Alright, well, after a long hiatus from doing any of these Pokemon design reviews, I think it’s high time I got back into it. I would review “Newtwo”, but I’d rather not until I have a more proper name to label it by. So for now, since we’re out of named Gen VI Pokemon, I will start talking about some notable ones from previous Generations. To start, I’m going to discuss my favorite psychic Pokemon, Hypno, and his pre-evolved form, Drowzee.
Known as Sleep and Sleeper respectively in Japan, Drowzee and Hypno originate from the first Generation of Pokemon, making them some of the first Psychic-types and some of the Pokemon who set the tone for all future Psychic-type Pokemon. These stubby, anthropomorphic, odd-nosed yellow Pokemon are both simple and highly strange in their design, and as I will get into in this review, they both represent their type quite well while keeping the connection subtle enough to have other, more unusual elements. There’s also a mythological reference to discuss. So without further ado, let’s discuss both of their designs!
I don’t like Drowzee nearly as much as Hypno for mostly personal reasons, but I don’t think it has a bad design by any means. Drowzee is an odd little… elephant man? That’s what it initially looks like. The dominant color in his design is the yellow he shares with Hypno, but his lower body is a much darker gray color, ending in animal feet that almost look like hooves (although they seem to be toes). This makes his design vaguely reminiscent of anthropomorphic creatures like Satyrs, which often have the upper body of a man, but a hairy lower body ending in hooves. That’s just a slight similarity though; the real mythological reference that Drowzee’s design makes is much more prevalent in its design. Drowzee is decidedly based on the Baku of Japanese mythology and the real-life animal, the tapir.
The Baku originates from Chinese mythology as a chimeric creature (resembling parts of numerous animals) that protects against pestilence and evil. The Japanese version, while also chimeric, is described as having an elephant’s head and said to have the ability to eat dreams and sometimes protect people from nightmares by doing so. The mythological Baku’s similarities to the real-life tapir — unusual semi-chimeric appearance and the long snout — seem to have caused the tapir to be known by the word for Baku in languages originating in areas with Baku myths
Drowzee is clearly based on the Baku, as one of its signature moves is Dream Eater, it is known as the Hypnosis Pokemon, it’s named after sleep, and resembles both an elephant and a tapir. Most importantly, it’s blatantly stated to have descended — or to be thought to have descended — from the Baku in some of its Pokedex descriptions. Those same descriptions also describe Drowzee as being able to, of course, devour dreams, but also say that they can see the dreams people are having even before eating them, remember every dream they’ve ever eaten, and show sleeping people the dreams they’ve devoured. It detects dreams with its nose and apparently sucks them out through the nose as well, apparently causing an itchy nose for the sleeper. This seems like it might be worse than your dog licking you in the face.
Disposition-wise, Drowzee is a bit eerie and a bit silly, and I suppose marginally cute for its silliness. It’s got a dopey face that looks clever but lazy, fitting its namesake, while also having something of an edge due to those narrow eyes and confident, even cocky expression. This edge makes Drowzee just a little bit creepy.
All of Drowzee’s elements work together really well. The design is visually simple while pooling from a lot of different sources, with a few original spins put on its inspiration and some nice small touches with its design — especially its face. The mechanics of its dream eating are pretty interesting, while also lending Drowzee a subtle creepiness: Dream Eater is an attack that does damage, while Drowzee are said to get sick from eating nightmares; if Drowzee eats your dreams, what does this do to you and what are you left with? Drowzee fits its Psychic type in a big way because of its mythological origins, but it also has a mannerism that fits as well: The stereotypical way it moves its hands around in small circles while holding them out. You get the impression that its Pokemon call should basically just be a guy going “Oooooooooooo!”
Hypno is my favorite of the two, but there isn’t exactly a deep reference going on with him. Unlike Drowzee, Hypno doesn’t resemble the Baku at all. This more humanoid Pokemon lacks the animalistic lower-body its pre-evolved form has, is now almost completely yellow, and carries a pendulum that it polishes with its ruff of fur. Meanwhile, its ears have sharpened to become catlike, while its nose looks more human. Hypno is also significantly creepier, and that’s why he’s one of my favorite Pokemon.
