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 today we will be looking at the weaselly cat that’s getting its shiny in the Along the Routes Event, Sneasler!Sneasler
Source: AR Picture by Kittypokemonsalot
Sneasler is a relatively new Pokémon. First appearing in the game, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, released in 2022. Though its pre-evolution Sneasel is anything but new. As it has a long history in the franchise!
Sneasel is a DarkIce type Pokémon that first appeared in Generation Two. Generation Two, of course, encompasses the Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal lineup of main series video games. Sneasel’s first evolution would come out many years later with Weavile in 2006 and 2007. These two years saw the release of the Generation Four titles Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Which is when Weavile was first introduced as an evolution for Sneasel.
Sneasler would then come out many years later as an evolution for the Hisuian regional variant of Sneasel. Now, in most places I have seen, the consensus is that Sneasler is a Generation Eight Pokémon. This is actually a bit strange. Hisui itself is the region that Pokémon Legends: Arceus takes place in. And Hisui is the ancient version of Sinnoh. The region the aforementioned Generation Four games take place in and the one that introduced Weavile many years prior.
This is because Pokémon Legends: Arceus was released alongside the remakes for Pokémon Diamond and Pearl as a new twist on the mainline Pokémon formula. Generally, remakes are considered a part of the generation of the prior new series of games released during that time. So that is why Sneasler is considered a Generation Eight Pokémon. As Legends: Arceus and the Diamond and Pearl remakes were released after Sword and Shield, the Gen 8 games.
But Legends: Arceus and to an extent, even the Diamond and Pearl remakes feel distinctly different from Sword and Shield. And other than Pokémon Legends: Arceus, the only other games Sneasler is available so far are Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, the Generation Nine games. Which is why I feel it a bit strange to call it a Generation Eight Pokémon. But this has already become a rather lengthy history segment. So let’s quickly dive in to the main analysis now!
Before we get into the main course, let’s take a look at Hisuian Sneasel. Etymologically, Sneasel is a combination of “Sneak” (meaning stealthy, moving undetected) and Weasel (a type of four-legged mammal). The first part of its name may also be derived from the word “Sneeze” (the act of blowing air from one’s mouth often as a reaction the cold). So I believe the first part of the name refers to both. “Sneak” for its Dark typing and “Sneeze” for its Ice typing.
However, much like Mareanie covered before, Sneasel’s English name ignores a part of its key qualities. And for that, we need to look at its Japanese name, Nyula. This name could have multiple sources of inspiration. Nyu might be based on the word “Sennyū”, meaning “To Sneak”, “Yū” means Weasel, and Nyu, taken together also sounds similar to “Nya” (the onomatopoeia for the sound cats make in Japanese). And finally, Nyula taken together sounds similar to “Nora”, especially in Japanese where they have a middle sound that’s in-between L and R. “Nora” means stray. With “Nora Neko” meaning “Stray Cat”. So Sneasel is actually both a weasel and a cat!
With that out of the way let’s get into design. Though, while both types of Sneasel share the same name, their designs share both similarities and differences. So we’ll be looking at Sneasel’s design in two parts. The shared elements, and ways in which the different forms of Sneasel are different from one another.
The Core Design
Source: Official Site
When looking at Sneasel’s design, there are a few things that stand out. Namely, the feathers, the gemstones and the eyes, and of course, the claws.
Let’s start with the gemstones first, since those are the things I don’t have a definitive answer for. Since one of them is in the forehead, it might be referring to “The Third Eye”. A concept in Eastern Religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and even Taoism, and is associated with perception beyond ordinary sight. This might then be related to Sneasel’s actual eyes. Which feel like they take inspiration from Egyptian depictions of “The Eye of Ra”. The Eye of Ra denotes the feminine counterpart to the Sun God Ra. And is associated with various goddesses, for our purposes, the ones worth mentioning are Bastet and Sekhmet, as these goddesses both possess feline qualities.
All this focus on eyes very likely stems from the fact that many types of cats and weasels have exceptional night vision. And on cameras at night, they almost seem like they are glowing, like the sun. Hence the Sun God Ra connection. The gems might also take inspiration from the weasel’s close relative, the ferrets, as they are commonly known as thieves.
