Taillow is pretty far back in the ‘dex order considering he’s more-or-less Pidgey 2.0, huh?
Possibly because we’re a bit deep in now, Taillow isn’t nearly as much of a mutt as the other common Normal-type bird Pokémon were; he’s more explicitly a barn swallow, from the forked tail down to the blue-and-white-and-red plumage. Definitely a fun, cartoon version of one, but a pretty flat interpretation for all the fun this series can tend to throw at real animals.
…which is odd, because he definitely looks like a design they took more liberties with, not fewer. I guess swallows are just fun birds. That translates to Taillow making for a more colorful early-game bird, so while I’m not sold on his uniqueness, I’m here for him all the same.
I do like how they handled his eyes, too. He’s got this big, childlike peepers, but they’re framed with angular edges to keep him from looking too adorable. Instead, he mostly looks like he’s trying to appear more aggressive and intimidating than he actually is – puffed-out chest and all – which is its own sort of endearing.
Considering that everybody and their mother is going to end up catching a Taillow, it’s nice that they went with a sharper, bird-of-prey design for his evolution. I also appreciate that we skip out on a middle phase here. It almost feels like an admission that this line isn’t meant to take up too much space in the lineup, just to fill that “early-game bird” role and get out of the way.
He’s also got a bit of a “Smug Dreamworks Character” look going on? Or is that just me?
Anyway, swallows are typically pretty docile songbirds in real life, and not particularly fast ones, either. Swellow overturns both of those, being an exceptionally-fast and pointy bird, and it’s that kind of subversion that’s going to earn Swellow his lunch. For all Swellow’s tough posturing, though, it’s nice to know that it’s got some vanity to it. That glossy “hair”? The sharp, attentive tailfeathers? What a total showoff – and good for him.
If we can already see a pattern settling in, the best thing we can do is stave that off through a little variation, inherent character, and reversal-of-expectation. I’m personally pretty fond of what Swellow is trying to do to carve out an identity for himself.
Unfortunately, the only decent attribute Swellow has other than his stellar Speed is an average Attack; he’ll crumple pretty easily, and Normal-Flying doesn’t exactly offer a ton of type coverage on offense or defense.
…oddly enough, that’s kind of all I have for these two. They’re pretty much exactly what they appear to be: a pair of garden-variety birds that are trying way too hard to look gutsy. More evidence? Just look at the anime, where the writers accidentally gave it the Gust attack, which it’s never been able to learn in-game. They probably took one look at it and went “yup, Normal/Flying, just give it something generic from that move pool”. And if the writers themselves are blowing right past this kid, well….
I feel like it’s pretty telling that Taillow and Swellow aren’t available in a whole lot of games outside their native Ruby & Sapphire series. They do some things to try and break out of the “basic bird” mold, but arguably later generations will do the same thing better. In a vacuum, they’re perfectly appealing! But in the context of the series, I don’t know that they’re adding much that you can’t get elsewhere, which is the kind of design you can Retire once you pass 900 of these critters.
Any and all appreciation for Taillow and Swellow is welcome in the comments!