Yet another Pokémon that I used to not think much about, but the more that I do, the more I love the little blighter.
He’s not much like a remora at all – at least, not on his own – and in the original Japanese isn’t even named after one. Rather, he’s more of an archerfish, those fish that shoot down flying insects by spitting water. And they’ve redesigned the actual animal to mimic a pistol, to boot.
His tail being split into a “grip” and a “hammer” is a neat little touch, as-is his forehead having an impractical “sight”, but the real get is how his body is a round barrel, bigger in the rear than in the front. This lil’ fella is a swimming six-shooter, complete with horizontal stripes that mimic a revolver-barrel. This coloration is endemic to real-world archerfish, too, so the stripes aren’t even a new feature – they’ve just been rotated a bit from nature’s model.
Maybe I’m dense, but the fact that I looked at dozens of these things over a decade before they finally registered as a gun-fish speaks to how smoothly the design works. As a realization of the stock “Water Gun” move, he doesn’t even look that flashy – he’s just a neat little fish who’s doing great at his job. This one gets full marks to the designers.
Everybody goes through the reaction where Remoraid-to-Octillery seems like a totally arbitrary and nonsense evolution. Eventually it “clicks” that the real evolution here is from a Colt to a Howitzer, and whether or not it lands at the time, it’s still pretty clever for the series.
Hey, if a static-wool sheep can evolve into an “electric current” pun, we can get fish that undergo a metamorphosis to stay on-theme. Remoraid-to-Octillery isn’t a perfect family – it might fit better if the series wrote them as sharpshooting rivals – but I don’t need everything to follow perfectly logically in my kid-oriented franchises. Sometimes an spitting archerfish to an ink-shooting cephalopod is enough of a connection.
Octillery himself isn’t a perfect representation of an octopus, either, but I don’t think the series was ready to give us the more realistic, sea-monster interpretation. Granted, we don’t know for sure that Octillery doesn’t have a beaky maw betwixt his tentacles, but in a real animal, that “mouth” further up is just a siphon for burping out ink and whatever other beam attacks he knows. It’s almost a shame to see the cephalopods get abstracted in this way, especially since Pokémon hasn’t wavered from wild zoology in the past.
That aside, I’m a bit fifty-fifty on his actual design. Fire-engine red is rarely my first choice for a monster – especially not a fire critter – but I do like the chunky callouses on his tentacles and head. The yellow in particular makes them look like rivets, giving him a much sturdier, almost industrial feel.
The text, of course, insists that they’re suckers, but I’ve always willfully imagined this fella as being more amphibious, crawling out of the water to leverage its wide, chunky build and bully itself up a lunch. Doesn’t that make a nice addendum to the evolutionary process, too, going from a predatory swimmer to a hybrid terrestrial critter just like our forbears? Well, I’ll even take river-fish to ocean-critter as something of a progression, moving into bigger waters as it matures being a neat little metaphor.
Oh, and the spiral that goes from its eyes around the snout nicely breaks up an otherwise monotone monster. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but it also doubles as a nice nod to how the spiral-shelled nautilus is a close relative to modern octopodes. Fun detail.
Octillery isn’t how I would’ve made an Octopus-‘mon, but he turned out all right in the end.
As it stands, he’s pretty much a stationary cannon in the games. Irritatingly slow, with okay-ish defenses, but man alive does he have a versatile attack repertoire across way more types than your average monster. Unfortunately, he hedges his bets a bit too much – Pokémon tend to benefit from favoring one attack stat over the other – but that versatility is fantastic for people just playing the games’ campaigns.
It bears mentioning that his signature attack, Octazooka, isn’t that great, but he gets style points for having one at all, especially one that’s so fun to say out loud.
On another mechanical note: Archerfish normally spit out water. So do Remoraid, going by the Pokédex text.
But as far as I can tell, these guys will spit out anything.
Just look at the moves Remoraid learns naturally in Sword & Shield. Psybeam, Bullet Seed, Ice Beam… these fellas will shoot you down with anything that they can get their puckery little mouths to shoot. It’s like a twisted version of how some animals get clever and use tools – Remoraid just uses them with his gob.
Remoraid are also famous for one other thing, but that depends on a monster not yet covered on the blog. That’ll be coming up very soon, but suffice it to say – force-spewing water out of your mouth has more than one use; even on his own, he can leverage it to jet out of bad situations. Clever little tyke.
Octillery’s descriptions, on the other hand, can feel a little more off-kilter. For one, his habitats used to be described as holes in rocky crags, before later stories started adding “or pots” to the description. I suppose a clay pot is something like a tiny cave, but can you imagine walking into a friend’s home and seeing a goofy red octopus pop out of a big ceramic vase?
I can, and it’s super-charming.
The other thing that doesn’t sit perfectly is Octillery’s “rock-hard head”, which feels ridiculous for an invertebrate. Perhaps that spiral around Octillery’s eyes and nose are meant to indicate that he has something of a “helmet” built into his noggin? Even then, how would it hold in place well enough to be any use when he has no spine? There’s just no real need to add this detail when he’s got eight perfectly-good crushing limbs and a cannon-snout already. He’s decked out as it is, lads.
The thing he does well, though, is that apparently Octillery’s ink contains an agent that dulls the sense of smell. A nice fringe benefit at a glance, but consider a few other ocean predators with notoriously-keen senses of smell. That kind of counter-play is animal adaptation at work, and we haven’t even seen a shark monster yet for it to be specifically aimed at. All in due time.
But the games muddy this yet again by insisting that the ink is used in cooking. Smell is, of course, inextricably tied to a sense of taste, so why oh why would you ever put a dulling agent in your food?
The explanation that most readily comes to mind is that it’s used to mask the more pungent and undesirable elements of other ingredients, which is something that real recipes can struggle with. It doesn’t seem too strange, then, that the culinary equivalent of odor-eater would be invaluable, and it adds yet more fuel to the fan-favorite hypothetical of “which Pokémon is most edible?”
I appreciate Remoraid, but Octillery is a little more all-over-the-place for me. Not to mention that this is one of those families where, if you include one in the games, you almost by necessity have to include a few other monsters as context, effectively doubling its family size. I certainly don’t think that’s necessary for every game, but I’m always pleased when they do come ’round, so I’d put this family in Reserve.