Makuhita is a bit of an oddball from first impressions. That literal topknot makes him look like a literal sack – a punching bag? – but the yellow color doesn’t play off of that much at all.
Either way, I like that he breaks the mold as a humanoid Fighting-type who isn’t very lean or muscular. Instead, he’s a boisterous boy, and proud of it. Look at those rosy cheeks, wide grin, and pumped-up pose! He may look like a water balloon, but gosh darnit, he’s gonna do his best out there.
Of course, that topknot and round build are about to make a lot more sense:
Ah, it’s a sumo-wrestler.
A heavily-abstracted one, but a sumo wrestler nonetheless.
I try to be pretty forgiving toward Pokémon who clearly adapt some real-world concept. Usually they can at least do something really creative with the idea, like Mantine’s literal flight or Mareep’s static wool. But these humanoid Fighting-types can hit something of an uncanny valley for me – I’m in this series for fantasy zoology, not a boogeyman-caricature, and he doesn’t feel like he gives me much more than “hits things”.
He’s really good at what he does, to be fair. Those big floppy mitt-hands and puffy “pants” are a joy, I appreciate how they’ve turned the cloth-rope belt into something more natural-looking, and even those chunky ears and long head help him feel just cartoony enough. Still recognizable as a pseudo-human, but distinctly a goofy creature.
Though, once again, I have to go with the default assumption that either all Hariyama gather and craft their own cloth belts – something we don’t have a lot of evidence for – or that all those flaps hanging from his waist are skin and flesh. Eugh.
One last touch that I really like is that there’s something of a “rising sun” centered right on her belly. It’s not especially prominent, but the cream-and-orange is enough to evoke same pattern in white-and-red, making him just a little bit patriotic.
He’s also pretty okay as a full-frontal attacker, with high attack and even higher HP, plus a bit of free Fire-and-Ice resistance with the right passive ability. On the other hand, he’s slow and has low defenses, so he’s built to “take a hit and dish it back” – expensive to keep up in the single-player campaign.
Something I will give him credit for, though, is that Hariyama has a fun bit of lore hidden in his moveset. If you take him to a Move Tutor after he evolves, he can learn Brine – a water-type special move very much outside his wheelhouse. Apparently this is a reference to how salt is thrown around a sumo-wrestling ring before a match to purify it – in Hariyama’s case, not an especially useful act, but it’s nice that the designers gave him a move that exists purely for flavor.
Some of Hariyama’s traits make me wonder how anything ever gets done in the Pokémon world, though, let alone safely. A good half of his early Pokédex entries either mention him striking cargo trucks off the road fur fun, or else deliberately standing on train tracks to see if they can stop an oncoming rail engine. It’s probably offset a little bit by superpowered creatures being willing to help with construction projects, but the logistics of that is hard to imagine when regular pests can already disrupt so much of our day-to-day without throwing fire-punches around.
Of course, the Pokédex gives us plenty of positive examples of Hariyama behavior to balance it out. They have that martial-arts tendency to focus on training the next generation of Makuhita as they age (wait – do they even need humans around?). They value the ever-important match etiquette that the series uses to insist that its animal-fighting premise is A-okay. And there’s an insistence that big, heavy Hariyama can still be light, nimble, and skillful. Always gotta have a little bit of positive PR around (unless you’re Magikarp).
I’m sure some folks love these two, but these two fail the new test of “can I remember off-hand if they were in Sword & Shield? The thing is, I can’t, and they weren’t, and they apparently weren’t adding anything that the series would miss in their absence. No, there aren’t any other sumo-wrestler Pokémon – not directly, at least. But there was also a Pokémon sumo contest in the anime several years before Makuhita came to be, and it played off quite well without them. It’s a niche, but a narrow enough one that this monster can be Retired.
Any and all appreciation for Makuhita and Hariyama is welcome in the comments!