And she’s all the better for it.
Togepi is the first in a long tradition of monsters specifically designed to show off a new game mechanic. In this case, she embodies the introduction of eggs and, by extension, a whole system of animal breeding (with the ickier edges rounded off). What better way to do that than with a monster that’s still only half-hatched?
I like the look of a roly-poly monster in a roly-poly egg, and that very Bart Simpson crown of spikes on her head helps keep her more interesting than just an oval with limbs. Then there’s the little sleepy creases around the outside of her eyes – because infants are so often napping- and those almost confetti-like patterns on her shell to add a splash of color and suggest something between a painted Easter-egg and a speckled bird egg.
For all the ways they could have adapted “it’s an egg” into a monster, Togepi is a pretty good one. She keeps the idea wide enough to extend to all Pokémon (avoiding being a clear bird or reptile), but still includes a distinct newborn-ish-ness while making her into something that would toddle around on her own. Plus, using the eggshell as an abstraction of a diaper? Togepi really is the baby-est of the baby Pokémon.
I’ll admit, I kind of lose the plot a little with Togetic. Her body has the same eggshell-fleck-confetti, but as a fur pattern, or just part of her skin?
Granted, Pokémon eggs seem to be patterned after the monsters they eventually hatch and evolve into. But seeing it in practice here – and knowing that Togepi’s “body” was more of a cream color – it looks more like the monster is a fairy comprised entirely of that shell. Judging by the flavor text, this is not the case, and a color-filtering to make Togetic that creamy color looks off. Nitpicky? Perhaps. But it’s the genuinely thing that stands out to me the most.
Otherwise ,Togetic kind of feels like nothing. She’s got Togepi’s crowned head and flippery limbs, but the rest of her features seem very grab-bag. Two little wings that are clearly just vestigial, a body shaped kind of like an ostrich’s but not enough to commit to the design, and a general whiff of generic “fairy” (unsurprising that this line got recast as Fairy-types when the type was introduced).
She feels very much like one of those awkward middle-phase monsters, except she was the final stop on the Togepi Train for quite some time. And man, if it ended with Togetic, that would be a real train to nowhere.
Togekiss, at least, feels like it’s based around a cohesive idea – and potentially a really interesting one at that. Following Togetic’s non-committal, Togekiss’ entire body is one giant pair of cutesy, cartoony fairy-wings, with a little dusting of speckles on the chest that feels more natural for a bird-adjacent creature.
I’m still not a huge fan of how the coloration is inconsistent across the evolutionary line here, but at least Togetic contextualizes things properly by making that white color indicative of a poofy, fluffy down. I kind of dig the idea that Togekiss is basically one big, flying pillow; I bet tons of kids have a plush one in their room that they can flop down on like a bean-bag.
It also makes her the first, and still one of the very few, evolved flying-type monsters that aren’t overtly based on an definite animal, and as a result she’s possibly the purest example of a flying-type. Note that I say she’s not overtly based on an animal here – we’ll get to that in a moment.
Suffice to say, it makes some sense that the egg Pokémon (well, aside from the other egg Pokémon) would evolve into some form of a bird, and I’m happy that Togekiss gives us that. She’s a bit bulbous and silly, sure, but that just gives her a different sort of charm, and a body shape that looks like it would be somewhat egg-shaped when nestled in. She’s kinda just cute, and in a much more natural way than Togetic could manage.
Togekiss is a tough cookie in the main games; she can feasibly be evolved into her final form very early, has a potent Special Attack stat and solid defenses, and gets a wide movepool to play with – plus that clutch advantage against powerhouse Dragon-types. The downside is that none of her attacks are inherently very potent and she has plenty of elemental weaknesses, but hey; those seem like fair trade-offs in the end.
So while it’s not obvious from her body shape, there are a lot of signs pointing to Togekiss being a romanticized interpretation of an albatross. My evidence comes in two parts:
- Albatrosses are known for having massive wingspans, and were previously considered legendary and rare. Togekiss is nothing but wingspan, and its entire family is virtually never found in the wild in the games.
- Common folklore around the albatross relates to it being an omen to sailors, either of good luck or bad depending on who tells the story. All of Togekiss’ (and its pre-evolutions’) flavor text in the games and a fair few of their abilities revolve around bearing luck and good fortune.
- None of the other 890-ish monsters so far are based on an albatross, and any animal that’s missing from that count is slightly suspect at this stage.
