I used to not think much about Corsola, which is a shame, because I absolutely adore this little sucker.
Coral in general is such a wild feature of the animal kingdom, and utterly grotesque if you stop to consider it for even three seconds. Corsola, on the other hand, is a perfectly chipper gal floating along in the sea, bright-pink and with one of those Kirby-esque, permanently-grinning faces.
Even though we could read those little fore-nubs as “arms” and her white underside as a “belly”, her silhouette is sufficiently alien that she’s clearly neither a fish nor a mammal. She’s definitely odd, but not to the point that she stops being adorable, which is an important mark to hit in a series built on mascot characters.
She’s a solid design, but for a long time she was ultimately just one of those weird one-off characters who never got an evolution in either direction. Luckily, the recent years have been kinder:
…wait, did I say “kinder”? I meant the opposite of that.
Two decades waiting on an evolution, and what she gets is catastrophic, gruesome death.
Galarian Corsola is just sad – a poor, porous rock-creature whose holes are filled with what look like semi-transparent stalagmites, but are explicitly a crystaline ectoplasm. Either way, this poor thing looks very ill and haunted, right down to her tired expression. It’s just too depressing. Hopefully an evolution will cheer her up?
What happened to Corsola in Galar is nothing short of a tragedy, and I love every element of it. Corsola’s “body” is absolutely shattered like an empty piggy-bank now, with only her bottom half left. Her anxious innards are now suspended in mid-air, encased by that ectoplasmic growth. She’s trapped inside a haunted, coagulated tree, only able to stare worriedly out of a gaping, wailing maw.
I’m absolutely not a horror person, but this is beautiful. She even gets horrible spines down her… back? And a drooling, melting corner of the enclosure’s “mouth”? How her “spirit” is visibly anchored to what remains of her broken body? There’s just so much going on here without the design feeling overly complicated, and I love it.
Unfortunately, Corsola has always been a defensive and very slow Pokémon, not helped at all by having some pretty common weaknesses anyway. She can recover like a champion, which helps with spending on healing items and death-by-toxins, but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s slow going, which isn’t super-fun in the main game. Cursola turns this around with stupid Special Attack and much better typing, albeit she’s still slow and crumples to physical attacks. If you can keep her in, though, she sure packs a wallop.
So base Corsola is cute enough on her face alone. But then you consider that she and her Corsola-friends love to get together for Corsola-parties. Rather, they all join together in mutual cooperation to create big, floating colonies that other creatures can use as shelter – or that humans can build towns around. Y’know, like coral reefs. Except the Pokémon world’s reefs have their own autonomy, because of course they do. Corsola just do the job out of the goodness of their little hearts. It’s not clear that they fuse together like actual coral, so we have to imagine either that they just really like very long hugs, or that lone Corsola are brave adventurers.
Oh, that’s right! Coral isn’t a weird rock formation, in case you didn’t know – it’s a big ol’ pile of invertebrates who happen to co-exist nicely in colonies. Each is a bony shell that houses its own colony of tiny, starfish-looking critters called “polyps”. You can even see a highly-abstracted blob of these in Cursola’s “body”!
So why is Corsola a Rock-type, then? Because Corsola is specifically based on red coral, a family of corals whose skeletons are used in jewelry – as are Corsola’s shed “branches”. That makes Corsola either a natural-camouflage Sudowoodo situation where Corsola really is a living rock, or a gimme where Corsola just behaves so much like stone that it’s classified as one. The latter also raises a ton of interesting questions about how Rock-types work in general – are they just particularly rugged, or actual living stone by definition?
The big thing to talk about with this line is obviously the Galarian form, though – a perfectly-chipper ocean skeleton turned into an obviously-morbid ocean skeleton. It’s a great case of “the madness within” making the nature of coral more obvious in a fun, cartoony way – or it would, if Galarian Corsola were just some white form of coral. But that’s not what we get here.
It’s bleached coral.
“Bleached Coral” something of a natural phenomenon, but not one that nature does very often on its own. It’s a result of coral – or rather, the polyp creatures inside – forcibly expelling the algae that provide them with their color. Some coral can recover from this, but for the most part, it’s a permanent change that tends to lead to the coral starving to death, as seen recently in the very real Great Barrier Reef in 2016.
It’s also on the thousand-items-long list of symptoms of climate change.
Raising ocean temperatures – among a host of aggravating factors like invasive species and acidic pollutants – cause sea critters to behave irregularly, and in this case, self-destructively. Even otherwise-stable environments like long-lived reefs. It’s not unlike the situation with forest fires – some amount of this is healthy, and happens on a regular cycle. But because of various attempts to bend nature to suit civilization, it’s begun happening much more frequently, and more aggressively.
In Corsola’s case, this results in a literal ghost creature living inside a skeletal shell. In case the metaphor wasn’t thuddingly obvious, she’s also native to the Pokémon equivalent of the U.K., home of the Industrial Revolution, where the plot of the main-series game touched on failures to adopt sustainable energy. There’s even text within the games that outright states Corsola used to not have a Galarian form, until some sudden change wiped them out and turned their surviving members into ectoplasmic Ghost-types. And what else is more sudden on a natural scale of time?
Corsola is very much an animal that used to be adorable, but that the Anthropocene has explicitly done a great crime to, all made obvious without opening the Pokédex.
And now the two, in their way, fight back. Galarian Corsola actively resents humans, attacking and laying curses on anyone who comes into contact with them. They’ll drain your life in the same way that man-made sea change has drained theirs. Cursola supposedly even does classical petrification on divers, according to local lore – and backed up by her horrendous Perish Body ability, which dooms both her and her attacker to lose consciousness shortly after contact. It’s the circle of life, just on a much broader and more disgusting scale.
This isn’t the first time a regional form has taken the “adaptation to human folly” track, but it’s by far the most condemning. It isn’t even that far a leap from Corsola’s previous flavor text constantly insisting they require clean ocean water to thrive. Now that it’s been taken away, Cursola is the natural result.
Some thudding anvils still deserve to be dropped and crush our spirits in the process.
In early 2019, Corsola would’ve been straddling the line to Retire despite Pacifidlog Town relying on them. Now, with their Galarian Forms, they deserve a “most improved” badge for being a perfect, horrific encapsulation of man’s relationship to nature. And hey, that’s what this series is all about, after all. They’re one of the series’ better ideas of late, and I’d love to see them as a Must-Have if the series wants to continue its light jabs at environmentalism – though also be perfectly happy to see them pop in and out of Reserve.
Any and all appreciation for Corsola and Cursola is welcome in the comments!