In-Depth Stories

[Updated] The lore behind all the Hisuian Pokémon in Legends: Arceus

We go through the newest additions to the Pokédex courtesy of the upcoming Pokémon Legends: Arceus game set in Hisui, and what they are based upon.

Update 27th February: Happy Pokémon Day! We’ve filled in all the remaining new Pokémon!

New additions to the Pokémon franchise were announced in the recent news for Pokémon Legends: Arceus, including a cute variant on popular Fire-type Growlithe, a Psychic-type version of Braviary, and new evolutions for often forgotten Pokémon, Wyrdeer (Stantler) and Basculegion (Basculin). There’s even Kleavor, a new evolution for Scyther (a fairly popular Pokémon).

So what’s the inspiration for these new additions? In Hisuian Growlithe’s case, what can we speculate about Arcanine’s form? We take a quick dive into the set.

Hisuian Growlithe and Arcanine

We start with this absolute cutie, already a fan favourite with a multitude of fan art made of it. It’s now a Fire/Rock type, and comes with extra fur that helps it retain heat in the cold Hisui region. While its horn is made of rock, it doesn’t use it often as it can break easily. They have typically lived apart from people and often guard their territory in pairs.

Probably cuter than the average shisa.

The likely basis behind this variant of Growlithe is shisa, a cross between a lion and a dog. These creatures are quite often depicted through stone sculptures – a nice link to Growlithe’s new Rock typing. Furthermore, like Hisuian Growlithe, they are often seen in pairs:

Shisa is believed to ward off evil and they are almost always seen in pairs, one with open mouth and one with a closed mouth. One of them is male and one is female but, depending on who you ask, which one is which might differ.

What about that horn on its head? One eagle-eyed fan noticed that there’s a possible link with ancient Chinese helmets, with the top spike matching the helmet design. It may be a coincidence, but it’s interesting to note.

Before we saw it in-game, we speculated this would come into the design for Hisuian Arcanine. It’s hard to see it moving away from the Fire/Rock typing this form has upon evolution, and as the description highlights a horn that can break easily, this may feature heavily in Growlithe’s evolution and become a defining attribute – a horn that does not break easily for this fierce defender that wards off evil.

Rock Slide turned out to be a move Hisuian Arcanine would learn too, based on the following:

The king went to the beach and as he held up the Shisa a thunderous roar shook the whole village, it is said even the dragon was startled. A big boulder fell from the sky and crushed the dragon’s tail so it couldn’t move. It died and the body gradually became overgrown with trees and shrubs.

Now we see that the horn did get bigger, but the differences to regular Arcanine isn’t terribly different. The stone face motif persisted, and you can definitely see why it is a Fire/Rock type.


Stantler always seemed a bit odd in being a pure Normal type with some obvious abilities that would make a Psychic typing be fitting. Its antlers feature heavily in its Pokédex entries, and it has fitting moves such as Confuse Ray and Hypnosis to its movepool. Now that has been realised with its evolution – Normal/Psychic.

Perhaps the climate of Sinnoh is why Wyrdeer only makes an appearance now. Its description references that its fur offers “top-notch protection against the cold”, and also highlights once again the black orbs at the bases of its antlers, that allow it to “generate[s] and unleash[es] psychic energy powerful enough to distort space”.

Stantler could be seen to be based upon sika deer, which in retrospect made it a natural target for a brand-new evolution in medieval Sinnoh. Not only is there a popular area in Nara where feeding local deer is a key attraction, there is a white deer in Chinese and Japanese mythology, both seeing white deer as a symbol of longevity. In Shinto legend, it is also seen as a “divine messenger”. Fitting that Wyrdeer can be used to transport you around the region!

Feed the Nara deer or it’ll give you something to fear.


Basculin, based on bass, was one of the more forgettable Pokémon of the franchise. It has the red and blue stripe gimmick which, let’s face it, isn’t noteworthy. Sugimori, long-time artist for Game Freak, stated the two forms existed because of a shortage of fish Pokémon in Unova’s Pokédex. Maybe a practical reason, but not an effective one. Nonetheless, it now has something going for it in a brand new evolution: Basculegion.

