#369 – Relicanth

Big fan of the Grandpa Fish, personally. Crusty old geezer with built-in jowls, a resting grouch-face, and a literally craggy exterior. It’s not hard to imagine his scale patterns as liver-spot, eithgers; even knowing absolutely nothing about the coelacanth, it’s just an appealing way of portraying a literal “old man of the sea” without doing something so obvious as stapling a beard onto a bass.

I don’t know what else to say on this other than that he’s a great representation of the theme. Lots of fins placed in sensible-yet-distinctive places, a few cracks in his “mask” that double as wrinkles, and even a built-in pensive expression. I do like that he has that one little red “mole” on his side, though; the rock-helmet face is great and I’m all for natural camouflage, but having anything to break up a whole creature of blotchy browns helps.

It’s kind of a shame that Relicanth shows up so late in most of the games that he’s in, especially since most players settle on a Water-type party member pretty early. He’s otherwise pretty okay-ish, with fantastic defense and a solid physical punch, but held back by sluggishness and a pretty common double-weakness. Nothing to write home about, but it’s still a shame that there’s not really a good likelihood that he’ll end up on anybody’s team.

I do adore the story of the coelacanth, though; this guy is halfway to being a third fossil Pokémon for this generation, but just misses the mark for being found in the wild. In fact, he veers pretty close to Kabuto‘s territory – an incredibly long-lived species that exists both in the fossil record and in the modern-day. In fact, the whole coelacanth branch of the ol’ Life Tree was discovered in the fossil record 99 years before anybody found a living specimen, meaning that from a human perspective they “came back” from an extinct classification. We even have a name for this situation – a Lazarus taxon, which just sounds like the fantasy-science hybrid situation that Pokémon thrives in under a more child-friendly framing.

It also ties it quite nicely into the Hoenn quest to find ancient, man-made yet semi-mythical Pokémon – but that’s a story for another time.

In fact, Relicanth seems pretty clearly designed by somebody at Game Freak who’s just really into aquazoology, since so many of his design elements deliberately mirror actual Coelacanth Science:

  • Relicanth’s shiny color palette is almost certainly lifted from the pretty, starry coloration of a specific real-life species.
  • Its Pokédex entries occasionally mention it feeding on microorganisms, which brings actual real-world species into the lore in a way that the writers seem to have otherwise de-emphasized after Red & Blue.
  • Ultra Sun notes that it was named after the scientist who discovered it, which – while common in the real world – isn’t something really discussed elsewhere, making it a more deliberate parallel to the Latimeria genus.

Basically, Relicanth is a species here for people who think that niche, discovery-oriented zoology is cool as heck.

It’s me; I’m that people.

Relicanth may not be a charming face built to headline promotional material or anything, but he’s an absolutely rock-solid design that the series is lucky to have. He’s more than worth the series keeping around in its Reserve roster of monsters.

Any and all appreciation for Relicanth is welcome in the comments!

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