You lovable little gremlin, you. And our first pure ice-type, to boot!
I do love the whole line of “might guest-star in a Kirby title” Pokémon, and it’s neat to me how Snorunt fits the bill without also being a sphere. Most of the body plan still gets you there – stubby little limbs poking out of a head that doubles as his torso. But then there’s those beady eyes and the chilly grin… he seems to be more than a bit haunted?
We’ll circle back to that, I promise.
Either way, I love his implicit character. A distressed child, perpetually huddled in the snow, clutching its straw-jacket tight. Precious; not a single element gone to waste.
You know what? Every once in a while, it’s nice to have a properly abstract monster.
There’s a couple of more concrete things going on in here – mostly that he looks like one giant hailstone formed around an oni‘s head. Both are well and good, but the main association that hits me is an ice-hockey mask, which doesn’t really add anything to the line except for imagery. Good imagery, sure, just not constructive to a central theme. Can’t imagine a fella with no limbs has great puck control.
I don’t think there’s much to say here aside from that he has strong appeal as a fairly simple design with a good amount of texture. You get all the elements from Snorunt – a dark body, blue eyes, and bared teeth – but they all take on a new context here. Solid evolution, if surprisingly incoherent for how complex he isn’t.
Maybe it’s bias, but these human-shaped designs can feel a little underwhelming when they come out of families with more abstract and inventive critters.
Still, it’s hardly all bad. The ice-crystals as hair decorations help bring things to parity with Glalie’s horns, as does the Boo-shaped head. But the real kicker are those long locks of dangling “hair” that transition into her dangling sleeve-like arms – the transformation of a cloak sheltering a shadowy imp into this big, wavy dress is another nice way of taking Snorunt’s key design elements and evolving them in a fun way.
In fact, if you look at twice, you start to see that the actual body here still seems a little bit unclear and obscured considering the attachment of her arms. The official interpretation seems to be that the “helmet” with its arms is the real Froslass, dragging a hollow decoy-body below to fool predators and lure in humans. It’s certainly be in line with other tricky ghost behaviors, and that floating orb-shaped body kind of even makes it the frozen equivalent of the usually-fiery ghost light. Neat!
Unfortunately, Snorunt doesn’t show up ’till quite late in its native Hoenn, and that holds true for most of his other appearances, making it often hard to slot him into an in-game team. Glalie is hardly exciting, either – literally perfectly even stats across the board make him a blank slate – but Froslass at least boasts healthy speed, letting her get in with status moves or even a super-effective hit on most games’ heavy-hitting Dragons and Psychic-types. She’s otherwise a bit unfocused, but hey – Ghost invalidates one of Ice’s key weakness, so she has some synergy going.
The main thing that gets me about this line is that Snorunt is, in some small part, based on the tale of a small child-yokai, usually attested to as being in the arms of its snow-woman mother. But there are multiple “spectral woman in snow” stories in Japanese folklore – some of which get conflated, and none of which I’m remotely equipped to tease out as an outside reader.
So we have a situation where half of a thematic pair of monsters was maybe filled in a whole generation later, or maybe it’s a coincidence and Froslass is based on a different story, where Snorunt is intended as more generic. Certainly there’s a side-quest in Legends: Arceus that casts Froslass much closer to the traditional interpretation of the yuki-onna, so more famous monster or not, I think it’s safe to say that’s how the Pokémon company wants us to see her.
On the point of foreign – or original – names, Glalie is known as Onigohri in Japanese, which puts it close to an onigiri (a rice-ball snack). Not a bad pull given the white, round body with strips of black; it’s not hard to imagine Glalie as a very dense and very ornery snowball.
Or just a spiteful one. Let me leave you with some quotes straight from the ‘dex:
- …it can instantly freeze its prey solid. After immobilizing its prey in ice, this Pokémon enjoys eating it in leisurely fashion.
- It freezes its prey and chews them whole. However, it prefers to eat Pokémon like Vanillite that are already frozen.
- The power of Mega Evolution was so strong that it smashed Glalie’s jaw. Its inability to eat very well leaves Glalie irritated.
Always nice when most of a monster’s lore revolves around it explicitly, gruesome-ly predatory.
I really like this trio – a chilly baby, angry papa, and ethereal mother, each of them distinctive while still calling back to the others. Ice is admittedly the least populous type – it lags even behind the more-recently-introduced Fairy and mythic Dragons – so it needs all the help it can get in the larger scheme of the series. These aren’t show-stoppers by any means, but I’d still be sad to see them fall off the Reserve roster.