It has a neat concept to it as well –  it’s fueled by the souls of those in its shoal (or legion – hence the name) who perished in their journey upstream. Fish like bass and salmon do suffer great losses in their journey to their original home to spawn and shortly after die. Another possible version of the concept can be seen in the Shin Megami Tensei enemy Legion, based on a bible story of a collection of demons that inhabited a man and had a single hive mind, although this does differ from Basculegion’s descriptions.

Since release we learnt that using moves with recoil damage (at least 296 HP worth) is the key to evolving Basculin into Basculegion, while avoiding fainting during that time. Basculegion is the bass that cheated death, in a sense.

This could be a loose reference to gashadokuro, spirits created from the souls of people who died in battle and were not buried. Basculegion does have the vague appearance of a military leader in its face… There are no notable pieces of legend or myths to do with bass otherwise.


Not as cute as a Hisuian Growlithe.

Scyther has gained a new evolution, and it’s ditched needing a Metal Coat for it, it seems! Kleavor’s got a pair of axes for arms, and a Rock typing replacing the Flying type its pre-evolution had.

There are two aspects we can consider here. One is that as this is a region set in an older time period, the method of evolving Scyther into Scizor had not yet been discovered. Metal Coats may not have been readily made or found in this place and time. After all, Jasmine’s Steelix is implied to be a more recent discovery, even if you have to ignore this claim is made in the view of the franchise’s first sequel introducing a new pair of typings and trying to justify them beyond ‘Psychic types were broken’. Kleavor instead involves rocks, a much more readily available material. It evolves from Scyther through the Black Augurite item – a direct replacement for Metal Coat, sans the need to trade.

The second is to its arms instead, resembling an axe. Everyone knows about the sword of the samurai, but not many think about the axes they used too, often for splitting the helmets of enemies. It’s a neat take on the different arms Scyther and Scizor have used in battles, that relates to the medieval times Hisui is set in.


An example of a Steller’s sea eagle.

The original Braviary was based on the bald eagle, and hence was an obviously american-based addition to the Unova region. Now we have Hisuian Braviary – so what is it based upon? A clue comes from the website:

When Rufflet in the Hisui region evolve, they become Hisuian Braviary. In the winter, this Pokémon flies in from somewhere farther north. It’s larger than the previously discovered form of Braviary and tends to live alone rather than in flocks.

Bald eagles do migrate, even as far as Japan, but it appears to be a rather rare event, so perhaps it is another eagle. One eagle that does more typically migrate to Japan for winter is the Steller’s sea eagle. It’s one of the largest raptors, and has a similar colour scheme to Hisuian Braviary as well.

Since release, we learnt of Hisuian Braviary’s Pokédex entry:

It blasts lakes with shock waves, then scoops up any prey that float to the water’s surface.

This seafood diet suggests the Steller’s sea eagle as the stronger contender.

As for the Psychic typing gained by this variant, the closest one can get is to look at the Tengu, deities that take the form of birds of prey or monkeys, and can foresee the future and have the “power to stir up great winds” – not too different from Hisuian Braviary being able to “imbue its eerie screeches with psychic power to generate powerful shock waves”.

Hisuian Zorua and Zoroark

The two new Hisuian additions took generation mascots Zorua and Zoroark and gave them the unique typing combination of Normal and Ghost. Zorua was already based on the kitsune, trickster foxes in Japanese lore which are able to shapeshift. Kitsune can also create illusions “so elaborate as to be almost indistinguishable from reality”. Zorua and Zoroark also employ shapeshifting:

To protect themselves from danger, they hide their true identities by transforming into people and Pokémon.

Masks have been made to represent various different kitsune, among them a white variant (hakuko), evidently the inspiration for the Hisuian form here.

Zorua was originally a Dark type, representative of the trickery employed in disguising itself. Its new typing rather fits one translation of kitsune to “fox spirit” – being immune to Normal, Ghost and Fighting types works here.

