In this recurring series, I’ll analyze the origins of Pokémon designs, their culture, and their historical allusions to British culture.
In the August Pokémon Direct was when we first met our rodent-like friend, Morpeko, the Two-Sided Pokémon.
At first glance, it is very close to many other Electric-type rodents that have become a tradition for the series. Like other Electric-type rodents, Morpeko’s name is virtually the same in both English and Japanese, its may be a combination of morumotto (guinea pig in Japanese) and harapeko/pekopeko, meaning hungry in Japanese.
A guinea pig is a small rodent that seems to be originally from the northwestern regions of South America, where they were domesticated by local tribes. European traders brought many of the pets home to Europe, where they became popular exotic pets. These pets were adopted by many upper class people, including Queen Elizabeth I.
Today guinea pigs are a fully domesticated species, serving their role as a pet. Guinea pigs are vegetarian, eating primarily grasses. However, they prefer consistency. If there is a sudden change in their diet, they may starve rather than accept a new food.
The official Pokémon website states:
Morpeko constantly generates electricity with the sacs in its cheeks. This consumes energy, causing Morpeko to be constantly hungry. This is why Morpeko is always carrying around Berry seeds, protecting them with care. They serve as a snack! When experiencing prolonged hunger, the balance of hormones within Morpeko’s body changes. This causes its fur color to change and triggers more aggressive and volatile behavior. The energy stored in its cheek sacs also changes from Electric type to Dark type.
From this we can see that Morpeko takes strong inspiration from the food-driven nature of guinea pigs, but with a classic Pokémon twist. Morpeko has a signature ability called Hunger Switch which, when activated, will cause the Pokémon to change between its regular, Full Belly Mode, and its Hangry Mode.
Hangry is simply a portmanteau of “hunger” and “anger”, reflecting how one may become angry and stressed when they are hungry. Although the word has only recently entered the public vernacular, it’s surprising how far back the word’s origin was. Based on data from Google Trends, it was sometime around October 2008 that the word became searched commonly, and its growth has continued from there.
“Hendchen, Hendchen,” she cooed in her consoling tones, “to house to house, I am so angry — hangry.”
“Hungry, yes, and Minna and Clara is ready. Kom!”
Morpeko is both Electric and Dark-type, reflecting this duality. Its signature move, Aura Wheel, consists of it spinning in an energy wheel and shooting it off at the target. The type of the move depends whether it is in its Full Belly Mode (Electric-type) or Hangry Mode (Dark-type). The move draws clear inspiration from hamster wheels.
Given the unique ability of Morpeko, it is likely that it won’t evolve. In addition to this, aside from Pikachu, none of the other Electric-type rodents have evolved. What do you think? Excited to get your hands on Galar’s ferocious rodent? Let us know in the comments below, or why not head on over to our Discord server? We know you’re hangry for more.