I love these designs where everything about them screams a personality. Just look at Sneasel and tell me you don’t already know that she’s an absolute rapscallion.
In contrast to Heracross, where the directive was “accentuate existing features of an animal”, Sneasel is more “capture the feeling of that animal”. Actual weasels don’t look anything like Sneasel – they have more of a Furret body plan – but the way we associate weasels with thieves means that they read well as more of a dark gremlin. And it’s not like all the features are lost – you still have the claws and the very pointy head that comes with a rodent body plan, so it still all comes together to some extent. And those lithe limbs, odd two-pronged claws, and asymmetrical ears all make her look more than a little off-kilter, really feeding a “chaotic” energy.
Her high-contrast design really works for me visually, too – the red and gold really pop out against dark fur, giving her the appearance of a cocky, flashy thief – almost a fun prankster – rather than just a pest. And who doesn’t love the ol’ “phantom thief” trope? Even the would-be villainous monsters in this series are oh-so charming.
My favorite element, though, is the how the feathers and stones on her body seem like trophies; this little scrapper is flaunting the shiny objects and animal parts she’s stolen like some punk doing the decorative equivalent of running her mouth. The thing that gets me, though, is that she’s clearly lost her ear in a fight and replaced it with a stolen feather, which feels like a delightful middle-finger to “the haters”. Strike her down, she just comes back more fabulous.
Come to think of it, do all Sneasel have just the one ear, or are they born with two? Do we only ever see the mangled ones because losing an ear is some sort of tribal “coming-of-age” or hazing ritual? The latter would make some amount of sense with her occupying the venn diagram space between “stray animal” and “street gangster”, but none of the flavor text ever gives that much to us. Let your imaginations run wild, then.
It ain’t broke, so don’t fix it.
Weavile is Sneasel, but more. Sometimes those evolutions are boring, but sometimes – like here – they compound on what was already successful. She’s still got those gangly, impish proportions, but her claws are longer and more accentuated. Most of her asymmetry has been evened out now, from her claws being a more stable three toes to a properly-centered head absolutely kitted out with her ill-gotten goods. She does get a side-smirk with a snaggletooth, though, so that’s something to make up for the loss of her other ear.
Her changing into something more balanced doesn’t absolutely skewer her character, though. She looks more like a seasoned thief and, one with plenty of literal feathers in her cap. It’s less of a “back-alley” vibe and more the air of somebody who’s going to pull a heist on you, which ties in neatly as a way to evolve a thief.
Personally, I’ve always loved using Weavile in the games. She’s something of a glass cannon – she crumples if a Fighting-type so much as looks at her – but in a game where knockouts can regularly happen in one or two turns, her overwhelming speed and attack make her great for just bowling over NPCs. Plus, she has some great, varied moves in her arsenal, and translates well to competitive play. What’s not to love?
So, the biggest hook about the Sneasel family is that they’re ice-types, but don’t seem to be especially icy at a glance. Her color palette isn’t big on cold hues, and weasels aren’t exactly known for living specifically in cold regions – they’re found just about everywhere in the world.
To get an explanation, we have to once again go back to yōkai and folklore.
Sneasel is pretty specifically based on the kamaitachi, a weasel-like creature who rides on the wind and cuts into your skin with limbs like sickles. This is apparently one of those folk tales where details vary from region to region, but at least one blames them on the work of some evil god, and another claims that their wounds leave no blood, as it’s being sucked away. Gross.
While kamaitachi ride around on air currents, and most of those moves are associated with the “Flying” type, Sneasel herself isn’t much of a bird – plus, we’ve already got a dark bird, anyway. Instead, Sneasel’s look latches onto the fact that the kamaitachi is especially blamed on the “cutting” effect of freezing winds and the non-bleeding damage left by frostbite, so that turns into an association with blizzards and frigid climates. It happens to line up pretty well with the double-meaning of having a cold disposition, so while it’s a bit of a walk to get there, it fits well in the end.
Her name even triples up on this: “Sneasel” contains “sneaky”, “weasel”, “sneeze” (for the Ice type), and – if you want to read very generously – a Scottish word “sneesl” for oncoming rain or snow. Oddly, her original Japanese name (Nyura) is more in reference to painting her as a back-alley critter, from “nyuu” (mewing) to “nora” (stray) – but hey, it’s probably an easier reference to get and communicates the right idea about her nature. The French localizers seem to have missed the boat a bit, though, as their name of leprechaun-ferret is… a very broad interpretation of what this thing actually is.
There are a lot of wonderful things about how Sneasel and Weavile are characterized, from tree-climbing to how they plague breeders, but my favorite might be how they of all monsters get extensive notes on pack behavior. As a pre-evolution, they team up for smash-and-grabs on nests of eggs, but ultimately bicker about who gets to eat the ill-gotten goods. Weavile, on the other hand, is much more organized, staking out prey and moving as small, coordinated strike teams. Even from their first appearance – in a movie well ahead of their game debut – Weavile are almost always seen in at least a pair, and are all the more dangerous for it.
The best example – if a bit grim – comes from Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon, noting that Sneasel will overzealously stalk and ambush Sandshrew on their own and damage their claws on the critters’ hard hides in the process. Weavile, on the other hand, will team up to have one attacker flip the Sandshrew over so the other can get at its soft belly, then the two will divide the spoils. Why do we let adolescents travel in these woods again, with or without companions?
The other thing I really wish we’d be shown is Weavile markings. They apparently come in literal hundreds of unique patterns, each marking territory for a different pack. This sounds like aggressive behavior – and really impressive, at that, since they’re found marred into boulders – but apparently there are those who catalog and appreciate it. Huh; that sounds a lot like other visual marks that real-life packs get stereotyped for leaving in their neighborhoods.
I’ve just gotta know what non-human graffiti looks like.
Sneasel and Weavile are cool as heck. Great look, fun origin story, and tons of personality. Pretty much every generation gives us some form of “thief” and “rodent” characters, though, so while she’s easily among the best of both, it’s not like she’d leave a noticable gap in the roster if she was replaced. She doesn’t need to be, though, and I’d keep her on Reserve as a clutch pick to fill either role in ongoing generations.
Any and all appreciation for Sneasel and Weavile is welcome in the comments!