Girafarig is a shining example of those odd non-evolving monsters that people seem to forget about. It’s kind of a shame, because on a second look I love what she has going on.
She’s pretty obviously a giraffe, sure, and those are very odd animals to begin with – as if nature hadn’t gone weird enough with regular horse anatomy. But one of the odder features of giraffes is that they have stubby horns, situated so high up as to serve very little practical purpose. Seriously, they look like a hold-over feature from a ram-like ancestor that natural evolution mostly got rid of before deciding that awkward scalp-stumps were “good enough”.
Luckily, Pokémon is great at capitalizing on quirks of evolution.
Those “horns” (called “ossicones” if you want to annoy people with your vocabulary) get abstracted on Girafarig and turned into bulbous, cartoon antennae. And, well, where could the designers possibly go with that?
Alien Mind Control.
It’s not a straightforward path to get to a psychic giraffe, but sure, it makes enough sense once you’ve traced that line. Plus, it produces something that barely grazes against the “what is that thing?” designs that the series does so well – more so when you consider that it’s both Normal and Psychic (especially at a time when Normal had only been paired up with Flying-type before). Why the odd dual typing when just Psychic would get the point across?
Probably because this is a two-ended creature.
In case the palindromic name didn’t give it away, Girafarig’s second tail isn’t just another animal fake-out. That head on its tail moves independently and contains a proper brain, which is all sorts of weird at first glance but less so when you consider actual animal symbiosis. Why wouldn’t you want a built-in second head to cover your blind spot? Girafarig has just taken that to full integration, resulting in a unique defensive mechanism.
That said, I don’t know that I like having the Stegosaurus-plates down her spine just to tie in with the largely-discarded “some dinosaurs had vestigial brains in their tails” myth. It feels odd to slap a reptilian feature on a mammalian one, and Pokémon is usually pretty good about avoiding that particular kind of incongruity. Then again, Girafarig is just a weirdo to begin with, and I’m not sure a giraffe’s ruff would look much better on her.
Last note: I love how her coloration inverts at the “waist” to a more okapi-like yellow-on-brown. It brings to mind the fun eight-year-old question of “is a zebra white with black stripes or black with white stripes?” Except, in this case, the answer is that both are true, because you have an animal potentially split down the middle.
As is true with an awful lot of non-evolving one-off monsters, Girafarig is kinda just… okay at best. Its only stats that reach “average” are Special Attack and Speed, and even its unique elemental types don’t give it many unique advantages. The best thing to say is that it has access to a ton of moves that let it fill in an empty spot on just about any team, but that’s something that other monsters can do just as well.
Of course, all the interesting bits about Girafarig come from that Chain Chomp on her butt. All of its Pokédex entries attribute so much to the tail that one has to think it’s actually putting in more work than the “head” despite its supposedly-smaller brain.
It bites and reacts defensively. It wields its own psychic power. It keeps a vigil watch 24/7. Slices, dices, makes julienne fries.
Now, despite this, it’s repeatedly asserted that the tail is incapable of independent, complex thought. But honestly, casting it as “lesser” is the more boring of three possibilities.
What appeals to me more is the notion that the two heads are equal partners, with the front being the face of the operation and food-seeker, while the rear is more of the survivalist brain. Enticing predators to sneak up on the more violent end on the creature would be a heck of a natural defense, after all. The “equal partners” angle is even brought home by its knobbly knees – not unknown to giraffes, but in this case, it creates the illusion that the legs could be double-jointed to bend in either direction, walking “back-to-front” if need be.
The final option is, of course, that the tail was the mastermind all along. No evidence at all for this one, of course, but who wouldn’t want to see that as an evolution to turn the tables and jazz up a neglected monster? Go ahead, Game Freak, turn those tables on us.
Author’s Note: the above statement was originally written in September of 2020.
