The Dashing Design of Litten

Posted in

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. This time let’s take a look at the star of this month’s community day, Litten!


Franchise History General icon

Litten (Left), Incineroar (Middle), Torracat (Right).

Litten was introduced as the Fire type starter Pokémon for the first two pairs of Seventh Generation games. The seventh generation encompasses the Pokémon Sun, Pokémon Moon, Pokémon Ultra Sun, and Pokémon Ultra Moon series of mainline games. Along with the Let’s GO games, Pokémon Let’s GO, Pikachu! and Pokémon Let’s GO, Eevee!

Being one of the three starters (or first partners, as they are called now), it was announced very early on in the generation. In fact, the first-ever trailer showcasing Pokémon Sun and Moon worldwide focused solely on the three starters, Litten included. This was back on March 10, 2016.

Litten made its anime appearance very early during the season as well. And by early, I mean the very first episode of Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon, “Alola to New Adventure!”. Other than that, Litten’s final evolution, Incineroar is one of the few Pokémon to play a major role outside of the Pokémon series. As it is a playable character in the popular action-fighting game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate!

Litten General icon



Source: Official Anime Clip

Litten’s name is very likely a combination of “Lit” (Meaning something “alight” or on fire, ignited) and “Kitten” (a term used to describe underaged or baby cats). “Litten” taken together can also sound similar to the first part of “Little” (meaning small). All of this emphasizes its small stature as the first form of its line. Along with the “Lit” bit referring to its Fire typing.

Its Japanese name, Nyabby is a combination of “Nya” (the onomatopoeia for the sound cats make in Japanese) and very likely, “Tabby” (referring to the domestic tabby cats).


As mentioned in its Japanese name analysis, Litten seems to be based on a Tabby Cat. Tabby cats are domestic cats differentiated by the intricate marking found on their fur. This definitely fits Litten, as it is primarily black with red patterns. As for why these two colors specifically An easy reason is that these colors allude to its Fire typing and its Dark typing it gets as it evolves. 

Source: Litten Art by Ken Sugimori. Collected from Bulbapedia.

An interesting detail about Litten is the different flame patterns it has. Of course, there are the whiskers and the tip of its tail. But as seen in the above image, its fur can spike up showing red pointy flame-like bits when it is attacking. This is in reference to something cats do in real life. Where they puff out their fur to appear larger and scare away predators.

The Forehead Mark

Shiranui the Cat. Source: Hayate No Gotoku! S2 EP.8

But let’s not beat around the bush and focus on Litten’s most striking feature. That forehead pattern. It looks similar to fish bones. Cats do love to eat fish after all. It’s a common trope. But why a pattern on its forehead anyway?

This is also a rather common trope in anime both old and new. Ninja Hattori, Sailor Moon, and Hayate No Gotoku all feature cats with unique patterns on their forehead. I’m not sure if there’s a common root to this trope, but I can think of a few theories. First and easiest, it just adds to the cuteness factor. Second, it can be a reference to Koban Coins, seen being held by maneki-neko statues used to bring in good luck. This is actually the basis of Meowth’s forehead coin and the Lucky Coin item in the mainline games.

And my final theory is that it’s a shorthand to show “stray cats”. As stray cats often have scars, particularly on their heads, as they fight against one another. This is actually referenced in Litten’s Pokédex somewhat. Half of them mention how Littens are solitary by nature and that trainers should gain their trust slowly and cautiously or risk getting scratched. (The other half talks about the flammable nature of its fur).

Torracat General icon



Torracat is very likely a combination of “Torrid” (Meaning very dry and hot) and well, “Cat” (Meaning cat, the common household animal :3 ). If we assume the name takes inspiration from non-English words as well. “Torra” could also come from the Spanish “Torrar” (Meaning to roast something) or the Japanese “Tora” (meaning tiger). Its Japanese name is even simpler, Nyaheat, Nya, and heat, I love it.


Source: Pokémon The Series: Sun and Moon EP. 141

Now you might be thinking, “Etymology’s nice and all. But go back to Litten for a bit. Why is the cute kitty a lonely stray? And a first partner Pokémon at that? CAN I STILL PAT THE KITTY?!” Well, Torracat is here to alleviate your concerns.

As a middle-stage evolution, Torracat doesn’t shift significantly from Litten’s design to become its own. However, the changes that are there are still worth noting. The least important change in my opinion is the ratio of black to red on Torracat’s fur compared to Litten’s. In particular, most of its abdominal area is now red with black stripes rather than the other way around. And its tail has stripes now too.

But as for a more significant change, Torracat has now a bell made out of flames on its collar. The Pokédex entries describe this bell as a biological sac where Torracat stores its flame energy. But design-wise, it looks like a belled collar a pet cat would wear. And if you thought so as well, you would be right! As the other dex entries describe Torracat as a needy and affectionate Pokémon that enjoys cuddles. Just as an example, in the Pokémon Violet Pokédex entry:

Torracat will let its Trainer coddle it once they’ve grown close, but it’s a powerful, sharp-clawed Pokémon, so its Trainer gets covered in scratches.

