Hoppip is a weird little gremlin. He kind of looks like a baby form of of Mew, but with two serrated leaves sticking out of his lil’ noggin. So the shoot-from-the-hip assumption here is that he’s supposed to be a catnip plant that’s natural prey of Meowth?
Taken into account that he’s supposed to represent a dandelion, things start slipping into place. The feline features? A play on the “lion” part of the flower’s name. A baby dandelion? A dandekitty! But importantly one that’s cat-adjacent rather than properly cattish. Gotta have some abstraction in your monsters.
And it also explains away those helicopter-blade leaves, which impossibly allow her to fly like the dandelion’s well-known seeds (and give her a fun-but-not-useful Grass/Flying pairing). Seriously, any fictional animal that runs its limbs like rotors is patently ridiculous; they’d need to either be disconnected in their sockets, or only allow for very short flights before impossibly knotting themselves. Boo; I demand reasonable biological construction for my fantasy monsters!
Unfortunately, the leaves are not the most recognizable feature of a dandelion, so it takes either a minute’s thought or an explanation for Hoppip to get to point where his design “clicks”. A base form should be the most easily readable of the family line, and Hoppip isn’t that, which doesn’t speak strongly for this line to begin with.
Skiploom does one better and uses his wide ears to parachute on wind currents, which I’ll buy more easily than Hoppip’s bananas flight mechanics. It’s still not perfect, but gliding is at least a step in the direction of actual animal behavior.
Unfortunately, the feline elements are dropped here and Skiploom underges a color change. While I deeply miss the visual pun already, I kind of like that Hoppip will go from a seedy, dull pink to a clorophyll-filled green before eventually toning things down in the next evolution. It’s a nice little cue to the creature’s life-cycle without being overt and drawing a beard on the thing.
Also of note: I adore these stupid, wide grins whenever we see them on a monster, and Skiploom might have the best one so far. Its beady, red eyes sure aren’t hurting any; on a more physical Pokémon, that’d be a very loud and creepy warning sign indeed. On Skiploom, it just makes him look like a doofus, which I’m here for.
And then we have Jumpluff, who is a weird basket of contradictory ideas. He kind of looks like he’s circling back to the Hoppip state, what with the greenery sprouting from his head and the rounder body, but he’s also the biggest and roundest of the three, so there’s definitely a sense of this being the end of the line for this family.
Speaking of, Jumpluff is the mature stage in a dandelion’s life where it’s past its prime and shedding off all its seeds – and, reasonably, some designer interpreted those seed-heads as a “pom-poms”. That gives him a sort of “cheerleader” appeal – a concept that’s definitely tied to very young people, which flies in the face of it being a late, reproductive stage of a plant’s life. Weird.
He also has the same body shape and coloration as an Oddish, though we can chock that up to him looking like something of a floating, bulbous balloon to justify those poms being able to carry him. I am distracted by what looks to be an unfortunately-placed third limb, though. I get that it’s supposed to be the remains of the tail that Hoppip and Skiploom gradually grew away, but in the angles that we see him, he looks more like a tripod.
I just don’t know where to land with this fella; he’s downright adorable, and at a glance I want to say he’s my favorite of the line. Those pleasantly round shapes and complementary colors really give him that fun, Kirby-like look. But as a core idea, this line has just zig-zagged all over the place.
Unfortunately, Jumpluff isn’t super-great in the games, either. He’s got great speed and solid defenses, but pitiful attack, some pretty common weaknesses, and in general just doesn’t have a lot to do. He can safely lay down status-effect moves and traps like Leech Seed, sure, but after that his major play is to just… wait the opponent out. Not generally a fun way to play a game.
I do have a fondness for Jumpluff’s original appearance in the games, where this white-eyed creep was letting off spores wherever it would fly. It’s a sort of menacing-cute, uncaringly dropping its seeds to potentially poison or paralyze anything in its path, or sow it with its own plant growth. Like a devious Johnny Appleseed, this one.
As much fun as predatory plants are, and with how much Pokémon is designed to facilitate them, it feels like kind of a shame that this line is as light and passive as it initially seems. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with a sunny, cuddly plant, of course, and I suppose it’s unfair to project expectations onto these things. Still it’s kind of a shame when I think they could have dug a level deeper with this one.
What they do do well is adopt behavior from an entirely different form of life: migratory patterns. Most real plants will either die off entirely or go into hibernation when permafrost settles in, doomed by their poor resilience to cold and inability to move. Grass-type Pokémon, on the other hand, aren’t bound by that second restriction, and frankly I’m surprised that more of them don’t adopt the habit.
(Why yes, I am suggesting that coconuts migrate; or, rather, that they ought to.)
This line in in particular makes a choice candidate for a seasonally-nomadic creature, and Jumpluff’s “float on the wind” shtick makes him a prime pick in particular for mimicking birds’ migratory patterns. Plus, they even cluster together to make themselves less flight-worthy, since a stiff breeze will tumble these suckers over (why are we using them for play-fighting again?).
In fact, packing “seeds sprouting” and “flocks returning” signals into one monster makes Hoppip something of a herald of spring, their mere presence being a sort of folksy kick-off of the planting season. Jumpluff in particular migrate across regions, which implies that the different settings across different games should rotate their native species based on the calendar year (though, to date, only the Black & White series reflects this in its gameplay). The whole thing makes for a nice little translation of the old-school, sun-in-the-sky style of weather prediction into character-driven behavior, which is the kind of detail that makes the setting feel more alive and dynamic.
What isn’t dynamic is Skiploom’s “flower”, which supposedly opens and closes based on the temperature, but in reality is just as perfect no matter where he pops up. This makes Skiploom something of a victim of his time, as species that could morph between multiple different forms (aside from the wonderful Ditto) would be introduced in the very next generation of games. He does get some benefits from sunbathing nowadays depending on his passive ability, but at the time this was mostly just flavor text. Gold and Silver were about the last set of games where the concepts and text felt truly limited by hardware, and while it forced the developers to do some interesting things, it also stifled them just as often. It’s no surprise that they’ve gone back and revisited some older monsters with regional forms to pave this over a bit.
A note on this line’s Japanese names, Hanecco and Popocco and Watacco: the “necco” suffix comes from nekko, “root”, which is one hard consonant away from neko, “cat”. Why oh why couldn’t they commit to the obvious Dandelion pun? It’s still present in their species names, and they were swinging for it with the first evolution; it’s like the latter two were drawn up by a different person (though I can’t find a source to back that up, presumably because citing an individual designer for each of over 900 Pokémon would be bananapants).
These are fun designs that adapt animal behavior to plants, which is kinda the core conceit of the Grass-type, so great on them. Sadly, they don’t sell themselves well, and fact that I (and others) kinda forget about these guys all the time is as sure a sign as any that this family is safe to retire.
Any and all appreciation for Hoppip, Skiploom, and Jumpluff is available in the comments!