Spoink is automatically on my good side for not having feet or a mouth; as all good Kirbies show, reductive design is a shortcut to adorable-ness.
Better yet, they re-focused on a piglet’s perfectly-curly tail in lieu of extra limbs, and made his entire character revolve around it. He’s a tiny little pogo-pig, always doing a little balancing act of carrying his precious little pearl around.
Literally “pearls before swine”, except taken entirely literally and nothing to do with the actual meaning of the phrase. Instead, this tyke is all about that pearl, loving it like a child might their favorite doll or toy truck.
He feels like the spitting image of a cartoon pig aside from being a dull grey rather than a pleasant, pale pink. I guess that just makes his blush stand out a bit more, and quite frankly the series is already overloaded with pink babies, anyway. What we got instead at least feels a bit novel, especially given that he already has his own schtick.
The best charm point on this monster? His ears are perfectly-shaped to hold his darling pearl in place, leaving his stubbly little arms free. First runner-up goes to his oversized snout, which wiggles around and slightly distorts when he “speaks” in the anime. Spoink is solidly on the “cartoony” side of the monster spectrum, and I’m here for it.
I don’t really know what to make of Grumpig. He’s not bad, exactly, but he feels a lot more like he follows a tried-and-true Porky Pig model of creature design, which is frankly a bit less interesting to me than something like Spoink.
I also don’t really see how he fits with the Psychic-type, aside from the purple color palette. There’s an obvious natural progression for me where Spoink’s pearl would absorb energy when he evolves, turning it into a “crystal ball” for him to use attacks like Future Sight. There’s even a tidbit in the games about how the pearl amplifies his powers, which should feed right into that.
Instead, we have an anthropomorphic animal who marches in place, losing both of the interesting things about Spoink. I guess he still has those pearls, but they’re small and dark and not nearly a point of focus any more. Surely somebody likes Grumpig; he’s hardly offensive. I just find it hard to get excited about him.
He’s even average-ish in the games, though at least he has a sensible type spread. Almost everything about him is average, predictably trading off his rarely-used physical attack for mental defense, and having a very plain Psychic-type movepool and just okay-ish passive abilities.
I dunno, everything about Grumpig is just fine. Let’s circle back to Spoink instead.
Like, did you know this kiddo up and dies if he ever stops hopping around like a kindergartener on three cans of soda?
Okay, I expect this is a side-effect of the Pokédex being traditionally handled by children, and that this is kind of a myth in the same way that sharks (mostly) don’t really have to swim constantly to keep breathing. After all, I seriously doubt many Spoink would survive into adolescence if they literally had to shock their heart into beating like the flavor text claims. Forbid it that you let one faint in a tussle; they fall over unconscious once and that’s the end of them forever.
Instead, let’s imagine that their springiness powers their heart in the more metaphorical sense. They live to bounce, it is their reason for being. They cannot stop, for it is their greatest source of joy and they’ve evolved their body over generations to allow them to bounce always and forever. Viva la Spring Life.
It almost feels like a shame to take that away on evolution, but hey. Growing up isn’t always fair.
Frankly, it’s not surprising to me that Grumpig didn’t make the cut in Sword & Shield. Spoink is great, but his evolution fails to deliver om the same way, and this whole line feels flat by comparison. Even playing up pigs’ disposition for mud by making him part-Ground would have been a little unique, but as it is, without a more interesting regional variant, I wouldn’t feel bad about seeing Grumpig Retired.
Any and all appreciation for Spoink and Grumpig is welcome in the comments!