Lotad is entirely too easy to love. In fact, he borders on being one of those terribly-simple designs that’s so basic that it can only just work.
We’re all super-familiar with lily pads, even if we’ve never actually seen one in person, right? And we all know that frogs sit on them; that’s just a fact fed to us by decades of cute cartoon croakers. And hey, Lotad canonically loves to ferry other Pokémon across water, so that all holds well enough.
But you never see the underside of them. What’s going on underneath a lilypad?
According to Pokémon’s creative team, it’s something between a kappa and a water-bear – one critter that we’ve seen in a very different form, and another totally foreign to most media – and I applaud him on making such a successful mash-up of the two.
He’s got that blank, vacant stare. The awkward body shape. The bright primary colors. This is a cartoon character that knows he has simple, dumb appeal, and he’s pulling it off with aplomb. This is how you kick off an evolutionary family, folks.
Lombre suffers from middle-child syndrome, but he’s seriously leaning into it, so it’s hard to be too down on the poor lad.
Long, gangly arms and a weird single-strap-overall pattern (it’s supposed to be a charro getup, but it’s never looked like that to me) solidify the idea that he hasn’t quite grown into his own, and I’d back that up with how he looks a little amphibious. Like, I could see this guy crawling through the mud using his lily-hat (?) as a camouflage decoy, but that feels like a dopey half-measure of a hunting strategy that relies too much on him being at just the right depth.
He’s also turned Lotad’s wacky duck-or-possibly-turtle beak into a puffed lip that makes me vaguely uncomfortable. I’m sorry they did this to you, Lotad.
On the other hand, I kind of respect that this feels like a logical interpretation of what a Kappa could be. He dwells in shallow water and collects water in a dish on his head, just like the myth. But where the Kappa has an odd divot in his head, Lombre has a naturally-forming (?) dish on his noggin that both acts as a disguise and sensibly captures water for him. See, now this is the kind of multi-layered design that the series can really pull off when it sets its mind to it.
I still think he looks silly, though.
Now we’re talkin’.
Look at this clown.
He’s a pineapple. And also a pineapple tree? And a cactus and a mariachi dancer and still a kappa/lilypad and a colocynth and oh-so-much-more.
This goober is a beautiful, cacophonous mess, and that feels like exactly the point. I absolutely cannot look away from him.
Every single pose he’s ever been rendered in makes him look ready to hop out of the screen and do a little dance on your desk, and that relentless positive energy is impossible not to love. There’s a reason the only bit of merch I have from the live-action movie is a plush of this fella who screams at me when I whack him against the shelf.
Ludicolo is just fun. Pokémon is supposed to be fun. Therefore, Ludicolo is an A+ Pokémon, and no I will not be taking further questions at this time.
As it turns out, Water and Grass is a unique and darned good type combo – weak to only a few types (of those, Poison rarely attacks directly and Bugs tend to taper off early), and only Grass really resists both well. Pile on a diverse movepool, recovery moves, and solid Special stats (and, really, virtually no poor stats), and you’ve got a solid anchor – especially if you have the patience to get him rolling with a Rain Dance.
Quick brain-poison before we begin:
Lombre’s entire body is covered by a slippery, slimy film. It feels horribly unpleasant to be touched by this Pokémon’s hands. Lombre is often mistaken for a human child.– Pokémon Sapphire
Good thing Ludicolo brings it back around with the very literal Power of Music:
The rhythm of bright, festive music activates Ludicolo’s cells, making it more powerful.– Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen
How exactly a creature can be literally energized by music – let alone a specific type of music – is an exercise left to the reader. Maybe it’s sympathy with some genetic memory of human festivals, where humans were particularly grateful to nature in the form of food tribute? Maybe it just reminds him how big a fan he is of Footloose. But suffice it to say, Ludicolo is biologically reinforcing the series’ identity as something of a kids’ cartoon.
Seriously, I can’t get two sentences in about this guy without relishing in Ludicolo’s pure, joyful energy.
…and I absolutely cannot tag out of this article without directing you to Miror B., a villain in the Gamecube RPGs who uses a team of almost entirely Ludicolo, each with a distinct moveset. Best of all – the music that plays when you face off against him is, appropriately enough, aggressively campy. You know, just in case you were taking an E-rated game a bit too seriously.
Not at all like I do here on a weekly basis. Nope.
I absolutely adore this family – even middle-child Lombre. While I’m pretty sure you can build a Pokémon game without these three feeling like a missing piece, Ludicolo in particular feels like something of a fan-favorite to me. Maybe it’s that he got a special spotlight in the Hollywood movie. Maybe it’s that a major antagonist revolves around his aesthetic. And, gosh darnit, maybe it’s personal bias. We don’t need him, but we sure want him – or at least I do – and I won’t see him as anything less than a Reserve monster.
Any and all appreciation for Lotad, Lombre, and Ludicolo is welcome in the comments!