Hisuian Voltorb and Electrode

There’s not too much different here – they’re both based on Poké Balls, just like the version of Voltorb we’re used to. Here all Poké Balls are crafted from Apricorns – plant material, as opposed to… whatever modern Poké Balls are made out of, exactly. Something worse for the environment, no doubt. Given this basis for early versions of the Poké Ball, Hisuian Voltorb gains a Grass typing.

A neat change is that Hisuian Voltorb are happy in facial expression, the opposite to regular Voltorb. The opposite holds for both forms of Electrode. There’s no deep lore here – just an amusing parallel.

Hisuian Qwilfish and Overqwil

A navel mine from WWII.

Qwilfish is based on a porcupine, or puffer, fish. There’s little in its new colouration to go on – no evidence of a species of pufferfish that lives around Japan with that colouration, even sans the purple spikes.

Overqwil has more of a hint – its shape bears a strong resemblance to a navel mine. These have existed as early as the 14th century! While they were invented by the Chinese, they were first used to fight against Japanese pirates. Ergo, it makes sense that such an item was used as inspiration for a Hisuian evolution. Its shape isn’t that far removed from that of a pufferfish either, to be honest – it’s a decent fit.

We should note that Qwilfish long ago had an evolution planned in Shibirefugu. It had more to do with pufferfish and had dull spikes. There’s no obvious link between it and Overqwil.


Ursa (bear) + luna (moon) gives the basis away a fair bit, and it was already somewhat evident in its pre-evolutions. Ursaring’s large circle was a full moon, while Teddiursa had a crescent moon on its head. Now Ursaluna has a moon on its head again, with clouds going across it that could be mistaken for oddly placed eyebrows on an initial glance. Ursaring evolves via the use of a Peat Block during a full moon – keeping the moon theme going. The Peat Block item is described as a muddy material – perhaps it is the source of those clouds on its forehead.

There’s the Ussuri brown bear species in real life that it may be based upon; this species is native to the region Sinnoh is inspired by. Its role in the game also may match with Kim-un-kamuy, a bear and mountain god in Ainu culture (Ainu being the indigenous people of Japan and surrounding area). It having digging powers does fit a mountain god motif. Happily, the Pearl Clan did not sacrifice Ursaluna as the Ainu people did.

Hisuian Sneasel and Sneasler

Well then, as if Sneasel didn’t already have a heck of a development history filled with last-minute redesigns (and subsequent recolours), and a 4th generation evolution, Game Freak went and made a new form and evolution. Take a read through its several past forms!

The curious development of Sneasel

But what can we make of Hisuian Sneasel and its new evolution? It’s hard to tell. It has a new dual typing which also complicates things. One can grant the Fighting typing given its ability to fight with claws. Poison? Well… one might look at its Japanese name, in オオニューラ (Oonyura). There exists a yokai (Japanese spirit) called Ōnyūdō which often take on the appearance of travelling monks, and if you see one you may become ill. A bit of a stretch, perhaps, but animals that have been able to transfer into Ōnyūdō include weasels – but not limited to it. There’s also the kamaitachi, a weasel yokai, with prominent long claws – but regular Sneasel had this too. Maybe it’s just yet another reimaging for Sneasel.

Hisuian Sliggoo and Goodra

Regular Sliggoo and friends were based on a slug – naturally, Hisuian Sliggoo and Goodra draw on snails, given the shell. There’s a few neat points here: for one, slugs evolved from snails and internalised the shell, so you can argue that Hisuian Sliggoo came first, as Pokémon Legends: Arceus is set in the past – maybe the Goomy seen in other regions evolved to not have the shell.

Another comes from Sliggoo’s Pokédex entry:

A creature given to melancholy. I suspect its metallic shell developed as a result of the mucus on its skin reacting with the iron in Hisui’s water.

We’ve seen the idea of a moody or sadder middle stage before a few times (in contrast, Hisuian Goodra “loathes solitude and is extremely clingy”). Could the iron-rich Hisuian water be the cause of the moodiness however? We do know that iron excess can lead to depression symptoms in (male) humans… Speculation aside, it’s clear this is what lends Hisuian Sliggoo and Goodra their Steel typing.

There is also a species of endangered sea-snail, with an unusual shell comprised partly of iron sulphide. Perhaps this was a direct inspiration for this regional form.

