On the Origin of Species: Remoraid & Octillery

Remoraid & Octillery
Sometimes a Pokémon’s inspiration is straightforward. One glance at Pidove, for example, easily shows it’s meant to be a pigeon. Others are slightly obtuse: Mightyena seems like it’s a wolf, but it’s based off a hyena. Then you have Pokémon where their origins aren’t very clear. Today’s subjects, Remoraid and Octillery, have baffled a good majority of Pokémon fans since their introduction in 1999.

We’ll start with Remoraid, as it’s the first stage of its family. It’s clearly a fish of some sort – as though being a Water-type didn’t tell us that much. It’s actually a combination of two different fish: the archerfish and the remora.

The archerfish comes from a small family of fish called Toxotidae, which contains only ten species in the single genus of Toxotes. They mainly habituate in freshwater ranging from India to Melanesia, and they’re only about half a foot long (12-18 cm). Seems innocuous, right? Well, they’re called “archerfish” because they can fire a stream of water from their mouths to dislodge prey hanging above the water.

An archerfish shooting a fly off a plant
When it finds something it wants to eat, the archerfish rotates its eye in a way to compensate for light refracting differently between water and air. It pokes its lips just out of the surface of the water to prepare for the shot, forming a groove with the roof of its mouth and its tongue. Then it contracts its gills to force water through this groove, launching it up and splashing the unfortunate insect or small animal, which becomes the fish’s lunch. Not too hard to see the similarity to Remoraid here, especially when Remoraid learns moves such as Lock-On (adult archerfish very rarely miss) and has the Abilities Sniper and Hustle (even if they do miss, archerfish will continue trying).

Remoraid are often seen attached to the underside of Mantine, and having a Remoraid in your party is a requisite to evolving Mantyke. This characteristic comes from the remora, also called a “suckerfish”. Remoras have a special dorsal fin that has evolved into an organ that works just like a sucker, allowing the fish to attach itself to a larger marine animal. Remoras often hitch rides on whales, sharks, rays, even turtles and human divers. The remora eats parasites and dead skin off the host, while the host provides safety and a constant flow of water for the remora to breathe.

Octillery, Remoraid’s evolved form, is of course based on an octopus. An octopus is a mollusk rather than a fish: it lacks a backbone and moves around through use of their
Common octopus (Octopus vulgaris)
eight tentacles and a siphon on the side of their head. In the wild octopuses live alone, inhabiting crevices of rocky outcrops and other durable structures. Octopuses are even known to forcefully evict other octopuses from dens to steal it for themselves, a trait that Octillery share. Octopuses can blast ink from their siphons to escape from predators, and Octillery does the same, particularly through its signature move Octazooka.

I can tell you’re waiting for me to explain why Remoraid, a fish Pokémon, evolves into Octillery, an octopus. As mentioned earlier, you’re not the only one who’s been confused by this fact, and I hope my explanation can put you at ease.

Let’s go back to Remoraid. Take a close look at its overall body shape as well as the markings on its side. If that doesn’t strike any familiarities, think back to the episode “Lights, Camerupt, Action!” where Brock reminisces about a movie he’d seen with Sheriff Snorlax wielding a Remoraid as a weapon. Remoraid is a fusion of both fishy friends and firearms, specifically the revolver. Remoraid’s body shape is like the well-known weapon, and its markings are meant to replicate the gun’s revolving cylinder. Further proof can be found in Remoraid’s original name, Teppouo. “Gun” in Japanese is 鉄砲 teppō, while “fish” is 魚 uo. The archerfish is also called 鉄砲魚 teppōuo, further cementing the connection.

Now, clearly, mollusks and fish are unrelated to one another. So again, where’s the explanation? Perhaps Octillery offers some answers. Maybe its Japanese name can assist us? “Okutank”, where “oku” clearly comes from “octopus”, and “tank” from… “tank”? As in the military vehicle? Could it really be so?

Colt Single Action Army
Believe it or not, the reason Remoraid evolves into Octillery is not because of its primary Animal Kingdom inspiration, but its secondary artillery inspiration. Remoraid’s English name could be a combination of “remora” and “raid”, a form of attack. Octillery, meanwhile, is “octopus” and “artillery”. If you don’t believe me, go check out Octillery’s design from the beta versions of Pocket Monsters 2: it’s shown wearing a military-style helmet with its body shape more akin to the bulky, armored base of a tank. These days Octillery is mentioned to have a rock-head head which real octopuses lack, and its front tentacles are often shown curled up in a manner resembling a tank’s caterpillar treads.

Octillery also learns strange moves for a Water-type, such as Bullet Seed (there’s the revolver influence again), Rock Blast, and even Fire Blast. Octillery also learns Poison moves such as Gunk Shot and Sludge Bomb, a reflection of how octopuses can inject their prey with paralyzing venom. Furthermore, Octazooka’s Japanese name is “Okutank Cannon”.

I’ll grant you that this reasoning is rather obscure if you’ve never heard of it before, but delight in that one of Pokémon’s more oddball families has an answer. Perhaps this will inspire you to take another look through the Pokédex and reevaluate the Pokémon you couldn’t quite understand before. Game Freak draws ideas from more than just the natural world – and while I hope to grant insight through these columns – it never hurts to make your own inferences.

It’s quite possible you’ll discover a fact or reference that’s alluded the rest of us so far.
Lightning Energy Written by Lightning Energy