Pokemon: Is Voltorb a good Pokemon design or was it a mistake?

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Voltorb in the Pokemon Anime

Voltorb can be controversial in Pokemon, as it may be a bit… uninspired. But today we’re going to discuss what it brings to the series.

Bear in mind, this is my personal take on what a specific Pokemon of debatable design quality brings to the series, I am not trying to force you to like or hate Voltorb. You’re allowed your own opinions, naturally.

So was Voltorb a good or bad idea for a Pokemon?

Personally, I think Voltorb is good for the Pokemon series, for a variety of reasons. Let’s start with visuals.

Voltorb, realistically, is… a fairly simple design, or a lazy one depending on how you look at it. You’re most likely familiar with the Pokemon already, but here’s Voltorb again just to be safe.

Voltorb in a scene from the pokemon anime
Is Voltorbs design peak simplicity or pure laziness?
Credit: Bulbapedia

It’s not a particularly inventive visual design, there’s no denying that. It’s hard to imagine an artist spending hours and hours working away at a desk getting Voltorb down just right when the design is so simple. At the same time, it does work, and the anime gets around the relatively simplistic design with a lot of expressiveness on the part of the angry Pokeball-lookalike.

This brings us to the first major point worth discussing with Voltorb.

Pokemon Personality

Throughout the Pokemon series, particularly in the anime though also throughout the Pokedex in the games, Voltorb is described as angry and temperamental.

Voltorb. The identity of this creature is unknown. It has an extreme personality, uses Electric attacks, and at times self-destructs.

Ash’s Pokedex, EP032 – Bulbapedia

So why does that matter? Well for one, it’s very consistent. You likely already knew about Voltorbs temper before even reading this if you’ve seen much of the anime. For another, it plays well with that simplistic design. Extremely well in the case of the anime, where Voltorbs displeasure is usually displayed through increasingly angry facial expressions. And the occasional explosion.

This means that Voltorb is a known quantity, and easy to recognise in a number of scenarios.

If you see a Pokeball look-a-like with a facial expression, albeit likely an angry one, you know exactly what to expect, and playing on those expectations can be excellent for comedic moments. Simply being played for laughs isn’t the only value Voltorb has brought to the series though.

Voltorb in the Pokemon Anime
Far be it from the Pokemon anime to have a Voltorb explode on Ash this close up for Comedic purposes.
Credit: TonsOfFacts

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Did Voltorb introduce objects as Pokemon?

Voltorb is also one of the first, if not the absolute first Pokemon that isn’t strictly based on an animal. As you may have guessed, Voltorb is heavily rooted in the design of Pokeballs from the series, a fact that is both visually obvious and heavily implied in related sources, such as the Pokedex.

It was discovered when Poké Balls were introduced. It is said that there is some connection.

Voltorb, Pokemon SoulSilver, Pokedex Entry – Bulbapedia

Most Pokemon generations have added at least one object (or just non-animal based) Pokemon, though typically there are more than that. More recent entries have included more of them over time, a trend that has received a mixed reception from the Pokemon community.

Some parts of the community have a strong preference for strictly animal-based Pokemon, or at least Pokemon that are animal in nature within the context of the series.

Voltorb is described as something not of nature, unlike those Pokemon. This is where the crux of whether or not it’s the first object that becomes a Pokemon, which is what I’m interpreting it in fact is, as I’ll discuss below.

During the study of this Pokémon, it was discovered that its components are not found in nature.

Voltorb, Pokemon Crystal, Pokedex Entry – Bulbapedia

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So what is the difference between Voltorb and the likes of Geodude or Magnemite? Well, anything I can say here is naturally going to be debatable, I didn’t author the Pokemon Series nor Pokedex entries, I’m simply trying to interpret them. You’re free to disagree, this is just my take.

With that said, it seems to me that Magnemite simply exists prior to human interaction, it doesn’t seem to be stated anywhere that they were made by people, intentionally or otherwise. The Philips head screws in its body counteract this idea, though perhaps Magnemite simply likes them enough that by the modern-day that’s all they decide to attach to themselves.

Geodude comparatively, is simply described as the rock Pokemon. It’s just a living rock. That’s a naturally occurring thing in the Pokemon universe apparently.

Geodude, the Rock Pokémon. Geodude is often found on mountain roads with half of its body buried in the ground so it can observe mountain travelers.

Dawns Pokedex, DP015, Geodude – Bulbapedia

So what if Voltorb did introduce objects as Pokemon?

Having some Pokemon to be based on objects that are man-made or direct consequences of their actions, rather than naturally occurring, allows the Pokemon Series to make relevant and important real-world statements within the context of their games and anime.

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The difference between Corsola and Galarian Corsola is a clear example of this. Corsola was originally inspired by Coral, while Galarian Corsola is described as an ancient kind of Corsola that was wiped out by climate change.

Sudden climate change wiped out this ancient kind of Corsola. This Pokémon absorbs others’ life-force through its branches.

Pokedex entry from Pokemon Shield, Galarian Corsola entry – Bulbapedia

Trubbish meanwhile is described as follows:

The combination of garbage bags and industrial waste caused the chemical reaction that created this Pokémon.

Pokedex entry from Pokemon White, Trubbish entry – Bulbapedia

Decidedly not a natural occurrence, judging from that description. And almost certainly intended as a snipe at how we’ve been handling our garbage in the real world, in a bit of a fantastical exaggerated way.

Voltorb, the Conclusion

With all of this in mind, I think it’s fair to say that Voltorb adds plenty, and certainly deserves its place among the many designs of the now sprawling series.

Though don’t ask me why it needed to evolve into Electrode, because even I don’t know why Electrode exists.

If you’d like more stories and articles focused on Pokemon, you can find them right here on The Click, and if you’d instead like to see more by me specifically, a list of my articles is available here.