So it seems the evolution from Litten to Torracat is one born from bonding with its trainer. Going from a natural loner to a needy kitty cat. This can be seen in its forehead mark as well. As it looks less like a scar now and more like a tuft of hair. Interestingly, it also looks like the alchemical symbol for sulfur but upside down:

Alchemical Symbol for Sulfure. Source: Uploaded by Kwamikagami on Wikipedia.

Sulfur is well-known as a flammable material, so it makes sense. Other than that, Torracat’s whiskers have now become denser, looking more like a mane. That, along with the patterns on its fur gives it hints of big cat species such as tigers and lions.

Incineroar General icon


We now reach the final stage of the Litten line with Incineroar. Incineroar gets its name by combining “Incinerate” (The act of destroying something by burning it) and roar (a deep, loud, prolonged cry often performed by large animals). Its Japanese name is pretty similar in this case. As Gaogaen is probably a combination of “Gao” (the onomatopoeia for roaring in Japanese) and “Kaen” (Meaning flame). As the animals that we tend to think about roaring typically involve lions and tigers, we can easily move on to the design analysis:


Source: Official Site.

So as alluded to in the etymology section, Incineroar is a big kitty now. Taking in elements of real-life big cats, most notably tigers, based on the stripe patterns. We could actually see these tiger-like features appearing on the Litten line as early as Torracat. But of course, that’s not the biggest addition we see with Incineroar, is it?

No, of course not, because all of a sudden our little Fire cat is now a buff humanoid fighter? In fact, the spiked-up fur on its shoulders almost gives it the look of a fighter wearing a sleeveless vest. And the pattern on its head looks like a mask. So if it is based on a fighter why is it a Dark type?

The Wrathful Wrestler

Well, let’s try to answer these questions. Incineroar seems to be based on a wrestler specifically. The flame sac from its throat has moved on to being its belt. As such, it now looks like a wrestling champion’s belt. Such as the iconic WWE Championship belt:

Source: Fair Use Image Collected from Wikipedia.

Not only that, the pose Incineroar is in, in the image collected from the official Pokédex site, has it with its arm extended. Which gives it the look that it’s going for an attack. I believe this attack is Incineroar’s signature attack Darkest Lariat. A “Lariat” is an attack in wrestling where the attacker charges at the opponent and pushes the opponent down. Done through the force of the attacker’s arm on the opponent’s chest or neck.

Fist of Darkness?

So I believe the above examples rather definitively prove that Incineroar is a wrestler. But why the Dark typing? To answer that I believe we need to look into the type itself deeper. Dark as a type, does not necessarily refer to darkness, as in the absence of light. In Japanese the name of the type isn’t even dark, it’s called EVIL. But I’d argue that’s not entirely accurate either.

Dark Types.

Instead, if you look at the moves within the Dark typing, it seems to be a combination of actual darkness and shadows, and moves that typically involve more cunning and less honourable tactics in combat. As opposed to the more honorable moves seen in Fighting types.

With that being said, perhaps the specific type of wrestler Incineroar is, is a Heel. A “Heel” is an antagonist character in wrestling who uses underhanded tactics and represents vices. This does fit with Incineroar as a lot of its Pokédex entries emphasize its ruthless nature in combat. Often being very aggressive and not caring about collateral damage.

Bad Kitty?

So is our Fire type first partner a very bad kitty cat? Well, not exactly. Remember, a “Heel” is a character someone plays. The person behind the character could be a completely different person. In fact, some Heels even have redemption arcs where they become good characters but sometimes still keep their cunning tactics. Because it’s just fun to watch. 

This is even reflected in Incineroar. As despite its ferocious nature in combat, it is a softie on the inside. Often protecting smaller Pokémon and relishing in the adoration of children. In fact, you can see this idea play out even in its playstyle. In the VG tournament circuit, Incineroar is typically used as one of the best support Pokémon. Being more focused on buffing your own mons and debuffing your opponent’s rather than fighting directly. This can be seen as being similar to what Heels do, in a weird way. They play the role of the evil villain in order to make the virtues of the heroic characters more easily understandable through contrast. Thus supporting the hero in a way, through their antagonism.

Conclusion General icon

And there we go! A bit more of a normal “Dashing Design” after a long while. As for Incineroar, I have so far omitted mentioning why a cat turns into a wrestler in the first place. It comes down to the personality we associate with our pet cats. While dogs have had a long time to become man’s best friends, cats are still seen as general predator animals. So their behavior has this duality of being very affectionate, yet also oftentimes appearing more “selfish” in a sense and needy. Almost lordlike even.

Yet we love them all the same. A perfect personality to give to a wrestler with a heart of gold. It also fits with the “theme” of the Generation Seven starters, as they are all circus animals mixed with human performances (archery-Decidueye, wrestling-Incineroar, and singing-Primarina). I was initially one of the ones who was thrown off by Incineroar’s sudden change from the previous forms, yet I’ve really grown to love over time how a cat and wrestler’s personalities are blended together. Litten’s is a story of a cat loving and being loved. And this is why, Litten’s design, is quite dashing! 

Goodbye for now, Pokémon trainers. Priom-out!

Author & tags

Pokémon fan since as early as object permanence allows. Me and my Pokébuddy, PoppyGO are here to hopefully help you with all of Pokémon GO's going-ons!

Further reading

Popular today

Latest articles

Support us

Buy GO Hub merch

Get your very own GO Hub t-shirt, mug, or tote.