Hisuian Lilligant

It’s much more humanoid than its Unovan form!

There’s little to conclude here beyond “it’s based on a ballerina“. The boss battle against it made it clear it’s all about dancing – some of its leaps come right out of ballet. The Pokédex entry talks about its strong legs, something ballerinas also need in order to perform those tricky dances. Next!

Hisuian Avalugg

Not quite as clear-cut, but as regular Avalugg are based on land icebergs, Hisuian Avalugg may be at least partly based on another ice-feature: glaciers. Glaciers will ‘pluck’ or erode bedrock to form paths in valleys; this accumulated rock hence seems to be why Hisuian Avalugg gained its Rock typing.

The other inspiration can be seen from its jaw – blades forming something not unlike a snowplough. These two aspects link nicely in its dex entry:

The armor of ice covering its lower jaw puts steel to shame and can shatter rocks with ease. This Pokémon barrels along steep mountain paths, cleaving through the deep snow.


Enamorus is one of the most interesting additions here. Its other counterparts (Landorus, Tornadus and Thundurus) are forces of nature, and their Therian Formes make up three of the Four Symbols (of Gods) of Chinese mythology. Respectively, they are the White Tiger of the West, Vermilion Bird of the South, and Azure Dragon of the East. That leaves the Black Tortoise of the North – enter Enamorus’ Therian Forme! It is curious that only now do we get a completion to the Unovan genie trio, but better late than never – and not too unusual when you consider the Regis gained additions in generations four and eight.

The Four Symbols.

Mind you, it isn’t as simple as that. Therian Formes are only half the story, after all. Tornadus and Thundurus’ original Incarnate Formes are originally based on two Japanese gods of weather, Fūjin and Raijin. This isn’t speculation either – it was explicitly stated by none other than Sugimori – Word of God, so to speak. Landorus may also be based on the Japanese god Inari.

So where does that leave us for Enamorus’ Incarnate Forme? Enamorus’ dex entries make it clear the concept of love and fertility is involved (which frankly should be obvious from the heart visible in its design):

When it flies to this land from across the sea, the bitter winter comes to an end. According to legend, this Pokémon’s love gives rise to the budding of fresh life across Hisui.

A different guise from its feminine humanoid form. From the clouds, it descends upon those who treat any form of life with disrespect and metes out wrathful, ruthless punishment.

Then there’s the other obvious part of Enamorus: the snake. So what (possibly Japanese) god features snakes and love/fertility/life? There are two candidates here. One is Benzaiten, also known as Benten (not to be confused with Ben 10). At first glance this may not seem an obvious fit: a god that represents “things that flow: water, time, words, speech, eloquence, music and by extension, knowledge”. It is, however, represented as a female unlike its six other cohorts – Enamorus is a rare case of a gendered Legendary Pokémon. Benzaiten is also sometimes thought to represent love and beauty from a Hindu basis, and is credited with killing the three-headed Vritra, also known as Ahi “snake”.

But we go deeper yet. During the Kanagawa period in Japan, Benzaiten’s concept was merged with Inari (the possible representation of Landorus), giving us “Uga Benzaiten”. Other legends, as quoted from Yabai, include this intriguing concept:

However, in some legends, it is believed that the god of rice (Inari) took Benten as a wife and thus called her Uga Benzaiten. In some of Japan’s mythology, this unification of Inari and Benten resulted to the fertility and harvest Kami known as Ugajin. This ugajin is represented as both male and female whose body is a snake. It is known that Benzaiten has a strong association with snakes and Inari has a strong association with the harvest.

Ugajin, one possible inspiration for Enamorus.

There we have it – a nicely placed theory for its basis that ties Enamorus to Landorus (thus giving Landorus a ‘partner’ to parallel Thundurus and Tornadus’ similarities in basis before Therian Formes), snakes, and the concept of fertility and harvests. And that’s not all! We have also this tale:

It is because of the fact that Benzaiten is seen accompanied by a large white snake. […] The origin story of this sea dragon is that she is married to a sea dragon from the Island of Enoshima. This dragon used to be wicked but she has used her purification forces to change her husband. Because of this, the sacred snakes have become her messengers and companions.

