Pokémon made a comeback in 2019 with the release of Sword and Shield. With new Pokémon entering the fray, it posed the question, what inspires these new monsters? Some origins are easy to spot, like the franchise mascot Pikachu—an electric Pika, a little mountain-dwelling mammal—while others have some pretty crazy inspirations.

Let’s take a look at the creative influences behind some of the strangest Pokemon characters.

An American pika.

Pokémon Inspired by Japanese Mythology

Like the adorable Pika, it’s easy to spot the animal relations to some Pokémon, but the mythical-inspired creatures can require a bit more imagination. With much of the series based on regions of Japan, a lot of that mythology snuck in…

Mawile, the deceiver Pokémon, is based on a Japanese monster known as the Futakuchi-onna: a two-mouthed woman. While many different stories of this Yokai exist in Japanese folklore, they all have some key elements. A woman is married to a miser who doesn’t want to pay for her food, so she rarely eats. This causes her to grow a large, second mouth on the back of her head. Her hair gets involved too, forming serpents the help her shovel food into her mouth when she does eat. With this knowledge, it makes Mawile a bit more terrifying than just a little Pokémon with an interesting hairdo!

An image of a futakuchi-onna from the Ehon Hyaku Monogatari

Sticking with traditional Japanese folklore, it’s only fair to take a look at Hypno, the hypnosis Pokémon. If you can look away from the ominous pendulum long enough, you’ll see it’s a Baku. Now, this Japanese term has a double meaning and both apply to this character. The first is a name for the Malayan Tapir and as you can see, the body type of this Asian mammal inspired Hypno—especially that nose. The second meaning is the mythical dream eater, a positive force that would be called upon to eat nightmares. That said, while positive, if the Baku is not satiated by your nightmares, it will go on to eat your hopes and dreams, as well.

Malayan Tapir

Moving away from Japan and all of its folklore, let’s take a look at one of the stranger designs, Sigilyph the Avianoid Pokémon. As the name might suggest, it’s actually based on a geoglyph. These Pokémon can be found in desert areas in the game, and what else is found in the desert? The Nazca lines in Peru. Looking at the strange appendages and wing formations of Sigilyph, it’s clear that it takes inspiration from the Hummingbird, Condor, and Heron found in this mysterious area.

nazca lines condor

The most recent games also contained a bizarre set of fossil Pokémon. While many other games had Pokémon that could be revived from fossilized remains, Sword and Shield allows players to combine pairs of fossils when reviving them to form different Pokémon.

While these are some of the strangest designs we’ve ever seen, it’s not unheard of for there to be issues with fossils, especially back during the Bone Wars. When new fossil parts were being discovered, archaeologists struggled to pair them up correctly, and some of the ideas they led to some strange pairings… and clearly weren’t right.

Paleontologist Edward Cope, for example, placed the skull on the wrong end of this elasmosaurus.

While there are plenty more Pokémon in the Pokedex, these are just a few strange highlights. Which designs raise the biggest eyebrow for you?