Delibird

#225 – Delibird

Oh, Delibird. You’re the very definition of a one-off. You don’t evolve to or from anything, you have a unique move that’s entirely impractical, and you’re even themed as a holiday novelty.

Delibird is by default the “Christmas Pokémon”, clearly based off the red-and-white Santa Claus motif – complete with a feathery “beard” and a little bag she carries around. But, at the same time, those elements feel like they’re a natural part of her body, being easily written off as breast-feathers and an odd tail respectively. The end result is perfectly functional, if goofy.

Personally, I’m a big fan of penguins, and though this one feels a bit weird – the sunken eyes behind its plumage-mask feel a bit upsetting – I can appreciate what they’re going for.

As noted, Delibird’s signature attack has a chance to blow up in her face, which isn’t a great sign for her usefulness. It’s a novelty move that’s attributed to a novelty Pokémon – Delibird’s only okayish stat is her speed, which is still below-average, and she has some dead-common type weaknesses that will outrun her and shut her down four times out of five. There’s a good reason you don’t see her on many teams.

That said, there’s some fun novelty to be had with Delibird, especially with how the series keeps mechanically tying her to the secular Christmas holiday without specifically calling it out in-universe. His overall Pokédex number is 225 – the closest they’d get to “12/25” for a couple of decades – and the only attack move he learns naturally comes at level 25. Sneaky sneaky. And that special move?

“Present”, in case things weren’t obvious enough.

In practice, the games’ text twists this generosity into a form of service; rather than “gifts”, Delibird’s pouch-tail is loaded up food that it distributes to stranded hikers. It feels like a rough equivalent of the classic image of a Great Bernard with a barrel about its neck, rescuing those lost in the snowy Alps. That’s an actual phenomenon, by the way, and not just a nice story – the Great St. Bernard Pass hospice has been doing dog-driven search-and-rescue for half a century now. Of course Pokémon has copied this seven ways to Sunday, but Delibird doing so by nature makes for a charming story that dovetails with the “harmonious coexistence” narrative the series loves to push.

It even nests specifically around sheer cliffs and mountains – specifically Everest, making it the fourth or so monster to call out locations that exist in the physical world, although the entries stopped mentioning Everest after 2003. We’ve been over this before, but the cherry-picking of real-world locales does start to feel especially weird when they’re calling out something as specific as a singular peak.

Of course, Delibird also assert their dominance by who’s carrying around the most grub. Who’s to say how much less valuable philanthropy is when it’s performative?

Delibird also gets us one bit closer to the “are Pokémon edible?” problem; with Delibird being omnivorous (which is more plant-friendly than real penguins, at least), it notably bags up bug Pokémon and offers them to stray travelers as rations. It doesn’t say that humans necessarily expect this food, so if you’re generous, you could call that a misunderstanding based on different values.

If you’re not, well, at least Bugs seem to be some of the simpler Pokémon.

Christmas is nice for a little bit each year. We don’t need it all the time, just like we don’t need Delibird all the time, though both still fill a valuable role. Into Reserve he should go.

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