Shinx, Luxio, Luxray

#403 – Shinx

Shinx is in a weird position to me – he feels not unlike Poochyena where you’ll see him out and about the early game before you’ve even picked up your first Pokéball, and so he’s positioned as an early-game monster to help fill out players’ teams. On the other hand, he’s either implicitly or explicitly at a disadvantage against the first two gyms in his native Sinnoh, which makes him a weird starting investment – but hey, Poochyena was arguably in the exact same position.

On his own, though? He’s fine. An electric lion isn’t exactly an element-and-animal combination that I’d immediately think of, so it gets points for creativity, at least. And he needs those points badly, considering he already has two common feline families (and another upcoming this generation) to distinguish himself from. At least he’s got some design appeal going – the electric-blue is a great new look for the Electric type and his little cowlick is adorable – but there’s as much that doesn’t work for me, like the oddly inorganic-feeling star shape on his tail and ears.

I can see why some folks like him; he’s just not working for me at this stage.

#404 – Luxio

Man, I was really hoping for a more technology-centric Pokémon to use as a bespoke “404 Not Found” error page. But hey, it works for the official site.

This guy strikes me very much as a super-senior, or as a college-age bachelor with unique opinions on how to style (or not) their facial hair. The mutton chops that fan outward into flowy corners, plus a full under-the-chin beard, make for such an odd unkempt look to me. Otherwise, from the neck down, he’s almost strictly Shinx-but-larger.

Hey, at least his inner ears are a less upsetting shape now, and I really like the extension of his longer fur all the way down the muzzle. It’s another of those lanky-adolescent middle stages, but hey, he’s leaning way into that awkwardness in a way that I appreciate.

#405 – Luxray

Well, now it feels like he’s trying a bit hard.

I think it’s just that the specific way his head flares up like that reminds me less of a lion’s mane and more of a certain early-2000s rival character. The lack of dark pupils and reddened “whites” to his eyes probably don’t help, nor does his black-with-a-flashy-undercoat fur pattern. And, to be sure, he’s a lot more balanced overall when you look at this guy from the side instead of the front like you will in most games, though that does emphasize the weird design choice that I can only describe as backless legs.

I just.. don’t know quite what this design is communicating. Maybe that the static electricity in his body blows up his fur like a lion’s mane? That he’s weaponizing a more amped-up version of the same static that you might feel petting a housecat? The “Shinx” name implies a Sphinx, but that doesn’t seem like much of an inspiration aside from taking his rounded ears as “human”. And there’a a bit too much going on with his head-fur to put him down as a Lynx, either, which would at least be a less-immediately-obvous Big Cat.

He’s just a bit of a mutt of cat-like predator-mammal ideas, wrapped up in fur that honestly looks a lot like gaffer’s tape to me. Not a bad combo of ideas, and I don’t know why it’s not grabbing me, but ultimately Luxray doesn’t feel like he makes a statement compared to his peers so far. Maybe that’s just the bad luck of following two strong acts design-wise for me.

He’s at least fairly decent as a party member once you’re over the early hump, with decent stats all-around and particularly good attack – through surprisingly middling speed for an Electric-type based on notably nimble animals. His natural moveset is overly straightforward, sure, but the ability to learn all the elemental Fang moves helps quite a bit for covering the variety of the main campaign itself, especially with Sinnoh’s dearth of natural Fire-type options. It’s a shame he’s shut down by an entire Elite Four member and about half the Champion’s team, but whaddayagunnado?

Interestingly, Luxray’s Japanese name ( Rentora / レントラー ) is a portmanteau of tiger/tora and Rentogen, credited discoverer of the X-ray and tie-in to Luxray’s noted sharp vision – a neat use of elemental typing for a monster that obviously hunts pray, albeit a trait that doesn’t come across from his visual design or in-game abilities. Further muddying things, the real person isn’t referenced at all his various Latin-language names, getting passed up for plastering “xray” directly in the name. This isn’t the first time this exact localization pattern has happened, and I’m frankly surprised the Japanese designers went for borrowing names of real humans again knowing how the last time turned out. But hey – there’s less danger in referencing a man already buried, I suppose.

That seems to be a running trend with Japanese creature names and the series’ lore in general, being more willing to reference real-world locations and people in its own context without needing to justify it within the fiction. I’m not sure I’m the right person to dig into why – that feels like a lot of cultural cross-examination – but it’s interesting to note how buttoned-up Western languages seem by comparison.

Not that we’re immune, of course. Luxio’s name is dangerously close to referencing Luxor, Egypt, where there’s a famous avenue of sphinx statues called the dromos. Less direct, sure, and arguably more tenuous give how few riddles the family tells. Still, it’s there, so the localization team clearly doesn’t have a perfectly-rigid style guide around separating out Watsonian writing.

Luxray has never been a personal favorite, but I can see why other people like him as a more elemental take on a cat outside of the legendary space. I don’t think we’re especially hurting for popular or unique Electric-types or cats in the roster, though – we’ve even had an electric dog family just last generation – which would make me concerned that he’s on grounds for Retirement if not for his very consistent recent appearances in the main games. Who knows; I’m likely the odd one out here and he’s popular enough to keep in Reserve for all those wonky reasons that don’t work for me.

Any and all appreciation for Shinx, Luxio, and Luxray is welcome in the comments!

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