In the name corner, while “Girafarig” is kind of a one-note palindrome, its names in Japanese and Mandarin call out its psychic nature more clearly: “Kirinriki” and “Qilinqi” (both of which read the same back-to-front, of course) are alternately mash-ups of “kirin” and “telekinesis” or “bizarre”. That even brings in another mythic element to Girafarig, though one that isn’t really capitalized on. I guess English isn’t dense enough to pack all that meaning into a twelve-character moniker?
I guess the greatest tragedy of Girafarig is that none of her more unique features are particularly pronounced. That second head is small and always facing away from the player, and those psychic antennae just look like giraffe-horns since the games’ animation doesn’t really showcase them as a focal point for Psybeams. As nice as the subtler weirdness is, maybe she would’ve taken off more if her motif was more obvious, like in her in-development design?
Girafarig is a delightfully singular creature, but one that doesn’t seem to stick with people much, and one who basically has no unique advantages over other monsters aside from its choice design. Unfortunately, her biology isn’t not enough to give her much staying power in people’s minds, and as much as I love her personally, I dare you to remember if she was even “cut” from Sword & Shield.
Sorry, friend. Looks like you’re destined for Retirement.
Paldea gives us a literal reversal of the previous Farigiraf. Instead of two heads, facing in opposite directions. All the old elements are there – the cream and orange and dark-brown furs, now layered on top of each other. Where once this creature was divided, now it is undoubtedly unified.
Oh, and the sylables in its name are reversed in every language, which almost universally still allows for fun palendromes or near-palindromes. Fun that the localizers all managed to find quirks in their own language to allow for that.
Interestingly, they’re still referred to as separate heads, and most of the text confirms the “separate but equal” reading of Girafarig’s twin brains. Each serves their purpose here – the hard dark-brown head acts as a helmet and bludgeon protecting the softer orange head, which in turn focuses its thought and directs it up through the antennae in the protective head. It’s a lovely pairing – one physically-oriented head and one mentally-oriented, which even lines up with how the game’s battle system is split between physical and special attack stats. Good stuff.
The only real thing that throws me about this design is its lack of tail – it makes sense, considering the old tail is now wrapped around the neck, but it also gives Farigiraf the look of a creature off-balance, that could topple forward at any time. Not the worst thing in the world – in fact, it keeps it looking charmingly awkward and lanky – but still something you’ll notice at a glance.
Farigiraf is, understandably, a step up gameplay-wise from Girafarig, sacrificing speed for a more survivable HP stat and strictly upgrading both of its attack stats. She also potentially comes with a very useful passive ability that completely nullifies single-target moves with any priority – your Quick Attacks, Aqua Jets, and even Sucker Punches. That’s some very useful predictive power, and enough to get it a spot on a team.
Another stand-out feature is Farigiraf’s dual pairs of horns – four total – which might not stick out on a first glance. After all, it’s a time-honored design tradition for Pokémon (and other creatures) to just become more when they evolve. But in this case, it sticks out since Farigiraf is more of a merging of existing parts – and the darker head was previously bald.
This is one of a few cases where evolving a Pokémon looks backward in the real-world evolutionary chain, to a shared ancestor of the giraffe and opaki. Sivatherium lies somewhere between those two and a moose, based on the huge protrustions from its head. But the rub here is that those are two sets of ossicones, not antlers – meaning that they had big ol’ nubs of nerves hanging out on top of their heads, a great basis for “enhancing” an ESP-focused equivalent.
In retrospect, it’s kind of a shame that those rear horns aren’t grander and more elaborate – but the series is going to keep circling the drain on giving
me us a pure moose Pokémon, it seems. Besides, it would break the “wearing my other head as a hoodie” illusion, which I quite like.
Farigiraf is a nice addition that gives Girafarig a bit more staying power – enough, I think, that it graduates the family up to something I’d love to see kept in Reserve and pulled out more often.
Any and all appreciation for Girafarig and Farigiraf is welcome in the comments!