Jynx and Smoochum

Previously, I expressed that Mr. Mime may be the least popular design in the first generation, but it might really be more of a tie with this bizarre ice/psychic combo, frequently cited as one of the "ugliest" and "silliest" of the first generation's monsters. Unfairly.

To get the elephant out of the room first, Jynx is the pokemon best known for looking like an obsolete, racist caricature of a black person before Nintendo had its face changed from jet black to purple, and while I always thought the blackness was more of a void - like Shellder or Tangela - than the creature's actual skin, there's no denying how unfortunate that looks, and I don't believe it was an accident. Little Black Sambo is still considered a classic in Japan, and Ganguro fashion - a popular excuse for Jynx's design - didn't catch on until shortly after Pokemon's release.

Another common excuse for Jynx's appearance - one cited on countless pokemon wikis and forums - is that Jynx is modeled after the mythical Yama-uba, or one of many other female yokai who inhabit cold mountains. It's claimed in these fan circles that Yama-uba herself had a face blackened by frostbite, but the only mention I can find of this detail comes from more discussions of Jynx, and seems to be completely made up by American fans. All classical depictions of Yama-uba in Japanese artwork are completely light-skinned, as are those of the Yuki-onna and similar "snow women."

So, sorry guys, but our beloved pokemon simply messed up here. It's still very, very normalized in Japanese culture to portray other races as ridiculous cartoon characters. Heck, ever see an anime character that looks stereotypically "asian?" With the buckteeth and the slanty eyes straight out of World War II propaganda? That's pretty often supposed to be a Korean or Chinese person.

Jynx's purple makeover isn't a perfect solution, but I completely agree with the decision to do at least that much.

Now, aside from all that, I still love Jynx as a creature concept, and I think its design is very cute on its own merits. I always interpreted it as a sort of "sea siren," and I still feel like that can't be too far off the mark. Jynx is said to crudely mimic human speech, "wiggle seductively" and force people to dance along to its singing, so it does a lot of things that sirens are supposed to do, but happens to also be this squat, bug-eyed little monster-woman rather than the slender mermaid people have come to expect.

I especially like how much Jynx's "dress" looks more like thick flesh than thin cloth in most of its artwork, and while drawn a couple times with feet underneath, I always felt like the "dress" was more of a solid, slug-like foot, or like the base of an anemone. I can just so easily see these things clinging like polyps to a rocky shoreline or ice floe, letting their voices lure humans to certain doom.

After all these years, I also only just noticed those two fin-like protrusions on Jynx's hips. Those are cool! She really DOES feel like some sort of sea-monster that evolved to just sort of approximate a person!

Like so many other first-generationals, Jynx was given an unevolved "baby" in Gold and Silver, Smoochum, which is definitely a cute enough one, but not quite as strange and interesting as its evolution. Whether Jynx will ever receive a further stage or mega form remains to be seen, and I understand if Gamefreak would rather not call fresh attention to one of its most controversial creations, but at the same time, I hope it happens and I hope it's the polar opposite of what most people apparently want it to look like.

Seriously, just google "jynx evolution" for a minute. You may notice that nine out of ten speculative fan evolutions focus on giving Jynx more of an hourglass figure, as if a monster that looks at all like a woman is absolutely never also allowed to be fat, short and cartoonish. Why does everyone want Jynx to become another damn Gardevoir? Surprisingly, I don't even strongly dislike Gardevoir, but come on.

Its hard to shake what Jynx's original palette looked like and a coat of purple doesn't perfectly hide that, but Jynx is otherwise a really cool "ice witch" or terrestrial merwoman with a lot of personality.