In this continuation of sorts, I’m going to review the designs of Munna and its evolution, Musharna. I call it a continuation because these two Pokemon relate to the Pokemon I reviewed in the last installment of Pokemon Designs — Drowzee and Hypno — in two pretty important ways: First, like many Gen V Pokemon, Munna and Musharna are based in some way on Gen I Pokemon (in this case, Drowzee and Hypno), and second, by extension they are also based on the mythological Baku just as their forebears were.
The Japanese Baku was discussed in the Drowzee & Hypno review, so I won’t reiterate its description here; it should be obvious to anyone who read the last review or knows about the Baku in general that Munna and Musharna are even more distinctly based on it than Drowzee was. In fact, at first it appears they have relatively little inspiration from other sources and are almost purely inspired by the mythical creature. I’ll get into my thoughts on that later in, but first let’s go over these odd little guys one at a time:
Blatantly called the “Dream Eater Pokemon”, as if the Baku reference wasn’t clear enough, Munna is basically a tiny, round, extremely stylized tapir. One with a completely inexplicable floral pattern on its body. Like wallpaper. Skinpaper?
As its title would imply, Munna’s signature move is Dream Eater just like it was Drowzee’s, but aside from that and the obvious Baku reference, the similarities end; Munna isn’t sleepy-looking like Drowzee (although its evolution is), nor does it have an edge to its expression like it did. Munna is basically just ridiculously adorable and pretty.
Its rounded shape gives it a soft and cute appearance — a proven design technique to make something look that way — and this truly is the source of all of Munna’s cuteness; every single aspect of Munna’s design is round and chubby. Its body, its stubby feet, its short but curved nose, and even its eyes and the patterns on its body; round and chubby. It’s basically a perfect textbook example of how to make something cute, so obviously it succeeds there. The floral pattern is pretty random, but not in a bad way; it seems to complement the other design elements very well, and as would fit a non-creepy dream-themed creature, its color scheme is relaxing and pleasing.
These Psychic Pokemon float rather than walk, making their shape — particularly the unusably stubby feet — actually make some semblance of sense. I think my only gripe about the design is really just a nitpick: This is one of those Pokemon where the design basically screams a particular gender, and yet Munna are equally male and female; its colors and the floral pattern are typically identified as feminine, and particularly the eyelashes are usually used as a distinguishing characteristic of female characters or creatures in cartoons. But it doesn’t really harm the design, and there’s no reason to restrict its gender based on minor design elements like these, so there’s nothing wrong with it at all, really. They’re just pretty-boy flower balls.
Munna’s design takes a pretty standard turn when it evolves into Musharna: Like most evolutions, Musharna is a bigger and slightly fiercer-looking extension of the same design ideas, although trying to use the word “fierce” to describe either of these Pokemon is sort of like trying to commit a violent crime with a marshmallow.
This “Drowsing Pokemon” is bigger, longer, and loses a fair bit of its roundness. The ball shape is retained in most of Musharna’s artwork due to it being curled up, but otherwise, Musharna’s body has lengthened and begun to look a little more like it’s capable of motor skills, though the design is still very round. Constantly asleep and now lacking the floral pattern, Musharna somehow looks more feminine with its more pronounced eyelashes and new blush-like facial markings. And yet, still they’re 50% male and 50% female.
Musharna’s increased “fierceness”, for lack of a better word, is not only due to its increased size and diminished roundness; a big part of it is the fact that its design now includes a visual representation of at least some of its powers. “Psychic” and “Dream” powers are obviously not typically something you’d see, so Munna, being already a very cute Pokemon, doesn’t exactly look intimidating regardless of how much psychic power it actually has. Musharna on the other hand literally appears to leak its power, and that combined with its larger, more functional body and darker purple coloring, definitely make it look like a far more potent creature, which is fitting for a more-powerful evolved form. This “Dream Mist” — also given off by the smaller Munna but not actually shown in its art — is actually harmless aside from sometimes being said to put people to sleep, but that doesn’t diminish its value in making Musharna look bigger and badder.
As was pointed out in the comments in the last review, it’s also worth noting that Musharna is at least mildly disturbing in the sense that it basically looks like a fetus with a umbilical cord. Don’t see it? Look closely at Musharna’s artwork: It’s in the fetal position, and the mist comes off its body like a cord or line. I very much doubt that this was an unintentional resemblance, although it probably doesn’t have some kind of hidden meaning or implication either; it’s just a design and thematic choice that is meant to augment Musharna’s restful, sleeping appearance. Then again, Musharna’s eyes are as creepy when they open up as Munna’s are when they’re glowing; maybe the creepy vibe of Drowzee and Hypno isn’t completely lost on these two. They might be stated to eat nightmares specifically, making their dream-eating diet benevolent rather than disturbing, but there’s still a vague bit of eerie weirdness about them if you look for it. Couple that with many other design elements that overlap with their predecessors — such as them being able to show people the dreams they’ve eaten, just in the Dream Mist this time around — and it’s clear that both Munna and Musharna are fitting spiritual successors to Drowzee and Hypno, though of course they stand on their own with the unique design choices made with their looks. They’re not as creepy, but they’re not exactly incapable of being creepy, either.
So as I’ve established, Munna and Musharna are spiritual successors to Drowzee and Hypno, and they succeed at that pretty well. Their design is definitely more simplistic, and more limited, being based almost purely on the Baku, but there are still a handful of other design ideas at play like the floral pattern and the mist to make them unique and not simply copies of the mythical creature, so they’re definitely on-par with the “Hypnosis Pokemon”, even if they’re not so much my style. I’ll take the predatory hypnotist over the flower ball any day.
But probably the most interesting thing about Munna and Musharna is the fact that they hold a surprisingly significant status within Generation V. An entire mini-quest is linked to discovering them in the Dreamyard by Striaton City in Pokemon Black and Pokemon White, and there’s a whole episode of the anime themed after them as a result. But perhaps most significantly is their status as mascots of the Dream World introduced with the Gen V games, alongside Fennel, the scientist who sends you to acquire their Dream Mist from the Dreamyard in the first place. There’s a C-Gear skin of Munna, a Pokemon Musical themed after it, as well as all of the Dream World graphics depicting these Pokemon.
Munna and Musharna would seem to be the most iconic Psychic Pokemon since Mew and Mewtwo, and as a result they totally transcend Drowzee and Hypno’s status… except perhaps among the fans. And I don’t think this is purely a coincidence born of them being used as mascots in this way. I think the quality of their designs deserves some credit as well; these Pokemon have great designs that balance simplicity with a number of compatible ideas to create a design that’s nearly as pure and clean as the iconic Pikachu. Munna and Musharna will never be as iconic as Pikachu, but bravo to the creators for creating another Pokemon that’s as well-designed anyway. Whether or not they’re exactly my preferred style, Musharna and especially Munna are some of my favorite Gen V Pokemon.
So what do you think about Munna and Musharna? How do you feel about these cuddly little flower balls and all the things I’ve said about them? Do you like them? Do you feel they stack up well to Drowzee and Hypno? How do you feel about their status as mascots, and are there any other thoughts you have? Tell me in the comments!