The other candidate is Ugajin, the kami (spirit) of fertility and harvest in Japanese mythology. Ugajin is depicted with the body of a snake, and either the head of a man or woman. It’s more direct than Benzaiten in its links to Enamorus, but I personally think both are quite valid claims, and Benzaiten seems to be the stronger basis given the various stories making up its lore. Of course, it could be both.

One last thought on Enamorus’ Therian Forme; there may be Four Symbols in Chinese mythology, but there’s another counterpart to these, the Yellow Dragon representing the emperor of the universe. Could we see a fifth genie later on?

Dialga and Palkia

A very quick word on their unusual Origin Formes – they are forms that draw from Arceus. Dialga’s Pokédex entry spells it out:

Radiant light caused Dialga to take on a form bearing a striking resemblance to the creator Pokémon. Dialga now wields such colossal strength that one must conclude this is its true form.

That was straightforward – but what’s left? Why, it’s the Hisuian Starter Pokémon! Back in the below article we made some speculation following the opening trailer as to why they were picked – some of it held true.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus – a Team Galactic link and Starters explained

Hisuian Samurott

Hisuian Samurott gains the Dark typing, which is based on dirty fighting. That’s reflective in moves like Beat Up, Sucker Punch, and the like. Hisuian Samurott’s signature move is Ceaseless Edge, which involves shell splinters that “will continue to damage the target for several turns”.

This lends itself well to its description of being “cold and heartless, and is willing to do anything in order to win“, and its basis: a rōnin, a samurai without a master. Rōnin were not well regarded (samurai were meant to commit seppuku – suicide – on the death of their master), and regarded as vagrants and mercenaries. This also links to another move Samurott learns, Night Slash – it translates to ‘Crossroad Killing’ from the Japanese name of the move, reflecting an act performed by disgraced samurai.

This basis for Hisuian Samurott is further reflected in the small changes in its design to its Unovan form – a jagged tip and red-painted, bent swords (or “seamitars”).

Hisuian Decidueye

What’s one more rōnin? Not too many, apparently, as Decidueye may well also be based on this. After all, like many rōnin:

It doesn’t have a set territory. Instead, it goes wandering in search of food to survive.

The samurai basis is there in its design. Meanwhile, besides the obvious basis on owls, it bears a new hat that partly obscures its face and has a style akin to the Kasa, a set of Japanese hats. As Yabai notes, one Kasa hat is the roningasa.

The roningasa, according to history, is worn by samurai or warriors without a master. These are usually traveling samurai or are those who are exiled by their clan lords. Since the hat is quite large in size, it will cover the entire face. For safety, the hat is designed with multiple slits to provide space to see what is ahead. Since this kind of hat is worn by samurai who is exiled, it is only appropriate to see the hat covering the person’s face. This is to still uphold their dignity and that no one will see the face of an exiled man.

This fits in pretty well. And as samurai, or rōnin, fight, we have its newfound Fighting secondary typing. In fact, it replaces Alolan Decidueye’s secondary Ghost type, because as a rōnin, it did not die and instead chose the path of a wanderer. Archery, by the way, was also a significant part of samurai fighting.

Hisuian Typhlosion

It’s not a rōnin. Rather, it is a (usually) calmer creature acting as a guide to the deceased:

In addition to having graceful and refined movements, Hisuian Typhlosion has a very relaxed disposition and can often be seen staring into space. At such times, it is thought to be looking at the flow of life energy and spirits. It will occasionally eat wayward spirits, but it’s believed that spirits consumed this way are then purified by the Pokémon’s flames and returned to where they belong.​

We’ll also highlight this line from the official website:

It emits ghost flames—said to number as many as 108—from the fires around its neck.

108 is a hugely significant – if not outright sacred – number in many religions, and now is not just used in relation to Spiritomb. It’s a nice touch, if a bit easily missed.

That’s what we’ve been able to research and speculate upon – do you have any theories to share of your own? Which is your favourite new Hisuian Pokémon?

Edited by Aldo, Cocoman, Rabinov and Sheep.