Latias, Latios

#380 – Latias

If you asked another series to produce a living jet plane, you’d probably get something like Starscream or Jay Jay.

If you ask Pokémon, you get the Eon duo.

It’s all there: the thin neck and head leading to a broader body with wings out the side and stabilizing “fins” not unlike a fish’s ventral fins. Add a marking on the underside, and you’ve got a sleek jet-bird.

It’s at once a clean interpretation of a theme and totally abstract, which is exactly in the middle of Pokémon’s range of designs. Solid monster, not much more to claim here outside of how I love that she swings her arms backwards when she takes off, doing the flying equivalent of a Naruto Run. Precious.

#371 – Latios

Blue Latias. Next.

It is tempting to just drop it there, but I find it fun to pick apart all the tiny changes they make to the design to communicate Latios as the “older brother” of the pair. Not least among those is just the angles it tends to be drawn at in official art renders or on cards. He’s more often drawn either angled “nose-down” or in such a way that accentuates his slightly longer, more angular body plan compared to the slightly-rounder Latias.

Then we have those wider “feet” where Latias has daintier flippers. Not to put too fine a point on it, but especially in modern design, thinner bases and bottom halves are traditionally seen as more masculine, so I guess the closest equivalent here is ventral wings? There’s also the whole shape of the face, with more angular, “angrier” expressions on the male Latios and a more bubbly shape and expression to the feminine Latias, including a separate ear shape so she can emote where Latios’ mouth is permanently stuck into a stern line right up to his ears.

Really, there’s a lot of tertiary gendering going on between these two, and I don’t know that I’m the right person to pull apart the social politics on that one.

It’d ordinarily kind of pointless to grade these two from the standpoint of a standard single-player experience – they originally only appear after the credits – except that Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire quite literally hand you one, complete with a Mega Stone, halfway through the campaign. They’re head-and-shoulders above other Pokémon you’ll get just on their stat spread alone – everything at or above average – and even more over-the-top if you can get your hands on a Soul Dew to skyrocket their Special stats even higher. There’s a reason why older games would obscure the Legendary Pokémon from players.

For that matter, where this pair seems pretty clearly-made to me exclusive to each version – a red Latias for Ruby and a blue Latios for Sapphire – the designers pulled a trick by making that true for the sibling you’d get via the rarely-distributed Eon Ticket. Players without access to a local Toys-R-Us in 2003 would instead find the opposite-colored sibling from the color of their cartridge roaming around Hoenn natively. And for the third-version in Emerald, they pulled another trick by asking the player to identify the color of mysterious bird-Pokémon zipping around the continent, much like naming your own rival.

These two also seem, oddly, to be some of the more common Legendary Pokémon in the admittedly-only-kinda-consistent anime. After starring in the last series-movie to show in international theaters (for most of a decade, at least), the pair showed up again in TV specials, a later movie, and even in the Sinnoh League Championship. None of them seem terribly related to each other, which opens up the idea again that most Legendary Pokémon are more rare to the point of being key creatures in folklore rather than the truly-unique deities that some fans hype them up to be.

It probably doesn’t help that the Psychic typing on these two comes from a theme around illusions and light diffraction used actively to trick onlookers. In part this is probably taken from real-life stealth planes, using clever tricks of light and radio reflection to obscure themselves from observation. In another part, this perpetuates a reputation as as shape-shifters that clearly get people’s imaginations going in-universe – the exact sort of thing that gets you into campfire folk tales. Latias seems the more keen of the two on this – she’s taken human forms in both the movies and in the Adventures manga, where as far as I’m aware Latios has done so in neither – but that may have as much to do with how character appeal is treated in many anime & manga.

Oh! And for those who have a hard time remembering which name belongs to which beast, that’s an easy and consistent trick of Latin languages where “-ia” tends to be a feminine suffix where “-io” is the masculine equivalent. Just think about Mario compared to Maria – that should set you straight.

These two are very safe, appealing, middle-of-the-road designs for Legendary Pokémon. Unfortunately, because they’re so middle-of-the-road, these two are probably the closest we’ve gotten to a Legendary Pokémon I feel like the series could healthily Retire. They’ve seen too much action – including across two movies, as your main fast-travel in Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, and even consistent appearances in Super Smash Bros. – to really go below Reserve, though.

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