Written by Jonathan Wojcik
DAY 13: GASTLY, HAUNTER AND GENGAR!
For our thirteenth review, I thought it fitting that I finally review the entire, original Ghost-type pokemon line, a fan favorite I've oddly never touched upon much before. It all started with Gastly here, whose name isn't just a mangling of "Ghastly," but a play on gas, which is its official species description and allegedly all the creature is comprised of. I suppose this is also supposed to be why this Ghostly Trio are part poison type, though sadly, nothing else about them exhibits any poisonous tendencies - at least no more than any other Pokemon, and even Pikachu can learn the move "Toxic."
Little Gastly eventually evolves into Haunter, which I always liked best of this family. The jagged Jack-O-Lantern mouth, whispy posterior and detached, floating hands are just a really cool combination of suitably spooky characteristics.
When traded, Haunter finally evolves into Gengar, a mean little imp with some interesting twists. My very first impression of Gengar was that it looked perhaps a little too solid, even a little too plain to be the final stage of these shadowy specters, but I've grown to really appreciate how it "solidifies" from Gastly over the course of its evolution, transforming from a "gas" pokemon to a "shadow" pokemon, allegedly even imitating the shadows of other creatures. This would explain why its name seems to have been derived from "doppelganger," and it gives an interesting significance to its seemingly generic anatomy.
As many fans have pointed out, Gengar closely resembles an "evil" counterpart to Clefairy, which makes sense for one of the first ghost-types ever revealed, since the pink pixie was originally intended to be the "flagship" or "mascot" pokemon of the entire series, a role that would eventually be stolen by an electrical mouse. The similarity has lead many to speculate that Gengar is literally the ghost of a dead clefairy, but I honestly don't think that was the intention at all.
Like the name and pokedex suggest, Gengar is a being who can and does shape itself like anything at any time, so who's to say that what we're seeing was always supposed to be its "default" form? Gengar appears to us as a crude imitation of Clefairy only because Clefairy was initially planned as the face of the entire franchise, and nobody was going to put 150 different Gengars in a 1996 Game Boy title. I like to think they totally would have if they could have, but by the time the software could have handled that much Gengarity, the "Clefairy shadow" design, perhaps little more than a placeholder at the time, had already stuck fast as Gengar's "true" face.