The Sun and Moon Starters: A Closer Look into our New Pokémon

Learn about the brand new Starter Pokémon of Pokémon Sun and Moon: Rowlet, Litten and Popplio!

Earlier today, the Starter Pokémon of Sun & Moon were revealed – the Grass/Flying Rowlet, the Fire-type Litten and the Water-type Popplio. Here we’ll go deep and analyse each of the Starter Pokémon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We now have a video version of the analysis, made by Achromatic and Necrum of PokéCommunity’s YouTube team. If you’re interested in watching and hearing about the new Starters, check it out!


Rowlet's Sugimori artwork.
Rowlet’s Sugimori artwork.

Rowlet is the first dual-type base form Starter Pokémon since Bulbasaur (Grass/Poison) way back in Generation I. Measuring 1’00” (30 cm) and weighing just 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg), Rowlet is of course based on an owl, and is the third Starter Pokémon to be based on a bird, after Torchic (Generation III) and Piplup (Generation IV). This means that we now have a full set of Starter Pokémon based on birds. Rowlet is also the second Grass-type Starter Pokémon that is not a reptile, following Chespin in X/Y.

Rowlet is likely based on the pueo, a type of short-eared owl native to Hawaii. In Hawaiian culture it is considered to be one of the physical forms assumed by ancestor spirits. It is also an endangered species.

Rowlet swivels its head up to 180 degrees!
Rowlet swivels its head up to 180 degrees!

The flavour text on the Pokémon website points towards Rowlet having a high Speed and Attack. It is said to be able to “draw near to its opponent without being noticed”, and “lash out powerful kicks”.  Grass-type starters have recently had a greater focus on Attack rather than Special Attack, somewhat ironically as the Grass-type used to be a Special type before the Physical/Special split in Generation IV, and it appears that Rowlet may continue this trend.

Rowlet also seems to have a cheeky and playful personality, and has been seen swivelling its head 180 degrees to receive commands from its trainer. It learns a new Grass-type move, Leafage, when you receive it.

Rowlet firing its leaves with the move 'Leafage'.
Rowlet firing its leaves with the move ‘Leafage’.

This appears to be similar to Ember and Water Gun, in which Rowlet uses its sharp feathery leaves (or leaf feathers) to attack the opponent.

Rowlet joins Hoothoot and Noctowl as owl-based Pokémon, though its apparent focus on Speed and Attack would differentiate it from the Johto Pokémon, which are based more on owls as a source of wisdom. One could imagine a sleek and physically imposing owl-based Pokémon as Rowlet’s final evolutions, though it will be interesting to see how traditional Grass-type elements such as plants and leaves are further incorporated into its design.


Litten's Sugimori artwork.
Litten’s Sugimori artwork.

Litten is the pure Fire-type Starter of Pokémon Sun & Moon, measuring 1’04” (41 cm) and weighing 9.5 lbs (4.3 kg). Despite being classified as the Fire Cat Pokémon, the stripes on its back indicate that it is based partially on a tiger as well. This would continue the tradition of Fire-type Starter Pokémon being based on the Chinese Zodiac, following Charmander (Dragon), Cyndaquil (Mouse), Torchic (Chicken), Chimchar (Monkey), Tepig (Pig) and Fennekin (Dog).

Litten is likely based on the Iriomote cat, a type of leopard cat that lives in the island of Iriomote in Japan. Apart from the striking physical resemblance, the Iriomote cat is also known by locals as meepisukaryaa (“that which has flashing eyes”), pointing towards Litten’s bright yellow eyes, and yamapikaryaa (“that which shines on the mountain”). With the Iriomote cat’s strong relationship to mountains, perhaps this will be reflected in its evolutions gaining the Ground- or Rock-type. Like the pueo that Rowlet is based on, the Iriomote cat is critically endangered.

Litten fires a furball!
Litten fires a furball!

Although Litten’s design doesn’t necessarily point towards it being either Physically or Specially inclined, its flavour text definitely paints it as a Special Pokémon. It is said to lick its oil-rich and flammable fur to create furballs, which it then launches at opponents as fireballs. This may point to an exclusive Fire-type attack that Litten and its evolutions may be able to learn.

