Following in the footsteps of Dragonite, every generation of monsters is going to have at least one of what fan-slang has dubbed a “pseudo-legendary”. They’re numerically one of the last monsters in the Pokédex, and gameplay-wise they’re found pretty late in the campaign or take ages to evolve – or both.
Good thing Larvitar is pretty cute, because he’s both: quite literally found in the very final area of Gold & Silver that you gain access to, and his experience levels then are in the teens (where your team is likely floating on seventy or more, and he doesn’t reach his final stage until fifty-five).
But he definitely looks like he can keep up with the big boys – or is at least trying. That chunky, 160-pound build, wide stance, and arms splayed out show that he’s trying to look as big as possible. That “horn”… fin?… is obviously cheating his height quite a bit (on top of acting as a rudder while he burrows), and he’s even got war-markings under his eyes in addition to a perma-glare.
Yes, lil’ guy, you’re very tough. Yes you are. Tough kid want a treat?
The fact that he’s designed as prickly but is functionally a toddler makes this monster a joy in the anime, too, since not only do you have him getting very clearly too big for his britches, but there are also cases where he’s treated as a shy little tyke. Awww. Rocky exterior, soft interior.
Larvitar just strikes that right balance between “starter stage” and “gonna kick your teeth in one day”, which is spot-on, especially for an end-of-the-game Pokémon who will inevitably turn Dark-type. Good kid.
Middle-stage Pokémon can be kind of forgettable – especially the many cocoons we’ve already seen and still will see. Pupitar gets something of an advantage in that Larvitar was more than just a little bug, so he turns into a pupa that can actively defend himself. He even has an attack stat that outweighs his defenses, which is both a welcome switch on the formula and the bane of any burrowers that would try to prey on this thing.
He even looks gnarlier than the other mid-metamorphosis stages, which probably speaks to just how weird and unnatural this concept is. This whole Larvitar line is roughly based on lizards and saurians, neither of which go through a chrysalis stage at all. Instead, the design follows its own sort of weird logic:
- Larvitar’s family has hard, rocky skin
- Insects have hard, chitin-y skin
- Some insects have a pupal stage
- Maybe Larvitar has one, too?
Cripes, can you imagine the second psuedo-legendary of the series being a full-on Bug-type imago? That’d really silence the conception of those guys being frail, early-game monsters that can’t keep up at the end-game.
Anyway, you’d think we’d run out of unique ways to do “cocoon Pokémon” pretty quickly, but I like how the stouter, more grubbin-y look with the big faceplate sets him apart. Even his stubby little “legs” push the idea that Pupitar isn’t sleeping in there. Poke this monster, he’ll lunge at you (apparently with pressurized gas, which is unique to this evolutionary stage?) and clobber you into the ground with his own darn body.
He’s a bit off-model biologically, but he makes for an excellent threat of what’s to come, and a great reversal on the “defenseless chrysalis” archetype.
There’s the big man on the block.
He’s a big dinosaur with armor plating. What more do you really need from him? I mean, at its core, the series wants to give us big, powerful monsters as much as cute, marketable ones. Tyranitar feels like the poster child for the former camp, drawing from every boy’s list of favorites from the T. Rex to King-of-the-Monsters Godzilla himself.
And I love all the sharp, graggy angles on his plates and divots. They just scream rough and explosive at the same time, giving him an even greater sense of impact than a sleeker lizard would.
It also feeds into the same idea that his deep, dark “vents” are hinting at, which went way over my head for ages. Look at that blue, Pupitar-ish section of his chest between his upper-body and lower-body plates. Then consider that his back splits further open in the games where he evolves even further. Now pile on his species epithet of “the Armor Pokémon”, and the fact that he’s gotten less dense since his adolescent stage.
Those black spots are just the spaces where the creature underneath can breathe. The core form of Tyranitar has armored himself using the very mountain around him.
Now, I definitely don’t want to see the soft, squishy monster that’s likely inside a Tyranitar. But just knowing that there’s some potent core in there, contained within a rocky shell, gives him the impression of both inner and outer strength. I swear, everything about this design is just firing on all cylinders.
By the way, you know how earthquakes are created, right? Big plates of the earth’s crust rubbing up against each other? Well, what happens every single time Tyranitar moves, scraping its chest-piece against its lower “armor”?
“This Pokémon is a mobile disaster”– Pokémon Ultra Moon
It’s kind of a shame that you get Tyranitar so late in the games, because he’s so obviously and overwhelmingly potent. Even considering a double-weakness to Fighting-type, his passive abilities give him an innate Sandstorm effect, he’s got plenty of move options to pummel you with, and the only stat he has below average is Speed. If you can find a game where Larvitar is available early enough – like the Heart Gold & Soul Silver Safari Zone – he absolutely wrecks shop.
Most of what I’d say about Tyranitar I’ve already said, because most of the in-game text and information we get around him boils down to “this thing will trample you flat and not think twice about it”. Which… we already get from just looking at this thing. For a series that’s big on friendship and teamwork and fun adventures, it’s kind of nice to have a Pokémon that’s canonically just perpetually, intensely battle-hungry.
And how does it get there? Hard knocks.
Much like other lizards, Tyranitar buries its eggs to keep them safe.
Unlike other lizards, Tyranitar buries its eggs deep beneath mountains.
From the instant a Larvitar hatches in the world, it has to determine up from down and eat its way out of the ground, amounting to many, many times its own weight in dirt. They want to see their mother’s face, or even the light of the sun? Better be ready to chew your way through a mountain, then go hibernate in a shell for a good chunk of your life-cycle.
No wonder Larvitar weighs more than I do at one-third the height. Tyke is basically pure, compressed earth at that stage. Explains its penchant for dark places, too.
For that matter, it’s no wonder that Tyranitar is forever on a rampage – Larvitar’s got some emotional development problems to be sure. At least eating dirt is kind of a thing animals already do, believe it or not.
One last hit from the Naming Corner – while the kaiju influence on these guys’ design is implicit on the whole, it’s baked into their names in Japanese. Larvitar is originally Yogirasu, taking hints from (An)girasu, the first-ever kaiju pitted against Godzilla – albeit Angiras is more of an ankylosaur to Godzilla’s T. Rex. Then Tyranitar is named after “tyrant” or “despot” in every Latin language – sure, maybe after Tyrannosaurus, but there’s at least some influence there from Godzilla’s “King of the Monsters” title. He’s kaiju all the way, baby.
I adore Tyranitar. He’s pure “big monster energy” in the same way that makes people fall in love with Godzilla. Sure, Pokémon has other options to get that same “village-flattening beast” flavor by now, which puts him in Reserve. But boy oh boy, nobody quite does it better, and I’m always delighted to see Tyranitar roaming around, not giving a toss about anything in his way. Hail to the king.
Any and all appreciation for Larvitar, Pupitar, and Tyranitar is welcome in the comments!