Good day, Pokémon Trainers! Have you ever noticed how certain events in Pokémon GO give special attention to a single Pokémon or the community itself tends to hype a new Pokémon up? Have you ever wondered why this Pokémon specifically and what its origins are?
Well, that’s where the Dashing Design series comes in! I’ll be your guide as we take a look at the franchise history, concept, and potential design inspirations of specific Pokémon. And this time, let’s work together to shed some light on the design of the new star of this year’s Festival of Lights event, Bellibolt.Bellibolt
Two out of the three Pokémon we’ve covered here in the Dashing Design series so far have been from Paldea. This is no coincidence as this Pokémon GO season of Adventures Abound has been the inaugural season for Paldean Pokémon. And Bellibolt is no exception.
Much like Greavard and Smoliv before, Bellibolt is a Paldean Pokémon first appearing in the ninth generation of Pokémon games Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet. And also much like Greavard and Smoliv, Bellibolt was showcased in a trailer before the release of the games. Though, personally, I think Bellibolt’s reveal was a bit more special than the others. The common method for The Pokémon Company to announce new Pokémon recently has been either showcasing them in regular trailers or making research/found footage-styled videos for them.
However, Bellibolt is the signature Pokémon of the Electric type gym leader in Paldea, Iono. Who other than being a gym leader, is also an online streamer/influencer in lore. So Bellibolt was announced in a two-part trailer series that was meant to evoke a sense of jumping into an in-world stream hosted by Iono. Where Iono asks her viewers a “Who’s that Pokémon?” styled question similar to the ones that would appear before an ad-break in the mainline Pokémon anime series. And in the next video, she would reveal it to be her partner Pokémon, Bellibolt! This was on October 12th and 14th, 2022, just one month prior to the release of the ninth generation of video games.
So you may have noticed that the namesake of this Dashing Design is the evolved form Bellibolt, not the initial form Tadbulb. Even though every previous iteration got their name from the first stage of that Pokémon. This is because we’ll only briefly take a look at Tadbulb, as its design is rather simple.
Both etymologically and design-wise, Tadbulb is based on two simple concepts. It’s a fusion of a “Tadpole”, the larval stage of amphibian animals, such as frogs, before they fully mature. And an electric “Lightbulb”, hence the Electric typing. Though to be more precise the lightbulb portion of it seems to be based on traditional Incandescent Light Bulbs as characterized by its shape. So ya, Tadpole+Lightbulb, Tadbulb. Shout out to whoever designed this one for making my job easier!
Source: Pokémon GO Festival of Lights Event Banner
Jokes aside though, there are definitely genuine inspirations behind this design. Such as the Edison Screw that is used to plug light bulbs into a wall being replaced with a tadpole tail to signal that, it is indeed also a tadpole. But other than that, I would like you to take note of its face for now.
Source: Official Site
And now we come to the main topic of today’s discussion, Bellibolt! Thankfully, naming wise Bellibolt is no less simple than Tadbulb. It’s a combination of the words “Belly” referring to the abdominal area of most animals, and “Bolt” derived from Thunderbolt, which is a flash of lightning followed by the roar of thunder. With that out of the way let’s get started right away with the design of this cuddly-looking Pokémon.
If we get down to it, I believe there are three key elements to Bellibolt’s design. Its body, its face, and of course, its belly. Let’s start with the easiest to talk about its body.
Bellibolt’s overall design is relatively simple. Its round, soft, pear-like shape almost harkens back to the simplicity of Pokémon from earlier generations, particularly Generation Two. Though perhaps it would be more accurate to say Avocado-Shaped, rather than Pear-Shaped? With the color scheming and how its belly looks like the insides of an avocado, you could certainly make that connection.
And interestingly, avocado and electricity do have a history together. As avocados are highly conductive to electricity and even used in electrical studies. Spain, the real-world inspiration for Bellibolt’s home region of Paldea, is also the biggest European producer of avocados. However, I have not found any Pokédex entries or any other piece of information that implies that Bellibolt has anything to do with avocados. So it might be an unintended consequence or an internal design inspiration.
Source: Official Site
Also worth noting is the back of Bellibolt, which has a pattern that looks like a front-facing dynamo, which leads us to our next topic.
So without a doubt, Bellibolt’s belly is its most striking feature. It is its namesake after all and is the most eye-catching. Both of its Pokédex entries mention how there is a dynamo in its belly that produces electricity. Which might be the glowing yellow circle in the middle. So there are obviously two questions to answer here. Firstly, what even is a dynamo? Well, I am certainly no expert in electrical science. But from what I could gather, a dynamo is merely the world’s first form of an electric generator.
An Example of a Patent for a Dynamo Generator. Source: Public Domain Image Collected from Wikipedia
So its belly has an electric generator. That’s fine and all. But this leads us to the second question, Why does its belly look like that in the first place? I believe the look of Bellibolt’s belly is definitely inspired by the “vocal sacs” quite a few species of frogs have on their cheeks or on their bellies. These sacs are responsible for the iconic frog “croaking” sound, as they make those sounds by expanding and contorting these sacs. And it just so happens, Bellibolt’s Dynamo Generator is also powered up by the extensions and contortions of its belly. Also, these sacs do look somewhat transparent when expanded much like how Bellibolt’s belly looks.