The folkore I find to be especially compelling fuel for the fire. In seamen’s tales, the albatross is first mentioned as an sign of good luck until it’s killed in the story, becoming a curse that metaphorically hangs about the sailor’s neck as a sign of guilt.
Pokémon, on the other hand, has a much more complicated relationship with hunting practices, especially after the first generation. Considering how the series “softened up” around 1999, we can infer a little cause-and-effect from the series making it big internationally, provoking a wider-spread opinion that the games fantasized trapping of semi-sentient creatures and uncomfortably approximated cockfighting. Regardless of the cause, the series has been playing animal treatment way on the safe side for the lion’s share of its existence now.
Togekiss feels like an indirect testament to that. In a world where the poetical mariner never shoots down that albatross, it continues to be seen as a symbol of great fortune. So it is with Togekiss, a broad-winged fairy seen only in times and places of peace, bearing blessings for the good-natured. It’s even an in-universe emblem seen on good-luck charms.
Sword & Shield break that up a bit, noting that “in recent times, they’ve hardly been seen at all”. Possibly a sentiment echoing more on the current state of the real world, with bad news being more visible than ever before in the communication age? Or an omen specific to the Pokémon setting, where depending on what timeline you’re in, the world has nearly come to an end half a dozen times in the last decade?
Oh, right, the Pokémon series takes place across multiple alternate universes nowadays. Isn’t long-running, tangled canon fun?
Togekiss’ what-the-albatross-might-have-been nature could also be more simply attributed back to Togepi’s acting as something of a “happiness vampire”, absorbing positive emotions from those around her, storing them in her shell, and then sharing those with others.
While this whole family does have some in-game ties to good fortune – notably a range of attacks that never miss and passive abilities that raise critical-hit and status-effect rates – treating “happiness” as literal energy that a monster can feed off of is the most explicitly fantastical the series has gotten yet.
So are these just tall tales gathered up around treating eggs and rare wildlife kindly because they’re so fragile? Or are these things explicitly supernatural rather than mythological? Admittedly, probably the latter, which is where we have to kind of wash our hands of discussion since there’s not much in-universe logic to play with. Still, I kind of like the former interpretation of a mythology built up around exaggerating the mysterious qualities of a fairy creature contained in an egg.
Oddly enough, the Pokémon Company itself seems to be just as ambivalent toward Togetic as I am; despite Togepi being the first formally-introduced Pokémon from Johto by a country mile, Togetic was never seen in the anime until the series had already moved on to the next region despite Togepi being a major face for years. Even the manga avoided formally showing Togetic as anything more than a cameo for years, saddling a main character with a permanently-unevolved (and very thuglike) Togepi.
Of course, you could chalk this up to Togepi being more marketable, but then we have the slightly harder evidence that is the first Gold & Silver demo from 1997. In that early version of the game, Togetic doesn’t exist at all, either because she wasn’t finished yet or because Togepi was initially intended to be a standalone baby Pokémon. The latter isn’t even that far-fetched, considering how Pokémon will go on to have a lot of designs that fill mechanical niches while being too underpowered to be taken seriously.
As if to underscore her position as a mascot character akin to Pikachu, Togepi is one of the scarce handful of non-legendary Pokémon to have her and her evolutions’ name be the same across all translations. That’s something that even Eevee can’t say, and she’s had a main-series title revolve around her! I have to imagine that this is in part because Togepi was first introduced outside of the games, so having its name be the same everywhere saved a little bit of effort on the animators and voice actors when adapting the show to other languages. Still, that doesn’t explain the trick that years later, Togekiss follows suit by being the same in Japanese as in German as in Hindi – that’s just down to consistency, I guess.
In one last parting shot, Togepi learns to use Metronome at a relatively low level. Since you’re handed one for free in the Johto games (among other titles) and she was a regular in the TV series, this positions her as the main way people are introduced to the wacky “use-a-random-move” move. Poor Clefairy; all her unique and leading-character-worthy features have been co-opted by other creatures over time.
Togepi is a sweet lil’ egg, and in a reversal of the common opinion on baby Pokémon, she’s a pretty strong design on her own. Of course, Togepi has a lot of visibility to her, functionally being a walking signboard for Gold & Silver for a couple of years when the anime was at its height, and while Togetic still bugs me, Togekiss really pulled it out of the fire. We don’t need the constant living reminder that a sequel is coming or that egg-based mechanics exist any more, but she’s nice enough and unique enough to keep in Reserve.
Any and all appreciation for Togepi, Togetic, and Togekiss is available in the comments!