Mawile is just weird. He’s very humanoid, but so far nearly all instances of human-shape Pokémon have been either punchy Fighting–types or intelligent Psychic–types. Mawile, on the other hand, is a Steel-type, which takes a bit of a walk to get to from his first impression. His newer Fairy-type doubly-so if you’re an international fan.
As a kid, I always imagined this was pointed to his ponytail-jaw (which the game bizarrely insists is a horn) acting as a steel animal trap. Granted, humans don’t especially use steel traps in his natural cave habitat, but given deep-sea animal behavior, it makes some amount of sense for a cave animal to do just that, borrowing a little bit of evolutionary inspiration from industry on top of a sort of “venus fly-trap” motif. He even mimics the look of a helpless child from the front to hide the hair in back, giving him both an active and a passive way to pull a fast one on you.
Aside from that, I like that his silhouette is still distinctly inhuman, between most of his mass being in his ponytail and the shorter, impish body. He even has a beaky little mouth rather than a human one, as seldom as he actually faces the screen to show us. It all helps keep him feeling like the fantasy creature he is, even with the muted tan and black color scheme being a sensible choice for an underground Pokémon. It’s otherwise a pretty direct translation of a concept we’ll touch in a minute, but they’ve made it work.
Mawile himself, on the other hand, is kind of iffy as a teammate. His whopping nine resistances and two immunities nowadays make up for the fact that his actual stats are all average at best, and mostly just not great; low health and speed mean he’s going to end up taking a lot of hits anyway. He could be useful to safely stall for time while you heal, and has a few fun type-coverage and utility moves, but he just can’t quite blast through NPC opponents the same way that his peers can.
This whole monster is a little bit of a an oddball until you dig into Japanese folklore, something hardly unfamiliar to the series, but that the previous generation of critters surprisingly sidestepped despite the setting’s “Kyoto” flavor. Mawile specifically is more-or-less an adaptation of the futakuchi-onna, a woman with prehensile hair and a second mouth in the back of her head.
(So, no, not a JoJo reference.)
That said, the futakuchi-onna legend at a glance is… a little gender-oriented, either being tied to how little a woman purportedly eats, or how little a specific stingy woman in a specific story would fast to pinch pennies, only to unstoppably gorge herself when nobody’s watching. Gratefully, we’ve dodged that particular tale and gone for a gender-neutral re-interpretation, with the hair indeed acting as a big-game trap, which even works better for Pokémon’s “concept mash-up” design aesthetic.
That said, while Mega Evolutions are a mixed bag in general, Mawile is one of the few who really benefitted from one. With his base form being a bit iffy, his transformation would “let his hair down” and skyrocket his attack to ludicrous effective levels. I’d love to see this worked back into a proper evolution or form-change somewhere, because right now he’s kind of mixed in with the grab-bag of single-evolution monsters that most people tend to blow right past in the games.
That said, he’s perfectly appealing on his own; some folks likely have him pegged as a favorite. But we’ll run into other Pokémon with the same “steel-trap” gimmick later, and I don’t know if Mawile is necessarily better or worse than them. He’s just… different. I could easily see him rotating in and out of Reserve as a more unique cave-dweller to break up the bats and rocks, but the series has been favoring other trappers recently, which makes me think he could be Retired if he’s not given some fresh attention.
Any and all appreciation for Mawile is welcome in the comments!