Burmy is the poster child for one Sinnoh’s new favorite design features: forms.
You’re starting to see them more and more pronounced here, starting with non-Nidoran gender dimorphism and going all the way up to some pretty drastic splits. This technically isn’t new – Castform gave us a suite of bespoke weather-oriented designs and Deoxys was built around based on your game cartridge. But from here on out, we’re going to see them used more naturally as a reflection of ecology.
Burmy may overdo it a bit, what with being three different takes on the same dopey lil’ bagworm-baby, covered respectfully in leaves-and-grass, sand-and-gravel, and what appears to be fiberglass insulation. It makes this design trio a lot more explicit than Pineco’s very-effective camoflague, but frankly Burmy is doing enough with it that I don’t mind – I only wish that its type actually changed to match its appearance, which might force some interesting adaptation and strategy onto players in the main-game as one of their party members shifts about. Alas, not so.
Anyway, the basic design of these three is a bit blobby and interchangeable to me, but the biological aspect is really brings the concept around and leaves them a lot of room to grow into something more distinct:
…and right as soon as these three become more distinct and include secondary elemental types in their gameplay, they become “locked in” and lose the ability to change form any more. It feels like a waste from a gameplay perspective, but hey, at least their designs are on the up and up. The distinct little flappy “ears” manage to give the three a smidge of personality despite their faces remaining stubbornly one-note, and the forest-form Wormadam at least looks like the artist finished the drawing here as opposed to Burmy’s messy mix of defined leaves and fuzzy grass.
I dunno, they’re most of the way there, but their coats lack some definition. The sand cloak, for example, looks like somebody glued a few pebbles onto a tan cotton-ball rather than a a bug coated in – or at least disguised as – a mineral formation. The forest form is definitely closest, but the body still ends up feeling like a generalized “foliage” rather than evoking a specific kind of bush. At least the urban “trash” form gets a pass since that’s the hardest to do a natrual-feeling camoflague for, and hey, formless puffball is probably as good a pull as you’re going to get; if anything, this is the one where I’d expect some random detritus, but she admittely looks nice and clean as-is.
I wish more for these three, I really do, but it’s frankly hard to see much here.
Mothim looks the most put-together of this whole family, and personally I like how he keeps Burmy’s dopey little beak-mouth. Dopey lil guy turns into a dopey lil man. He even has frayed wing-tips that match up with Trash Wormadam’s fan-like tush and ears.
Otherwise, it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot that joins him up with his younger and female family members, aside from “bagworms turn into moths, and this is another moth”. Not quite the appeal of something like a Venomoth, either, but hey – he certainly has a charming little bumbling look to him, especially with those wide, vacant eyes, and he’s surprisingly laid-back for leaning on a yellow and orange color scheme. I even kinda like how the segmented wings with their frayed ends look like big arms, like he might envelop you in a big, winged, dusty hug.
Luckily for us but unfortunately for him, the series is spoiled for great Lepidoptera, which is the main thing that gives me hesitation about him. Sorry, bud, you’re entering a crowded field here, even if you stand your ground.
It also makes it hard for this set of bugs overall; we’ve seen all these type combinations on bugs before – we even saw Bug/Steel on the other bagworm Pokémon – and the lot of them are unfortunately not great, which doesn’t help their fairly miserable stat numbers. I can imagine a world where Wormadam is at least interesting since she’d get access to, say, Steel-type moves that carry over to her Rock-type form, but sadly that’s not the world we live in. Rather, we just have a handful of defensive bugs that both aren’t very exciting and also fankly aren’t that good at being defensive.
What this line is good at, though, is breaking that insistent larva – pupa – imago progression that early-game bug lines default to. We’ve certainly seen exceptions, but the Worm-madam begs special attention for remaining a pupa into full adulthood, as so many female bagworms in particular do. After all, why give up that excellent camoflague-survival strategy?
…well, that’s up to Moth-him; presumably so he can get around and do his reproducing a bit better, but boy oh boy doesn’t that enforce some stereotypes around which half of this family is doomed to remain stationary?
Wormadam does make up for it in the trash form specifically – my personal favorite – making an especially nice reflection of case-bearer moths, colloqually “plaster moths”, which gather up inorganic material to hide themselves in human habitats. Not unlike the hermit crab phenomenon of just using whatever’s around as a shell – not ideal, but still perfectly inside their wheelhouse. We’re going to see more and more of these “animals adapted to human circumstance” designs, and Wormadam’s tip of a buggy little toe into that water is a great transition point to what that will eventually look like.
But for now, it’s hard to see where these fit into the ongoing series. We already have bagmoths, we’re doing great on moths, and other Pokémon are already leveraging their environment as part of their biology – and will keep doing so in ever-more-creative ways. They’re a neat idea in theory, but unfortunately Wormadam undermines its own potential gameplay hooks and keeps it from standing out against any of these, making it hard for me to think the series would lose much if this design was Retired.
Any and all appreciation for Burmy, Wormadam, and Mothim is welcome in the comments!