Bagon, Shelgon, Salamence

#371 – Bagon

I kind of dig this interpretation of a dino-tyke. The mullet-helmet is, of course, the real star here – like he wants to get into some trouble and is naturally-equipped to do it. The snaggletooth and a lack of a tail put him even further off-kilter, like he’d tip forward into a full run if left to his own devices and come at the world mouth-first. But the proportions overall keep him delightfully smol – not a claw on him, and he’s even a nice little baby-blue.

Definitely down with this dino-dragon.

#372 – Shelgon

I didn’t expect a dragon to emerge from a chrysalis, but here we are – I’m sure Pokémon’s not the first or last to toy with the concept, but it feels like a strong choice nevertheless. I get what they’re going for – leaving out the legs so he can keep ramming things head-on. That is, in theory – in practice, he put on too much armor during evolution, and now kinda just has to stand there and wait. Menacingly.

And I kind of like that idea, a feisty little teen dragon just waiting to come out of his shell and mess you up.

Unfortunate for him that he looks like more an ottoman.

#373 – Salamence

Sorry, folks, Salamence is where this line loses the plot.

Bagon had an armored head, Shelgon had a full suit, and so the logical conclusion for me would be some form of literal dragon knight (no, not the other one) suited up in scale plate and ready to slay. Instead, we have a dragon who still looks heavy and imposing, but that the lore insists on making all about flight.

Really, my main sticking point is that those cardboard wings just do not pass muster. I get that they’re a reference to Go Nagai designs – cop a look at Mazinger Z and Devilman. But if that’s gonna fly, it has to be as part of a design where the whole dragon is themed around retro sensibilities, or other obvious classic manga influences, or something to make it less out-of-place. As-is, they look like they’re stapled on to an otherwise land-centric dragon.

We were going to get a four-legged European-style dragon at some point; I’m just not sold on this particular one.

Unsurprisingly for the last non-legendary dragon in this regional Pokédex, he’s a real powerhouse, though. Fantastic attack stats, great HP and speed, and nothing far enough below average to be a deal-breaker. Aside from Flying Dragons’ traditional weak point in Ice moves, he’s great for mindlessly bowling over NPC trainers in the main game if you still have a free party slot after getting all the badges – or want to swap out a dedicated HM-user for a pinch hitter in the Elite Four.

Here’s where I have to be a little forgiving to the intent of this line. The given explanation for Salamence’s wings is that they’re literally magic; that the ground-borne Bagon spends its young life looking to the skies and wishing for wings, literally jumping off cliffs and bouncing off its hard head to learn how to fly. And then, somehow, its evolution pulls a biological right-turn in response to that sentimentality.

Not that sentimentality prevents it from being a raging, destructive monster; we’ve already had two gentler dragons this generation, I suppose.

This seems like a flippant hand-wave of an excuse for its evolution path at a glance, but then you start looking at Bagon’s habitat. Upon what do you typically wish? A shooting star – the visible trail of a meteor. Where is Bagon found? Meteor falls. And what’s the mythic Pokémon from this generation themed after?

So the lore around Bagon is well-woven into environmental and mechanical storytelling, for what it’s worth. I just wish Salamence worked a little harder to convince me it can, y’know, fly. At least give its wings a starlight theme to reflect their cosmic origin or something, guys.

The late-game “pseudo-legendary” Pokémon will always have quite a bit of sway in the minds of fans. But of all of them that we’ve seen to date, Salamence seems like the least to write home about. We’ll have a lot of dragons before and after – especially a lot of flying-dragons – and it’ll pretty easy to shove him into Reserve to make room for the new Dragon of the Month.

Any and all appreciation for Bagon, Shelgon, and Salamence is welcome in the comments!

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