The Everyday Legendaries is a series which explores the myths and legends that often go unnoticed behind some of the underappreciated Pokémon. These Pokémon may seem ordinary, but they are truly our everyday legendaries.
Dunsparce is often-cited as one of the most forgotten Pokémon. With no evolutionary relatives, poor stats, a polarising design and a general elusiveness, what redeeming qualities does this strange little Pokémon have?
Dunsparce is based on the tsuchinoko, a mysterious Japanese creature with rich folklore surrounding it. Its Japanese name itself (ノコッチ) is an anagram of tsuchinoko (ツチノコ). The tsuchinoko can be likened to legends such as the Loch Ness Monster. There have been numerous alleged sightings of the tsuchinoko, described to be a 30 to 80 cm (1’0″ to 2’7″) long, snake-like creature with a wider central girth than head or tail, yet there is no solid proof of their existence. The visual similarities between Dunsparce and the tsuchinoko are the most evident: Dunsparce too has a fat snake-like body with fangs that are most prominent in its sprites from Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal. The tsuchinoko is said to have large and mesmerising eyes, as Dunsparce has. Furthermore, Dunsparce can learn the move Glare, which paralyses the opponent, much like the effect a mesmerising gaze of a tsuchinoko would have on another animal. Measuring 1.5m (5’0″), it dwarfs the tsuchinoko.
The tsuchinoko has a very unique way of getting around. Rather than moving its body from side-to-side to slither as a snake does, it instead arches its back up and down to move forward. In the anime episode “The Dunsparce Deception”, a flock of Dunsparce are seen moving in a similar way, bringing themselves forward by arching their back upwards. The tsuchinoko’s other key form of movement is by forming a circle by biting its tail, and then rolling like a wheel. Dunsparce learns Defence Curl at Level 1 and Rollout at Level 3, giving it the ability to move like a wheel, much like the tsuchinoko. Although it doesn’t do so by biting its tail, the style of movement is still the same.
Legend has it that the tsuchinoko is able to jump more than one metre in the air. This ability is demonstrated in two key ways with Dunspace. Unlike the tsuchinoko, Dunspare has small wings on its body, and its Pokédex entries state that it can use these wings to “fly just a little” – perhaps not jumping as far as a tsuchinoko, though this is unclear. Being able to learn moves such as Wild Charge, Dragon Rush and Air Slash suggests that Dunsparce is able to launch its body at its opponent, much like the tsuchinoko does when leaping towards other animals.
The tsuchinoko is described as being both peaceful and cute, but also a compulsive liar. It is not said to be particularly dangerous, but merely plays tricks and jokes on people that come into contact with it. Although nothing about Dunsparce suggests it being a compulsive liar, its design and behaviour paints it as very peaceful and non-threatening. The only threatening element of both the tsuchinoko and Dunsparce are their fangs – but learning no moves making use of these, much like the tsuchinoko’s fangs they are harmless.
The tsuchinoko is similar to the Loch Ness Monster in that many people believe that it exists, but there is no scientific consensus on this existence. Towns and cities in Japan have gone as far as to have rewards for people to find a tsuchinoko after reported sightings of the animal. Bones have been found of animals which don’t seem to fit any known species of snake, only fuelling people’s suspicions of the tsuchinoko’s existence. However people who believe the tsuchinoko exists often don’t believe in the mythology associated with the tsuchinoko. Sightings have often been reported in rural areas: caves, near water, and forests.
Dunsparce too is a very rare Pokémon – its name partially coming from the word ‘sparce’ highlights this rarity. In the original Johto games, Dunsparce was only found in Dark Cave with a 1% encounter rate, and which side of Dark Cave it was found in varied with the games – the Blackthorn City side in Gold & Silver and the Violet City side in Crystal. This cave is off the beaten path – it requires Flash to explore properly, and you can complete the game without ever stepping foot in Dark Cave. This can be seen as a reference to the tsuchinoko’s rarity – close to civilisation but so hidden away and rare that most would believe it doesn’t exist having never seen them.
Despite its odd appearance and oxymoron status as the most forgotten Pokémon, Dunsparce truly is a descendant of a legend. And who knows, maybe like the rare Dunsparce hiding out in Dark Cave, the tsuchinoko too is just waiting to be discovered by those who seek it.
- ‘Tsuchinoko’, A Book of Creatures
- ‘The Mysterious Tsuchinoko of Japan’, Mysterious Universe
- ‘The Mysterious and Elusive Tsuchinoko’, Tofugu
Edited by bobandbill and Jake.