The Belly Electricity
Now with these two questions answered, the next natural question would be, why does it have a generator? Why is it an electric type? Are there frogs that can produce electricity in their sacs? As cool as that sounds, unfortunately, from my research there doesn’t seem to be any electric frogs lying around. No, instead one of the main reasons I’ve seen people mention is galvanism, the generation of electricity through biological organisms first discovered using frog legs. And while it’s an interesting theory, I believe it isn’t the reason for Bellibolt’s Electric typing. Or at least not the whole truth that unveils this mystery.
Rather I think the inspiration for Bellibolt’s Electric typing is inspired by the lore and standards of the Pokémon franchise itself. Consider first that many toad species have poisonous parts on their skin or specific organs. Consider also, the Bufo Toad a type of poisonous toad that produces Bufotoxin, and is native to parts of Europe, including Spain. Then consider that Paralysis, or at least a numbing paralytic sensation, is a potential symptom of Bufotoxin poisoning.
And now we can get to the main point, which is that Paralysis is a long-lasting negative status condition that Pokémon can suffer in the mainline series. This status condition is heavily tied to electric as a type. Visually it’s represented with a yellow icon in menus and creates a static effect around the affected Pokémon. Almost 50% of all the moves that can cause paralysis are also electric type. So Paralysis is fundamentally tied to the Electric typing. And Bellibolt takes inspiration from poisonous toads that produce poisons that have such paralytic effects. Thus Bellibolt is an electric type, which helps it stand out among the other Water or Poison type frog/toad-like Pokémon.
And the last thing we have to talk about is the face. Or rather, its real face. The one circled in blue:
Source: Official Site
Because yes, those white orbs on its cheeks are not its real eyes. Those are fake eyes, used to deter potential threats. Such fake “eyes” can even be found in real frogs, most distinctly the Cuyaba dwarf frog which is native to certain parts of South America. And surprisingly, as it turns out, such fake eyes to deter prey aren’t even that unique to one animal species as well. Other frogs also have hearing organs called Tympanum on their cheeks which fits into where Bellibolt’s fake eyes are located as well.
But enough of the false, let’s look at the true. Because remember when I said you might want to take note of Tadbulb’s face? Well, it’s still here, on Bellibolt. It doesn’t change a bit! And this is definitely intentional because its “dopey” looking face, in the absence of a better word, is vital to its character.
Source: Official Site
Both Iono in the reveal trailer and the official page for Bellibolt mention how it is easygoing but can be agile with its electric-type moves when attacked first. This is actually in line with some real-life toad species, who absolutely live the “No thoughts, head empty” philosophy! These toads, when relaxed, show examples of extremely slow eye movement and brain function. But can be very agile when hunting for prey. So perhaps, many such toad or frog species secrete poison or have fake eyes to deter predators when they are relaxing and vulnerable. And perhaps this is also why, Bellibolt developed to become an agile Electric type as well.
So this is something I wanted to do for the Zorua Article. Another important part of Pokémon is of course the trainers who dedicate their lives to raising Pokémon themselves. And sometimes these trainers share design similarities with their signature Pokémon. In lore, you can describe these similarities as the trainers wanting to apply parts of their favorite Pokémon’s design into their own outfits. However in a more meta sense, I’m sure a lot of thought goes into designing both the trainer and the Pokémon to share aesthetic consistencies between them.
As an example of Zoroark, Zorua’s evolution, this boils down to Zoroark’s tail turning into a ponytail, which aligns with the design of the main trainer who uses Zoroark, N. With that being said, let’s look at the gym trainer who introduced us to Bellibolt herself, Iono!
Source: Official Site
When looking at Iono’s design and the similarities with Bellibolt, there are two things that stand out. First, of course, is the oversized yellow/black jacket that she wears. Not only does it help establish that she is the electric-type gym leader, but also gives her an overall cylindrical shape language. Which mimics Bellibolt’s own pear-like shape.
And second is her rather large Magnemite hairpins (Yes, those are meant to be hairpins). I think it’s pretty clear that those hairpins, shaped after the mono-eyed Magnemite are definitely meant to represent the fake eyes of Bellibolt. And again, with Magnemite being an electric-type Pokémon, they also emphasize her status as an electric-type gym leader. Hairpins that do double duty, now that’s smart if you ask me!
And there we go! The fourth in the “Dashing Design” series. To close off I’d be remiss not to talk about the 1997 Space World Demo sprite of another frog Pokémon, Politoad.
Because while it was an anonymous leak and should be taken with a grain of salt as something unofficial, it does share a striking resemblance to Bellibolt. This might have been a design inspiration for Bellibolt, or a complete coincidence. But I still wanted to mention it to get to my final point. Which is that, perhaps the most interesting thing about Bellibolt is how it combines real-life inspirations with the franchise’s own history. It’s an electric type precisely because of how electric and paralysis work in the Pokémon franchise. And this is why, Bellibolt’s design, is quite dashing!
Goodbye for now, Pokémon trainers. Priom-out!