So Sneasel has some feathers in the place of one of its ears and tail. Other than giving Sneasel some really nice red highlights, these take inspiration from Sneasel’s cat origins. More accurately, its stray cat origins. Because stray cats get into fights with each other often, their soft ears and tails often get damaged and chipped off. Stray cats that have been vaccinated/neutered also often have a part of their ear chipped off to denote that they are safe (relatively) to humans. Thus as part stray cat, I suppose you could say Sneasel has amputated feather ears and tails in place of normal ones. But why feathers exactly? For that we have to look at the final piece of Sneasel’s design:
So when you look at Sneasel’s arms, they are a bit weird, right? They seem to end on the claws. No hands, or paws, just claws. Well, this pertains to Sneasel’s weasel origins. Or rather, a specific type of weasel origin. The weasel of Japanese folklore, Kamaitachi, or literally, “Sickle Weasel”.
Kamaitachi. Source: Public Domain Image Collected from Wikipedia
These mythical weasels are said to have sickles for arms and live in cold mountainous regions. They ride whirlwinds and leave bloodless scars on unsuspecting victims in the blink of an eye. It is said that they do so to impress other Kamaitachi, though the exact details of the Kamaitachi vary from location to location. But already you can see the connections, much like Sneasel they have sharp blades for arms. They also live in cold places and ride cold whirlwinds, hence their Ice typing. In fact, in modern times it’s believed that the scars are actually the result of being struck by pockets of air and debris as a result of meteoric activities. All these connections to air and whirlwinds might also be why Sneasel has feathers. As feathers are often used to symbolize the wind.
And now that we have a baseline understanding of Sneasel, let’s look at the difference between its two forms:
Source: Official Site
So thankfully for my research, Sneasel and Hisuian Sneasel are very similar. The only major change is the colors. Instead of having a monotone black body with white claws and red feathers, the Hisuian Sneasel are white and purple. With the purple even splashed on its main body. This is very likely in reference to the fact that some weasels change the color of their fur based on the season. This is to better camouflage themselves, white for the snowy winter, orange-ish, or brown for other seasons. So of course, there are transition periods where they are a blend of both of their colors. This is what Hisuian Sneasler’s double-colored body is referring to. And I think it’s even more apparent when you look at the shiny for it and its evolution:
— ありがひとし🌇🦖 (@ariga_megamix) February 15, 2022
Art by Original Designer of Hisuian Sneasel and Sneasler
So as you can see, shiny H.Sneasel has more of a black color similar to its Johto counterpart, while shiny Sneasler is more beige. This discrepancy might be because they have changed colors based on changes in their environment. H.Sneasel’s arm claws also seem to have a dripping pattern as it connects to its body. This pattern is associated with the Poison type in the Pokémon series. Wait, hold on a second? Why is H.Sneasel and Sneasler FightingPoison types? To understand that let’s finally look at the namesake of this Dashing Design, Sneasler!
We’ll talk about that typing when we look at Sneasler’s design. But let’s start with its name first. It’s actually kinda funny. Before there was Dudunsparce, there was Sneasler. It’s Sneasel, but more, Sneasler. Unlike regular Sneasel’s evolution Weavile, Sneasler keeps everything that was already in H.Sneasel’s design and extends the proportion to ridiculous heights (literally). Its Japanese name is similar too. Ohnyula, meaning more Nyula, aka more Sneasel! Jokes aside the Japanese name might also take from ōnyūdō, a type of Japanese folklore creature whose name means “Big Monk”.
ōnyūdō. Source: Public Domain Image Collected from Wikipedia
Source: AR Picture by Kittypokemonsalot
Now let’s finally get into Sneasler’s design. It’s kind of impossible to avoid that PoisonFighting typing when talking about Sneasler’s design. In fact, its type combination is the first thing its Legends: Arceus Pokédex entry emphasizes:
Because of Sneasler’s virulent poison and daunting physical prowess, no other species could hope to best it on the frozen highlands. Preferring solitude, this species does not form packs.
So let’s divide this design analysis into two parts. Poison and Fighting:
Remember the ōnyūdō I mentioned prior? Well much like how Sneasler’s are pretty much big Sneasels, ōnyūdō are big monk creatures. There is at least one story where an ōnyūdō transforms into a weasel and at least one where its breath causes illness to those who come close to it. So that might be one reason for the Poison typing.
But really, the main reason is those extended claws. They really do not look like sickels anymore, do they? No, instead they look like elongated weapons. Many “claw-like” assassination weapons can be found throughout history and cultures. The “Bagh Nakh” or Tiger Claw from the Indian Subcontinent is one of them. But Sneasler probably takes more inspiration from the Tekko-kagi.
