Incineroar is one of the weirdest new Pokémon in Pokémon Sun and Moon. Incineroar evolves from Litten->Torrecat, but assumes a bipedal, anthropomorphic form. Unlike many other new Pokémon, Incineroar’s appearance isn’t just due to the designers joking around. Take a look:
Head Over Heel
Incineroar’s category, unique in #PokemonSunMoon, defines him as a ‘Heel Pokémon ‘. In Pro Wrestling jargon, a ‘Heel’ is a ‘bad guy’ wrestler, a kind of villainous character who goes up against the good-guy ‘Face’ wrestler. In the lead up to Pokémon Sun and Moon, fans were apprehensive that they would get another Fire/Fighting Pokémon (a type considered typical and boring). The Fire/Fighting type usually have an honorable, good-guy personality. But the ‘Dark’ type is more underhand, less honorable. Plus, check out Incineroar’s official personality description:
As its fighting spirit increases, the flames that Incineroar produces within its body burst from its navel and waistline. Since the flames somewhat resemble a championship belt, they’re known as its ‘flame belt’, and the Pokémon unleashes moves that use flames from it. In the heat of battle, Incineroar shows no concern for its opponents and sometimes even launches attacks that strike the opposing Trainer! As a result, many tend to dislike this Pokémon and keep it at a distance.
This personality clearly marks it as a heel wrestler, but there’s more to it…
The Legend of Tiger Mask
Tiger Mask is actually a really popular wrestling phenomenon in Japan. The original Tiger Mask is a character in a manga of the same name (later adapted into an anime series), a Japanese professional wrestler who became a fearsome ‘heel’ in the United States, but changed his ways and turned into a ‘face’ after returning to Japan. The reason for this heel-face-turn? A young orphan boy said that he wanted to be a villain like Tiger Mask when he grew up.
Tiger Mask, himself an orphan, changed his ways to be a better inspiration to children, and died saving an orphan in dangerous traffic. Tiger Mask as a character in anime and as an identity for real-life pro wrestlers has an enduring popularity in Japan.
Hey fighting game fans, does this wrestler with a cat mask that helps orphans sound familiar? Well, you’re right. But more importantly to Pokemon, Incineroar also shares this affinity for kids, and a hidden heart of gold. Again from its official description:
If a crowd watching it battle is pumped up, Incineroar’s fighting spirit will burn brighter. But a lackluster crowd can make it lose focus or fight shoddily. When it receives the admiration of young Pokémon and children, it may keep up its cold attitude on the outside, but in its heart of hearts, Incineroar is immensely happy. It loses the desire to fight when faced with a Pokémon that’s clearly weak or injured, and it sometimes gets taken advantage of as a result.
Awww. Incineroar acts tough, but when you get right down to it, Dark doesn’t necessarily mean evil (just like in real life, heels are only pretending to be villainous).
Pokémon Battles and Kayfabe
As you can see above, many fans have noticed parallels between Pokemon battles and cockfighting or similar bloodsports (Image background and source). Now, back in the day when the First Generation was released, Nintendo didn’t expect the game’s young audience to over-analyze the lore. But 20 years on, people are talking about the more unsavory, less child friendly implications of this world where children capture sentient beings in mobile cages and only release them to fight each other.
Adopting some ideas from the world of professional wrestling might actually save the franchise the trouble of justifying the violence. The pro wrestling concept of Kayfabe, or the portrayal of the ‘fake’ fights and dramatics as ‘real’, can be applied to Pokémon .
Instead of being earnest battles, the Pokémon n can be trained to pull their punches and not kill each other while still putting on a show for their audience. This is just speculation on my part, but could also be something that the wrestling-savvy developers have considered.
This article originally appeared on video games magazine site NowLoading.co. The site is no longer online, but I’ve uploaded a selection of articles from my time as a staff writer there (2016-2017) here as portfolio samples.