Feebas and Milotic

A direct shout-out to the first generation's Magikarp, Feebas is a fish pokemon infamous for its sheer "shoddiness;" it's not very smart, it's not very strong, and it has a ragged, tattered appearance most people find hideous. All it seems to have going for it, in stark contrast to Magikarp, is it's absolutely maddening scarcity. In Ruby and Sapphire, Feebas would spawn not just in only one body of water, but one square in that body of water...one random square in your copy of the game.

Naturally, the "tattered ugliness" of Feebas places it among some of my favorite designs in the series, but even if I didn't know better, I'd have already guessed it was kind of a fake-out...

Feebas is basically an "ugly duckling" scenario, evolving from something seen as "unattractive" to something renowned for its beauty, Milotic. You probably think I really dislike Milotic and that I wish Feebas just evolved into an even raggedier, scuzzier fish, and sure, that would likely become one of my new favorites, but Milotic is one cool looking sea serpent. I like the simplicity of its face and upper body, I like how the pale yellow and red contrasts the beautiful peacock-colored mermaid tail, I like how it gives me a bird-like impression on an eel-like body and I like the surprise fierceness of its glaring, red eyes. It's also worth pointing out how its gills are just rows of circular pores, which is only seen in agnathans like lampreys and hagfish.

Character designs themed around exceptional looks (good or bad) can very easily miss their mark, but Milotic's design manages to be eye-catching, elegant and cool without trying too hard. It feels a lot like something from the first or second generation, maybe even what Dragonair's adoring fans were really looking for in a final evolution.

Still, I would love to one day see the exact opposite of this setup; a pokemon that starts out "beautiful" and evolves into something people supposedly find repulsive.

Very well designed, with a fun evolutionary gimmick.