Litten is portrayed somewhat ironically as a ‘cool cat’, despite being a Fire-type Pokémon. It is said to be logical and not show its emotions, remaining coolheaded in all situations. These attributes may provide hints for Litten’s evolutions. Dark-type Pokémon are often shown as playing tricks and tending towards the evil side, and Litten’s mannerisms in firing furballs, as well as its dark colour scheme, may hint towards its evolutions being gaining the Dark-type.

Litten is portrayed as a 'cool cat' in its artwork.
Litten is portrayed as a ‘cool cat’ in its artwork.

This emphasis on logic and being coolheaded may also refer to its evolutions gaining the Psychic-type, referencing a control over the mind. If this were to happen, perhaps Fire/Psychic would become the new secondary typing for Fire-type Starters, instead of Fire/Fighting which ruled supreme from Generations III to V.

Apart from hinting towards possible types, these characteristics also provide more evidence that Litten and its evolutions will be Specially-inclined Pokémon in both attack and defence, with its mannerisms, way of attacking, and control over its mind and emotions.


The Water-type Starter of Sun/Moon is based on the sea lion, weighing 16.5 lbs (7.5 kg) and measuring in at 1’04” (41 cm). It is a pure Water-type that is said to be more comfortable in the water

Popplio's Sugimori artwork.
Popplio’s Sugimori artwork.

than on land, yet can still manoeuvre acrobatically on land. This means that Popplio continues the trend of amphibious Water-type Starters, with every Water Starter being able to live on both land and water. With its clown-like nose and love of doing tricks, Popplio may be based on clowns and performing seals.

Popplio’s name may also come from the Hawaiian monk seal, an animal known to natives as ‘Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua’, or ‘dog that runs in rough water’. Perhaps this may provide some hints to Popplio’s evolutions instead being specialists at battling in water rather than outside of it. Much like the pueo and Iriomote cat that the other starters are based on, the Hawaiian monk seal is also an endangered species.

Popplio is an agile and acrobatic Pokémon.
Popplio is an agile and acrobatic Pokémon.

It is evident from Popplio’s description that it is an agile and playful Pokémon, likely with a high Speed and Special Attack. Its swimming speed of 25 mph (40 kmph), as well as official artwork of it performing acrobatic stunts, demonstrate that Popplio is a fast Pokémon. This follows the Froakie line as being another fast Water-type Starter; all previous Water Starters have had low Speed stats. The emphasis on Popplio doing things like squirting water and creating bubbles point towards it focusing more heavily on Special Attack than physical offences.

Bubbles are a prominent part of Popplio’s design – as well as its name, which may be partially derived from pop, a word related to bubbles and pictured in its attacks – and it is possible that Popplio may gain a signature move relating to bubbles.

Popplio enjoys clowning around!
Popplio enjoys clowning around!

Although Bubble and Bubblebeam have been Pokémon Attacks since RBY, Popplio uses bubbles in a more active and creative way in trapping its opponents, compared to merely blowing bubbles in a steady stream to slow its opponents down as is the case in the current attacks.

Popplio may draw comparisons to Oshawott. Both have physical similarities with their clown-like nose and slightly awkward appearance, in Oshawott’s design and Popplio’s movements on land. However much like how Oshawott evolved into a powerful and formidable Pokémon, it is possible for Popplio too to evolve in this manner, developing its Speed and Attack further and growing more comfortable with battling on land.

Without a doubt, we’re at an exciting time for Pokémon. We’ve had three brand new Starters revealed and the possibilities for their evolutions are numerous. Each of the Starter Pokémon is based on a species which is endangered or critically endangered, which may point towards environmental conservation as a potential theme of Sun & Moon. Whatever happens, we can’t wait to learn more!

What do you think about the starters? Do you have any other insights about them?

Edited by bobandbill, gimmepie, Hiroshi Sotomura and Lycanthropy.