It’s kind of a shame that I forget Clamperl exists, because boy oh boy is he a cutie-pie. Lovely, clear silhouette, soft shapes and colors, and a kind of simplicity in its concept.
Clams themselves are rather fleshy inside and arguably pretty horrifying, of course, but Clamperl re-contextualizes that into a soft, plushy bed. One made of a crown of tongues, of course, but hey – he doesn’t mind the implication. Just look at how well he’s napping!
It doesn’t seem especially clear to me whether the “pearl” part of the body is physically attached to the rest of its muscle and shell. Ordinarily, given that it uses that shell deliberately for predatory behavior, I’d assume so – but there’s additional text that suggests it may be operating its shell through telekinesis.
Yay for unlisted tertiary types!
This thing looks dumb.
The color combination and spot patterns aren’t working for me, the teeth seem weariedly-placed, those wide jowls are a bit much – Huntail is just uncomely if you look at anything aside from that clearly-a-lure tail. It does have a bit of goofy charm, I suppose, but when I think of eels, I think more of something gnarly.
It’s the same set of issues I have with Lanturn, really – why oh why do deep-sea-dwelling Pokémon seem cursed to look dopey and dull? I mean, yeah, actual ocean-floor life ping-pongs between creepifying and loathsome – often both at once – and this actually isn’t too far off a real gulper eel. But Pokémon has given a polite makeover to worse things before. I see no reason why we have to have one of the ocean’s most vivid habitats reduced to blobby blue things – at the very least, Huntail has the capacity to be more intimidating, or play up the gulper eel’s fantastically-sized, inflatable jaw instead of just having a wonky underbite.
Maybe I’m focusing too much on the face – the rest of its body is pretty sleek, and even brings to mind ringed-octopus markings. You still have to tune out those ridges on the back, though; they’re throwing a real Barney the Dinosaur look.
Gorebyss is arguably a step in the right direction. Lithe and hyrdo-dynamic, with a pointed snout and a bit of a whisker to her. This thing looks like a predator that will absolutely dart out of rocks to ambush prey before it’s seen her.
But then you have those extra bits and bobs that make the whole design hard to take seriously. Both eyelashes and breasts are – for the most part – features exclusive to mammals. Fish have neither. The only reason Gorebyss has them is clearly so that a six-year-old could tell you that Gorebyss is the lady of the family, in case the pink coloration to Huntail’s blue didn’t give it away.
What’s worse is that there isn’t anything specifically masculine about Huntail by comparison – unless you want to count its horrible teeth. What’s worse-worse is that we got a clear male-female separation within the same “family” back in the first generation, and those designs were much less overt about leveraging gender stereotypes.
They’re even built into their stats – Gorebyss being more special-stats-oriented and Huntail being more physically-inclined. Neither have much staying power, though, with plain and obvious typing, poor HP and even worse speed; they even lose the ability to benefit from their own held items, which exclusively work on lil’ Clamperl. There’s just not a lot of reason to use this set, it seems.
The one thing that did get me about Clamperl is how it spends its entire young life nursing a pearl – within that, you have two options:
- The “pearl” is the obvious pink pit inside Clamperl’s shell, basically its entire head.
- The “pearl” is some other pearl hidden within the Pokémon, with the head resting on top of it like a nursing hen.
While more unfortunately-grotesque, the former actually makes a fair bit of sense. Since “the pearl” maintains its psychic power afterward, that could stem from Clamperl’s original brain being left over when it sheds it on evolution. But if so, are Huntail and Gorebyss generating an entirely new brain – even a new nervous system – on evolution? And if so on that count, are they even the same creature afterward?
…or the brain is absorbed into the rest of the body on evolution and the now-empty pearl just happens to be a great conductor for psychic energy. But frankly, that’s the boring answer. I wanna think about vestigial brains.
Either way, that shed pearl ends up in a familiar place – remember our buddy Spoink? That’s right, we have another case of bivalve symbiosis (in a sense). Not wild, but a little weird that it’s happened twice.
How does a Pokémon originally found on a mountain even come by a pearl carried by an ocean-floor Pokémon in nature? Who knows! Maybe Clamperl migrate toward shore to evolve and facilitate the hand-off, as seen in Unova and Kalos where you can fish for them off a beach. Or maybe these pearls, being attuned to psychic power, mystically roll toward the nearest Spoink until they find a forever parent?
Our only look at these fellas in the anime shows Spoink gaining pearls while already in captivity, so there’s room for fanfiction here, fellas.
The last curiosity comes from Huntail, given a bit of folklore where its washing up on shore is an omen for disaster. Not that far off actual superstition around Japan and Taiwan that beached eels foretell tsunamis and earthquakes, and it would be inconsequential if we didn’t already have an earthquake-fish this very generation. Again, not totally wild, but an odd coincidence that we’re repeating ourselves so quickly, even if that text was only added to the Pokédex relatively recently.
This line feels like a bit of a shame, because Clamperl itself is a great lil’ baby monster, and a great charismatic counterpoint to Shellder‘s more “oddly cute” bivalve. But considering that you’re including two additional items’ worth of clutter to the game to get two fairly unremarkable eels as a final stage, it’s hard to argue for this family. If this family gets rotated in from Reserve – even saved from Retirement – it’s purely on the strength of Clamperl’s look.
Any and all appreciation for Clamperl, Huntail, and Gorebyss is welcome in the comments!
Thanks to The Ocean Conservancy for a lunch break well-spent admiring the wacky life of pelican eels.
You can donate to their mission here.