The Tekko-kagi are weapons said to be used by ninjas to both assassinate opponents and parry incoming sword attacks. Many modern interpretations of this weapon depict it being coated with poison as ninjas are said to have utilized many types of poison themselves. So, ya, Sneasler is very very likely inspired by a ninja. Sneasler wouldn’t even be an outlier by being so. As many new Pokémon introduced in Legends: Arceus takes inspiration from various types of historic Japanese warriors.
So if Sneasler is a ninja why is it a Fighting type? Wouldn’t the stealthy ways of the ninja be better suited for the Dark type regular Sneasel possesses? Well, one reason for it might be because Sneasler is part Weasel. While weasels are generally thought of as being “weaselly” or sneaky, some cultures depict weasels as being brave and tenacious as well. Such as the Inuit people seeing weasels as brave creatures according to “Alaska’s Animals and Fishes”.
But really, it comes back to the claws again. Because while ninjas are seen as stealthy individuals, many modern interpretations display ninjas as honorable warriors with strict moral codes despite their occupation. And the Fighting type is generally relegated to honorable martial arts. In fact, when you look at the picture of the Tekko-kagi above it is quite smaller than Sneasler’s claws right? This definitely takes from the fact that again, modern interpretations of these weapons are exaggerated into large proportions. Especially in fighting games or genres adjacent to fighting games. Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden/Dead or Alive and Vega from Street Fighter both use these types of weapons.
Greninja’s Tongue Scarf. Source: Pokémon the Series: XY
And come to think of it, Sneasel’s ear feather also grows longer and looks like a flowing scarf or muffler when it evolves into Sneasler. This once again refers back to modern interpretations of ninjas. Again, Ryu Hayabusa, Strider Hiryu from Stider, and even Pokémon’s own Greninja has that flowing tongue scarf! So I suppose Sneasler takes from modern depictions of ninjas as much as it does older ones. Pokémon as a franchise is no stranger to taking inspiration from modern culture after all!
Source: Official Pokémon GO Site
When I did the first partner corner with Bellibolt’s Dashing Design, I really thought I would continue to relegate this part to the mainline series trainer. Yet, here we are with the newest Pokémon GO NPC, Mateo! So what relationship does our good man Mateo have to Sneasler?
Well to talk about that we need to talk franchise history a bit again. You see, before generation seven there were HMs or Hidden Machines. These would teach you moves in the mainline games that would allow you to solve puzzles and traverse the overworld. They were later replaced (thankfully) with Ride Pokémon. Pokémon that you could call upon any time outside of battle to ride, traverse the region, and solve puzzles. Sneasler is one such ride Pokémon in Legends: Arceus and this is how you ride it:
Source: Pokémon Legends: Arceus
I honestly had a full-face grin when I saw this for the first time. But it also made me think of the popular anime Demon Slayer, where the main protagonist Tanjiro carries his sister Nezuko in a box, as she cannot be under the sun. So, is Sneasler also inspired by Demon Slayer? This aspect might be. As we have seen before, Pokémon is no stranger to taking inspiration from pop culture. And Demon Slayer takes place in the Taisho Era, which follows immediately after the period known as the Meiji Era, which Legends: Arceus is partly inspired by.
But it’s probably more so they have the same source of inspiration. After all, we see Tanjiro being the eldest son of a family of woodcutters in a frigid mountainous area, so he often carries heavy lumber to and fro the mountains. This might be why he has the strength to carry his sister around even before he receives training as a demon slayer. And Sneasler also lives in a mountainous area in Legends: Arceus and uses its claws to climb.
So there’s another inspiration for Sneasler, mountain/rock climbers. In fact, ninjas might have used their claws to climb mountains as well. Because while we tend to think of ninjas as warriors. In reality, ninjas performed various tasks such as traversal, reconnaissance, and intel-gathering.
So what about Mateo? Well, Mateo’s design seems to be the newest in the long line of trainers known as the Hiker Class. While the design has changed over time. Some design similarities stay the same, Hikers tend to be large in stature and carry a big backpack.
Source: Official Art for Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire
And come to think of it, Sneasler has the ability “Unburden” which increases speed when not carrying an item. This is definitely in reference to the relief I’m sure these hikers and Sneasler feel when they let go of those heavy luggage. This is why we’re getting Sneasler’s shiny in the same event Mateo is gracing us with his presence!
And there we go! This concludes the 7th Dashing Design, and the longest one yet. It kind of had to be, since Sneasler takes inspiration from so many things, both historical and modern. As this has been a long analysis I’ll keep the conclusion brief. And this is why, Sneasler’s design, is quite dashing!
Goodbye for now, Pokémon trainers. Priom-out!