Hypno still eats dreams, and this seems to function in the same way, but with Hypno it takes on a sickeningly predatory flavor. While the wording of Drowzee’s Pokedex descriptions seems to imply that it just wanders around looking for people who are asleep, something like an alleycat looking for scraps, Hypno is explicitly described as having victims, putting people to sleep itself to feast rather than finding people who are already sleeping. Hypno live in the wild and will attack passersby by hypnotizing them with their pendulums. Just being near this creature induces drowsiness, while witnessing the swing of its pendulum can induce sleep within three seconds even in well-rested people. This frightening amount of hypnotic power is made even more terrifying by the fact that Hypno has literally been said to have kidnapped children.
Hypno could be said to resemble a proboscis monkey, while its ruff and sharp nose bring to mind vultures, but honestly I think the entire point of Hypno’s design is for it to look human, not animal. The more soft, silly, and round Drowzee, evolves into the sharp, grim-looking, man-like Hypno, as it transitions to living in the wild and hunting prey. The sense of the uncanny valley is strong here; Hypno looks much more disturbing for its humanoid features than it would have if it were more animal like Drowzee. I don’t think its slightly sharper eyes are even a major factor in how much more unsettling it is… I think it’s purely the humanoid traits. Probably, Hypno was made more humanoid to go along with the pendulum it carries, but the overall effect goes way past that and becomes an amazing, disturbing, masterfully-executed new look that is comprised out of many different elements just as Drowzee’s was.
There’s no way these are just my impressions, either; it’s clear that the creators wanted Hypno to be creepy when they decided that it occasionally kidnaps children. It definitely brings to mind the concept of a strange and disturbing man taking your kids, whether that’s intentional or not. It’s not lost on the fans, either; Hypno has long been considered one of the creepiest Pokemon in any Generation — even amidst actual Ghost-type Pokemon — with fan-made creepypastas and songs in honor of that fact.
How Do They Work Together?
These Pokemon work well as forms of the same evolution tree because, while they are very different, they have numerous base elements in common while also having a sense of progression between them, though both are subtle. Both Pokemon are pretty squat, with bright yellow as their dominant color, animal ears, sleepy narrow eyes, and big noses. The shapes may differ, but these common elements remain. Both Pokemon also do things with their hands while inducing hypnosis and devouring dreams. The sense of progression comes from the fact that Drowzee feeds like a scavenger, harmlessly roaming around and looking for existing meals in the dreams of people already asleep, and then, after evolving into a Hypno, matures into a hunter that prepares its meals by hypnotizing victims and occasionally kidnapping them — perhaps to continue feeding on their particularly tasty dreams? Who knows?
They both also share a fairly brilliant relationship with their type. Casting aside the Baku reference, which would be lost on a fair number of people (particularly outside of Japan) and isn’t all that applicable to Hypno anyway, they both have a “token” of sorts that connects them to the Psychic theme. Drowzee waves his hands in that silly way, while Hypno swings his pendulum like a hypnotist; both of these elements easily bring to mind the concept of psychic abilities, but otherwise both Pokemon’s designs depart pretty heavily from the theme. This is brilliant, because it allows both to be very original and inventive creatures that aren’t in any way tied down by a central theme, while still having such a theme. The connection to their theme is there, but it’s not blindingly obvious, so it doesn’t overpower their other design elements, making both Drowzee and Hypno into well-rounded, unique, and fitting creatures all at the same time.
God I love these guys. As I’ve said, their designs seem simple but they are very well-executed in a lot of small ways. It’s the perfect example of a well-executed but loaded design; there’s so many things that make up both Pokemon, and yet their overall concept and design is so simple you wouldn’t even notice this right off the bat. That is what I would call masterful design work. Add in that fact that Hypno is so creepy and strange, and he’s easily my favorite Psychic-type Pokemon and one of my favorite Pokemon overall. When I hooked up my copy of Pokemon White to the Dream World, the first thing I wanted to do was track down a Drowzee and evolve myself a Hypno, and my “Nietzsche” has become a beast with his frequent Hypnosis. I love Hypno, and Drowzee ain’t too shabby, either.
But what do you think of Drowzee and Hypno? Do you think these Pokemon are eerie and creepy, or… something else? What do you think of the concepts behind their designs, and do you think they’re well-designed? Tell me in the comments! Next week I’ll review the other Pokemon that is clearly based on the Baku.