I say this quite a bit with first-stage monsters, but it keeps on being true:
It’s a shame I haven’t gotten ’round to using this goober, because I kind of adore her. That doofy, wiggly body with mis-matched fins. The baby-blue coloration and fun zig-zag. The oversized whiskers and beadly little eyes.
She’s the dopiest little baby fish, and I think that’s just grand.
I’m also really starting to appreciate the lengths that Pokémon goes to in order to keep its water-types from looking like just another cartoon fish. Considering how the game’s ecosystem is weighted toward Water-types in general, it would be all-too-easy to fill the game up with monsters following a similar body plan. Instead, it’s almost as vibrant an ecosystem as you get on land.
Except, of course, for stumbling over the umpteenth sea-Zubat of the day.
It also gets me to appreciate some form of a loach, which is the kind of bitty lake-bottom fish I otherwise wouldn’t give a second thought. Credit for that much, at least.
A catfish is a much more recognizable bottom-feeder, and one that I’ve got mixed feelings on. None of which is the catfish’s fault, really – they do what they gotta – they’ve just never been near the top of my list.
Whiscash is trying real hard to turn that around, though.
Wide-set eyes and a long grin are a bit of a shortcut to looking doofy and endearing – heck, anime makes a bad habit of it in general. But I’ll be darned if it doesn’t work. This gal permanently looks like she’s been struck smack-dab on that broad forehead with a frying pan, like that big bright “W” is there so she doesn’t forget her own name, like she just forgot to flesh out the features on her fins halfway through evolution.
She’s in a serious competition to be the poster child for “no thoughts, head empty”, and mainly misses out by virtue of that being Slowpoke‘s entire schtick. But there’s nothing that says the first person through the gate gets to corner the market; Whiscash can still be charming in the same way.
Attitude aside, she’s just a satisfying, chunky Pokémon. Nice and wide and solid; she looks like she can take a hit and keep going. Those whiskers are just the finishing touch, though, she’s got just enough detail to feel like an impressive final evolution rather than just a blue blob.
I dunno, man, Whishcash just appeals to me.
She does in the main game, too – that immunity to Electric-types does her a lot of favors, namely having the same great type-resistance spread as Swampert. Her stat spread isn’t perfect – lotta HP and low speed without a recovery move – but she gets all sorts of fun moves to throw around, so it all comes out in the wash.
Oddly enough for how she looks, Whiscash is as much based on the Namazu, a wise and long-lived mythological catfish. The main thing that it’s known for causing earthquakes – giving a line of logic to Whiscash’s Ground-type aside from catfish generally being mud-dwellers. For all the more fantastical yokai Pokémon we’ve seen, it’s kind of nice to see one that looks like it fits so naturally into the ecosystem. Gives the world a better sense of cohesion to me.
That aspect also made Whiscash the subject of one of only a handful of the over one thousand episodes of the show to get pulled from broadcast. Mostly her bad luck for airing an earthquake-centric episode so close to a 7.0 quake in Japan, and that’s how it shakes out sometimes. But unlike other Pokémon, Whiscash has been allowed back in the anime since, and even had his episode air.
As another note, I’m a big fan of the double-entendre in Whiscash’s French name. Barbillion is a nice enough combination of barb(illion) and chat (as in catfish), but is also dangerously close to barbiche, for goatee. Not that the first and last of those probably don’t share a root word, but it’s still a fun happenstance.
I personally like Whiscash, but I also appreciate that most of what she does is already covered by other Pokémon. Still, she feels incredibly well-balanced, and it makes me want to keep seeing her around in Reserve, if maybe not all the time.
Any and all appreciation for Barboach and Whiscash is welcome in the comments!