Cartoon cows are weird. For every other animal, illustrators and animators will abstract away …certain parts of the anatomy. Leave ’em nice ad clean like a Ken doll.
For Miltank, that’s the focal point. They’re fully animated in the games, swaying back and forth as she does. Even in the official art, she’s giving them an approving once-over. Big, beautiful udders.
Double-standards aside, Miltank is a fun monster design. Rather than just making her a distaff counterpart to Tauros (which she still totally is), the designers went with a more whimsical, stuffed-animal interpretation of a cow, and… it works. As much as I appreciate how the series insists on rationalizing the critters’ bizarre biology, I’m ultimately not against an appealing but more abstracted animal here and there.
Moving a cow’s recognizable spots to her back makes the front face of the design much cleaner, and frankly it’s pretty impressive that you could probably even take away udders and tell pretty clearly that she’s meant to be a cow. This even despite the odd embellishments like the whimsical pink hide, Batman-y “mantle” around her head, and the orb on her tail. Pokémon really captures the essence of what makes these things appealing, huh?
She’s goofy, but Miltank feels like an inherently-likable Pokémon.
She’s also really fun to use in the games, oddly enough. Great health, defense, and (surprisingly) speed, perfectly-workable attack, and a built-in signature move to save on potions by healing herself. She even gets an ability that lets her hit the normally-immune-to-Normals Ghost-type, or otherwise a free resistance to Ice and Fire moves. Normal still isn’t a great type on its own, but she has plenty of strong points to make up for it if you’re not being super-competitive.
For evidence, look no further than Whitney, the Normal-type Gym Leader in Johto. She’s infamously the first “roadblock” of the game, with her Miltank absorbing stupid amounts of damage at low levels and dishing out one-hit-KOs once she gets going with Rollout. Especially for those relying on Cyndaquil or early-game bugs and birds, she’s memorably potent given that she appears three gyms into the game.
Miltank also opens up this weird box where she overtly produces milk (it’s even one of the better healing items in the game). The thing is, Pokémon also explicitly reproduce by laying eggs, which we normally think of as a feature of animals that don’t have mammary glands.
This means that at least some Pokémon are monotremes, a weird middle-ground of mammals that both lay eggs and produce nursing milk. Usually that’s a pretty niche group – as indicated by the fact that it contains the platypus – but you can’t argue that Pokémon as a whole aren’t just weird creatures.
And yes, other Pokémon do drink her milk directly from the source, and it’s shown in the anime. Turn your safe search on, I’m not continuing that train of thought here.
Rather, the Pokémon world is primarily seen through the eyes of a child – or, at best, a very young teen – and so Miltank from that viewpoint is just a nice, friendly, motherly counterpart to the heftier heifer that is Tauros. I really love that we have Pokémon like this that relate to other Pokémon without necessarily being a direct part of the same family. It helps make the world fuller to see these things have relationships that don’t necessarily hinge on mechanics.
Though, let’s be real, I’d be down for those two having a mutual pre-evolution named “Halfincalf”.
Miltank really ought to stay around for the “Moomoo Milk” item alone, but even without that she’s just a fun design that I like. Definitely not a series lynchpin, but I’m not terribly surprised that she stuck around for Sword & Shield, and the series does well to keep her around in Reserve.
Any and all appreciation for Miltank is welcome in the comments!