Sure is a blowfish, innit?
I really want to be cleverer about it, but Qwilfish is one of those monsters that’s very clearly just a transposition of a real animal. That’s clearly the comically-round body of an inflated blowfish, with pouty cartoon lips for the real thing’s pouty lips, and angry-eyes because apparently Poison-types are inherently grouchy and antagonistic.
He does give us a few points of interest, though. For one, his lack of fins is a little ridiculous, but it does put him a little bit closer to the other reference he’s probably drawing from. That pure, spiky ball-shape with just the rudder – and especially his capacity to Self-Destruct – speaks to a naval mine, cleanly linking an animal to a man-made item as a single concept (which speaks to how much of engineering is inspired by nature). His low-impact blue-and-cream color scheme even evokes a seafloor camouflage, mimicking the ocean and its sandy bed.
I’m still not quite sure what the actual rudder-tail is going for here – it could be yet another example of automimicry, if not for his original design – but overall, he’s a solid version of the thing he’s trying to represent.
Unfortunately, while Qwilfish has a few strong points, he can feel a titch flimsy to use, which is a shame when he’s so obviously meant to poison and lay down hazardous spikes. Luckily he’s got a ton of type resistances, but his staying power overall is still iffy, his passive abilities are so-so, and his movepool doesn’t especially play to his on-paper strengths. Instead, he gets lots of flavorful one-off moves like acupressure (playing to his spiky self) and Stockpile/Spit-Up (for blowfishes’ water-inhaling defense mechanism). You could have some fun with Qwilfish, sure; he’s just not exactly the most inspiring teammate.
Overall, I think my biggest disappointment with Qwilfish is that he’s a great base that doesn’t really have enough oomph on his own – like he really needs an evolution to help him stand out. Granted, I love having fun, one-off wierdos that add color to the world; not every real animal is a tiger or a penguin, after all. But the problem with Pokémon is that describes entirely too many species at this point: strong core ideas that nonetheless don’t fill a specific niche or stick in memory as “distinctive”. But Qwilfish’s relatively simple design gives it some room to build visually – so let’s do that real quick:
On the “naval mine” track, I could see this kiddo evolving into a Water/Steel monster, or better yet: a Water/Fire mine-fish, a unique combination for a common Pokémon with three double-resistances. Think of it like an underwater Voltorb if you must: cast your reel in the wrong spot and get unlucky, and you’ll fish up not the usual cartoon trash, but a monster that might explode in your face or counter the Grass-type you likely have at the ready. It could add a nice level of risk-reward to high-level fishing encounters.
Or you could go in a poison-gas-bomb direction to mimic an underwater Koffing of sorts; really go in the grungy, unhealthy-looking direction. Give it a punk look. Maybe even a little hint of “ocean pollution” flavor. Go the whole nine yards. The kicker is that we kind of already have this archetype in other evolutionary lines, but honestly, I would take a shared niche for this poor fella over being kinda forgotten.
At least the guy gets a fun note or two in the flavor text. For one, he marks a point where the series starts sanitizing itself a bit, with entries noting that his spikes “inject a toxin that causes fainting”. With real-life blowfish notably being enough-to-kill-thirty-men potent, the fact that he can only cause a mostly-harmless knockout feels like a marker that the series is already skirting around the graphic violence in favor of a Looney Tunes approach. For that matter, do competitive Pokémon suffer from serial concussions or other long-term health issues from repeated injury? Surely some fanfiction writer is all over that.
The other nugget is how the games actively acknowledge that Qwilfish would be an absolutely impossible swimmer with no pectoral, dorsal, or ventral fins at all. How does it steer? Incredibly poorly.
That must make it either an herbivore or some manner of trapper-hunter, the latter being a great tie to modeling itself after a manmade hazard. Either way, it’s always a little fun to see Pokémon as a series take a step back, hang a quick lampshade on its own cartoon logic, then keep skipping along while embracing that little bit of silliness.
I personally like the relatively simple appeal of Qwilfish, but he’s yet another monster who doesn’t especially add a lot to the series aside from checking off a real-life animal. With an evolution to breathe some life into him, I could see a real niche for Qwilfish in the series. As-is, I feel like he could easily be put into Reserve, if not outright Retired.
Oh, he angry.
I personally don’t like the idea of an ocean-dwelling Pokémon that isn’t part-Water, especially not one that spends its entire life swimming. It feels like we’re missing the forest for the trees here, doubling down on the “offensive and territorial” angle while missing the most basic thing about his biology.
But hey, I do like the new color scheme. It’s a bit less camoflague-y, but that makes him easier to spot when surfing around in Legends in particular, and now there’s no doubt that he’s super-duper toxic. The baggy eyes are even a little bit more focused, where Qwilfish was a bit more dopey with his pupils farther up, and he’s lost the auto-mimicry in favor of… a “q” on his tail?
Given how little Qwilfish actually changed, he makes a fun comparison of older design sensibilities in the series to where we’re at now. There’s a lot of doubling-down on smaller details, which helps them feel more individual at the cost of some broader appeal, I think.
Either way, a new form of a previously-solo Pokémon implies something else:
Well, of the places I expected or hoped a Qwilfish evolution to go, this isn’t one of them.
I dunno, Overqwil feels like more of the same to me. Puffier, spinier, grouchier. The “q” on his tail is now a “Q”, which is doubly-nonsense considering that the Latin alphabet only exists in-universe as Unown. I find it hard to see what he adds design-wise aside from using poisonous spikes as angry eyebrows – which, granted, is a very charming choice.
He’s definitely more usable in battle than Qwilfish was, though that isn’t hard, and I don’t think his lore brings much to the table, either. “It slurps up poison to nourish itself” doesn’t say much – does Overqwil prey on other Poison-type Pokémon? On waste from human settlements, despite Hisui having much different human development? On naturally-occurring compounds normally poisonous to other creatures?
I guess I just hyped myself up too much before with my elevator pitch, so seeing something relatively safe by comparison feels like a disappointment. Overqwil is safe by comparison, and touches up a previously-neglected line, and that’s fine and dandy. But it smacks of something unnecessary, like this would be one of the first designs to Retire for its redundancy.
They tried, I suppose, and I definitely get a few laughs out of how goofy he looks. They can’t all be solid gold home-run designs.
Any and all appreciation for Overqwil and Qwilfish is welcome in the comments!