Bidoof, Bibarel

#399 – Bidoof

Lookit him. Dopey little muscrat with a single little marble rolling around in that empty head of his.

Yes, he’s another normal-type, North American rodent. We get one every generation, much like The Starly Problem. But somehow I feel Bidoof provides greater variety than Starly; the burrowing, water’s-edge rodents are definitely more purpose-built than either of the last two generations’ ferret-y lines, and he’s definitively rounder with more of a soft charm than something like a Ratatta.

Still, adorable has Biddof is, it’s a bit of a bugger to keep going back to common mammals as Normal-types, when both common mammals and the Normal type itself can have so much variety.

He’s gonna get help with that in a minute:

#400 – Bibarel

…he’s admittedly “Bidoof, but more”, but you can’t fault him for at least tacking on an elemental Water-type, which so far does set Bibarel apart from his contemporary “Route 1 mammals”. That comical tail even gives him something of a defining physical feature that those early-game evolutions don’t always have, so good for him!

It’s a solid fulfilment of the role, and he’s even great at being mechanically useful for a common critter – you can fit 3/4 of the HMs in Sinnoh on this fella – but ultimately it’s a good interpretation of a pretty basic role, and not necessarily a creative one.

At least he’s adorable.

Which, good for him, because not even a single one of his base stats hits the 90-point average. A good chunk of his better moves involve some sort of recoil, at that – his learnset is great in Legends Arceus, but that game also has so many other unique options that it’s hard to justify Bibarel, especially since the practice of needing HMs on specific Pokémon was phased out entirely after Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire. I definitely had him on every team I took through Sinnoh on the DS, but purely in the utilitarian sense. Unfortunately, battle-wise, this big guy is lacking a little something.

People thought that way about the entire line for a while, really; there was a long time when Bidoof was the de-facto punching bag for English-language fans thinking that monster designs had gotten repetitive. And three is the magic number in comedy and storytelling, after all; it’s enough to establish and then play out a pattern, so the fourth iteration on a line is where you start to run a real risk of redundancy – the Pokédex itself even calls this out by directly comparing Bidoof’s buck teeth to Ratatta’s.

Luckily, time has been very kind to Bidoof. With the introduction of another four Route 1 Mammal lines after him, Bidoof starts to look a little more distinct by comparison, especially as a monster that looks deliberatly unimpressive, to the point where “doofus” is baked into its localized name (unless you want to take it from the childish pronunciation of “toof”, which would be valid).

No other language seems to use self-mocking humor in Bidoof’s name as far as I can tell, though, which I feel important to call out given the Bidoof’s Big Stand short that came out last year (which I cannot embed, but can be found here), which gives the little guy a flattering spotlight.

Of note is the production credits on the video, which are a healthy mix of names from the core Pokémon Company, the English-based Bang Zoom!, and joint Chinese-American Taiko Studios. This isn’t a mix we see in hardly any other Pokémon animation meant to stand on its own – even a previous short based on classic American animation was commissioned to a Japanese studio. On its own, this feels like a weird called shot, calling on international studios to promote an otherwise unassuming Pokémon.

But then you could compare the viewer numbers on the Japanese- and English-language versions of the Bidoof animation to the Japanese versions and English versions of the also-YouTube-exclusive and PokéToon shorts. For the PokéToons, the Japanese-language view counts are between two and twelve times higher than in English. But for Bidoof? They’re dead even.

I’m not saying that this is a blip in the data where The Pokémon Company went out of its way to actively respond to English-language fans’ internet memes and goofing around. There are plenty of ways to interpret that video data, like how the PokéToon shorts had over a years’ head-start and that many internet-savvy fans had already watched them subtitled by the time the English versions were available.

But it was only the English-language YouTube channel that declared July 1st, 2021 as “Bidoof Day”, released a now-inaccessible RickRoll parody video with Bidoof-based lyrics (freebooted here), and staged TCG match coverage of two players using strictly Bidoof-themed decks – complete with a North-American-only giveaway of a promotional Bidoof card that’s worth over $250 at time of writing.

Read what you want out of that.

I’m reading that Bidoof is the niche we’ve carved for ourselves as an international internet audience, and now is the time to embrace it.

Bibarel may not be impressive, and may not be around much now that Pokémon have started to go into Reserve. But Bidoof is one of the only Pokémon not named Pikachu, Eevee, or Charizard to get such a dedicated marketing push behind it, and love him or hate him, we’ve joked him into a permanent spot on the series’ extended roster.

Any and all appreciation for Bidoof and Bibarel is welcome in the comments!

And don’t forget to set your calendars for July 1st:

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