We’ve had a more elegant lung in the series before. Now for one that looks absolutely indulgent.
Not that I have a problem with that in the abstract. I love me some over-the-top Digimon designs, after all. It just feels a little weird to me as part of the Pokémon roster.
There are a few points in its favor – namely its many fins throughout the body, up to an including those X-wing horns. That brings it back into Pokémon design for me; for all the fantastical ideas going into a sky-snake, somebody on the design board was actively thinking about how this monstrosity steers itself. Kyogre & Groudon’s ley-line etching is even put through a successful spin applied to a longer, more irregular body shape.
I think it’s just that Rayquaza has one or two too many things going on; it ends up looking a touch too busy for me when painted over such a narrow space. Plus, I get a little confused with its teeth – one white fang sticking out, but the rest are a continuous red slab?
Granted, I feel like that may be part of the point considering Rayquaza is literally a jade dragon. Statues of that like are ornate by design; why not have a Pokémon in the same vein? It regularly places top-of-its-region in popularity polls, so clearly this design direction isn’t a problem for most folk.
Rayquaza is, to that point, fairly busted in the main games, what with being a strictly post-game encounter and about the last non-Mythic Pokémon that the player gets access to in Hoenn. In fact, the only time it’s put into your party is for a square-off against another Legendary; putting it in any other context would be unfair, not even legal in most tournaments or the Battle Tower, and so not really talking about in the context of normal play.
Rayquaza is in an interesting in-between space. Sometimes talked about in the same breath as Kyogre and Groudon, but the three don’t make up a definite equal trio in the same way that, say, Kanto’s legendary birds do. I mean, you could dig really deep and compare it to something like the Ziz, but I think it’s pretty clear that the inspiration here is more from an Eastern dragon than something biblical. Even the Quetzalcoatl, the bird dividing earth, sea, and sky, has a better claim to Rayquaza.
In fact, since Emerald, we’ve seen it as often pitted against one of this generation’s two Mythic Pokémon – though we’ll get to that when we get there. Suffice it to say, Rayquaza is as much a space dragon as it is a lord of the sky. Heck, its name even plays into this: ray-quasar is a portmanteau of two very astronomical terms.
Though just as cool is the rekku in its name and in promo materials surrounding it – literally sky-rending. Considering the designers were on the track of assuring most legendary Pokémon had uniform names across all languages from here on out, I love that we’re baking multiple linguistic meanings into them. Good stuff.
Rayquaza gets a ton of other one-off curiosities, as well, but probably the coolest one that’s not discussed so often is its mikado organ, basically a gizzard that emits the same energy as a Mega Stone. If you want to go full fantasy-zoology, I’ve read plenty of fanfiction that insists all Pokémon have some sort of energy-producing organ that excuses their ability to fire Hyper Beams – all of it written over a decade before the series decided to use the idea. Maybe there’s some level of folding fan-fiction back into canon here?
But as interesting is that the organ in question gains its powers from consuming meteoroids – space debris. While Delta Episode famously confirms that the game series is set across multiple timelines, giving a narrative excuse for different game versions and remake-based revisions, it was also adding more pillars to the notion that Pokémon are, as a species, extraterrestrial in nature.
Granted, Rayquaza was always especially space-based – its ozone layer habitat is close enough, at least. Apparently the crushed stardust left by disintegrating space-based Pokémon is close enough to meteors that it makes a great snack for Rayquaza, which marks another strike. But if other Pokémon are noted to contain a sort of mikado organ – and they just might, given how Ash Ketchum’s Pokémon has its own unique Mega-Evolution-like form – being powered by material from space is another solid mark in the “alien” column.
It’s hard not to argue that Rayquaza should be an ongoing part of the series, but I’m also hesitant to say that a legendary Pokémon is necessary outside the context of its home region. Still, given Rayquaza’s evident popularity, I find it more likely to see it appear out of Reserve than its peers. And it has; between being a boss in Super Smash Bros., the final boss in at least one Mystery Dungeon game, and plenty of other non-Hoenn contexts besides. I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Any and all appreciation for Rayquaza is welcome in the comments!