Aron, Lairon, Aggron

#304 – Aron

I kind of love this little tyke; she strikes me as somewhere between an insect and an iron terrier, scurrying around cave systems and bounding up to greet explorers. Maybe it’s that disproportionate head, which isn’t something that most toy dogs really have, but that we still use on cartoons to signal “lookit how small this character is! Aren’t they cute?”

You wouldn’t really think that “cute” would be the primary angle for a Steel-type, but here she is, looking organic and non-threatening. Hey, not all Ghost Pokémon are going to be spooky, either.

Considering that this is kind of our first family that was originally conceived as an all-Steel three-stage line, she does a great job of capturing the babyish first-stage charm, right down to the big eyes and stubby, Kirby-ish appendages.

#305 – Lairon

And here we have something that isn’t quite a real animal, but feels like one. She’s got a low stance and rounded, plated spine like a pillbug or a stegosaurus. But she also gives me as much the impression of a rhino or even a hippo, albeit one with a more monstrous face than the latter. At the same time, it’s not like they just stuck dinosaur plates on a hippo body and called it a day; Lairon is, tip to tail, her own kind of beast.

The designers just have a really strong strike zone with their original monsters. Sure, individual things like the “support bones” from her legs up to her spine can feel a little silly if you look too hard. But in general, this is just a functionally-built animal; about as natural as you’re gonna get for a metal alligator, at least.

Great work so far, but next we have:

#306 – Aggron

We kind of already had this flavor last generation, right down the the “eats entire mountains” diet, but hey – who doesn’t love a big, stompy rock monster?

While I’m not the biggest fan of all of the visible bands on the outside of her body, I can appreciate what they’re going for as something of an exoskeleton to support her colossal weight. The horns poking out of her natural helmet is a great detail, too. I just don’t like her impression from the front so much – it’s kind of a jumble of dark-grey shapes, where the actual “iron plating” element is only visible from the back.

I get it, there’s a whole thing around creatures having a “soft, vulnerable belly” and all. But it feels like Aggron has gotten more vulnerable as she ages up, whereas I’d expect her to be in full armor as an adult. Maybe that’s a problem with my own expectations, and it’s not like she looks like a pushover or anything. She’s satisfyingly hefty, and I love the idea of a “natural helmet” growing over her skull and jaw. But given that we get something that looks straight out of a “Godzilla vs.” movie every generation, it’d be nice if she stood out a bit more by embracing that iron-clad theme more from the neck down.

That said, Aggron is pretty fantastic as a teammate; she resists half the type table (plus a poison immunity) and has a combination of high defense and okayish HP that makes her cheap to keep healthy – albeit her speed and lower special defense gives her a bit of a weak spot, notably to the ever-present Water-type. Still, she has an all-around strong set of passive abilities and very punchy attacks, so she can be an absolute physical beast as long as you send her out at the right times.

The big lore hook that jumps out at me around this line is that they shed their metal plates over time, like insects leaving old carapaces behind or snakes molting their skin. And, of course, humans pick these up and use them as a natural source of iron, making this a case where people borrow from Pokémon as much as inorganic Pokémon borrow from human culture. I’d love to see this explored in some story set in the past, like the upcoming Legends game; seeing how humans relied on Pokémon like this before modern manufacturing could really help feed the idea of humans and nature being symbiotic in the setting.

I also love the detail that, while individual Aggron are very territorial, it’s in a protective way more than an aggressive one. In particular, they have a strong nurturing instinct, including a sort of “restorative landscaping” behavior where they shift topsoil and replant greenery to revitalize their mountain after a natural disaster. D’aww, what a big ol’ softie.

But you know how I called out Lairon as a strong “original” monster? Well, maybe not so much.

There’s a Korean monster known as a Bulgasari (also the subject of more than one kaiju flick), whose main traits are devouring metal and being nearly impenetrable to physical attack. Amusingly, the tales around it seem to go back and forth over whether it was impenetrable to fire or if that was its only weakness, so a typing that makes it Fire-neutral is kind of a clever choice.

In general, I like that we’re branching out to other mythologies here. After getting Arcanine, Ninetales, and Gyarados early on, as well as the entire flavor of Johto, it’s nice that Hoenn has been a rounder mix so far – though there’ll always be a bit of a lean toward Japanese folklore for obvious reasons.

I like these three, but like I noted above, we seem to get at least one kaiju-like monster every generation, so as time goes on it’s getting less and less necessary to have them all around at once. If we were to cull down the bestiary for the series right now, Aggron would honestly be in the queue for Retirement, though the “natural armor” angle gives her just enough that I can see her being put in Reserve for very specific stories.

Any and all appreciation for Aron, Lairon, and Aggron is welcome in the comments!

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