The Oddish Family

Ohhh my gosh oh my gosh, I almost need a minute here. I feel like nearly everybody who got into Red & Blue back in the day had that one pokemon that may as well have been their personal Jesus. The pokemon that defined their love of the franchise and practically expressed their very soul.

Oddish is not that pokemon, for me, but it evolves into that pokemon, and it makes a very nice prelude to perfection. The cute, waddling litte radish carries a marginally creepy streak, as it uproots itself to wander around only at night, metabolizes moonlight instead of sunlight, and like the mythological mandrake, it's said to emit a piercing scream when disturbed!

So cute I can barely stand it, but with just enough of a dark edge!

And then, Oddish reaches the sacred level 21...
...Now I really need a minute.

This is it. This is THE pocket monster I fell in love with at first sight, which is why I'm using its older Sugimori artwork first - the artwork I saw in Prima's strategy guide before I ever got my hands on the real game, and immediately thought "that's the one." Why? I guess it's complicated.

Perhaps the first thing that struck me about Gloom was its similarity to a design aesthetic I obsessed over at an even younger age. Years before pokemon's debut, I went through what I can only describe as a "spongy fungus phase," drawing hordes of slime-dripping, puffball-looking monsters who lived in dreary, foggy, twilight worlds of colossal mushrooms and lichens. I'd all but forgotten about these critters when my eyes landed on Gloom for the first time. I'm not imagining the stylistic similarity, am I?

I swear to Arceus, I even kept using the word Gloom in the names of some of these beings, though that's almost definitely because of my affection for "Mushgloom," an enemy in Secret of Mana which I totally ripped off in the middle left here.

Is this boring? I feel like even the kind of person who wants to read my pokemon opinions might be growing weary of my spiritual connections with a head-farting flower goblin.

...And that's just too bad, because I'm not even half done with the subject. Even without the nostalgia bomb it dropped on me, Gloom is fascinating for a number of other reasons. For one thing, it's a "flower" monster, something we traditionally expect to be cute, wholesome, colorful and fragrant, but Gloom, like many less appreciated flowers in nature, looks more like something in the advanced stages of decay and has a fetid, nauseating stench to match! Gloom is a carrion flower! In our own world, it's a strategy flowers evolve to attract things like flesh flies and dung beetles as pollinators, though with no solid pokemon equivalents to these critters, Gloom's stink is more of a defensive mechanism. I was delighted when an episode of the anime revolved around the use of Gloom's distilled essence to enhance perfume, just like animal musk or whale barf!

Gloom's early sprites even had a lovely "festering" look about them, surrounded by a toxic-looking particulate miasma that nicely communicated a stinky, filthy quality to the noxious weed, though what really ties Gloom together is that simple addition of drool. I feel like any monster looks several times cooler if it's oozing something, but a rancid, night-walking flower that constantly slobbers feels particularly original. It's just not a combination of traits I've seen together anywhere else, and the pokedex assures us repeatedly that the "drool" is actually a sweet, honey-like nectar Gloom uses to attract its "prey."

This spooky, dreary little mandrake-man with a hairdo like a rotten pumpkin apparently drains the life out of creatures who want a taste of its spit. How positively otherworldly is that. It's like something out of fairy folklore so old and distorted that nobody even knows what inspired it anymore.

Gloom gets an extra-special rating we may only ever give out a handful of times to come. Five golden pokeballs for a pokemon I not only find outstandingly original, but would follow to the ends of the Earth. If I were a young trainer in the Pokemon world, Gloom would be my "pikachu," that monster I adventure with through thick and thin and wouldn't dream of evolving.
...Uuuuunfortunately, Gloom does evolve, which means that some other, non-Gloom pokemon enjoy more stardom, marginally more competitive viability, and some additional moves forever out of Gloom's reach.

Vileplume is, however, still cool enough that back in my original Red/Blue files, I actually wielded both a Gloom and a Vileplume on the same team. I almost thought of it as a sort of signature gimmick; a couple of corpse-flower siblings always by my character's side.

Vileplume is based specifically on the real world Rafflesia arnoldii or corpse lily, a gigantic parasitic plant imitating the color, texture, and odor of spoiled meat. Lacking a stem, leaves or even proper roots, the plant exists only as a parasitic network of filaments within another plant, a species of creeper vine, until its monstrous blossom develops like a big, nasty tumor on the host. The bloom even actively generates heat, an incredibly rare property among plants, to match the radiating warmth of an animal carcass. That is MAGICAL.

None of this, unfortunately, is reflected very well by Vileplume, which actually loses Gloom's "stench" ability, and according to the pokedex, merely emits highly toxic, allergenic pollen. At least that's still entertainingly unpleasant, emphasizing the nastier side of flowering plant life and FINALLY incorporating a pokemon's poison typing into its theme again. Hallelujah. You also have to appreciate that English name, Vileplume, which rolls wickedly off the tongue and reminds us that this isn't some namby-pamby buttercup we're dealing with.

...I just wish it still did the drool thing. At least a little. This is Golbat's eyes all over again. Pokemon should add or expand on features as they evolve, not drop them! In fact, and hear me out here...I think Gloom and Vileplume's designs should have been the other way around. I'm not just seeing the world through Gloom-tinted goggles, here, I have an argument I can support with science!

We're all conditioned to interpret Gloom as the "bud" of Vileplume, but a budding Rafflesia is nothing but one plain, simple sphere. With its brown, splotchy, curling petals, Gloom looks a heck of a lot more like an elderly Rafflesia than a younger specimen, like this one, withering up at the ripe old age of five days. How cool and appropriate would it have been to have a grass/poison flower that blossoms in its middle stage and wilts for its final form? It makes so much sense, I almost want to believe this could have really been an idea on Tajiri's table at some point.

I do love you, Vileplume, but you're still no Gloom, and I am pained by what could have been.

...And what the heck is this thing?! Pure grass?! Hula dancing??? What's that even have to do with a Rafflesia?!


I'm just gonna milk this page for all its worth and enjoy a few more images of my putrid, reeking friend.