same face-mimicking abdomens. Spitting spiders share the ability to spin web from their mouths. And orb-weaver spiders bear a similar history of being domesticated for their spun thread.

That’s right; Spinarak and Ariados are yet another member of the “gainfully employedclub. Oddly enough, the two are cited for having webs that lend themselves to different applications; doubly-oddly enough, Spinarak’s has the more industrial use through fishing. Ariados’ is called out as being more suitable clothing, but hey – perhaps her second-stage maturity lets her weave finer but equally-resilient thread? It would probably help her detect prey for trapping better, so sure, let’s go with that. The designers were definitely intending that reading and not at all making things up as they went along.

Spinarak and Ariados primarily trap and prey on other Bug-type Pokémon – specifically those modeled after flies – which serves as a nice reminder that most spiders are friendly and generally do well to trap the more annoying insects that really bug us. On the other hand, its stated prey in the games has a fairly cute and innocent design, once again ratcheting up a justification for arachnophobia. Ariados are even one of the de-facto “villain” Pokémon nowadays, right up with Arbok whenever the show needs something sinister-looking to throw at a protagonist. Dangit, spiders just can’t catch a break.

Ariados is even explicitly cruel and exploitative, trapping prey only to set it free later. Then it stalks the poor, frightened meal back to its nest, and all of a sudden Ariados knows where to find even more marks to feast on, bringing them back to her web and casually sucking out their bodily fluids from time to time like a juice bottle she’s left in the fridge. Insects aren’t generally portrayed as especially clever animals in most media, but I feel like Ariados may be one of the most devious and cunning monsters we’ve yet come across (barring the obvious Psychic-types).

The other clever trick that Ariados does with its thread is spin from both ends – from the mouth for offense, and from the abdomen for defense. Namely, it continually spins thread from its rear end, leaving a reliable trail back to its nest whenever it goes off on the hunt. If that tactic doesn’t sound familiar, I encourage you to read up on your Greek mythology.

The other feature of spiders, of course, is the Spidey-sense crawling up walls, which doesn’t really make a lot of sense for a three-foot-long, 33-kilogram monster. The hooks on her legs should be ripping the bark off of trees and chunks out of walls, making her ground-bound at her size. Then again, nearly all insectoid Pokémon should collapse under their own weight if they’re built remotely like real-life insects, so that’s one more on the “suspension of disbelief” pile.

Spinarak and Ariados aren’t perfect Pokémon, but they’re far from bad, and there’s good reason to be fond of them. I could see the pair being outdone by some other spider monster down the line, sure. But for right now, they’re holding their niche well. Reserve these two.

Any and all appreciation for Spinarak and Ariados is available in the comments!

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