Hello and welcome to the second edition of “Who’s That Pokemon⁈”
This week we are all about the bizarrely shaped and almost inscrutably named “Dunsparce.” Unlike Bronzor, the US name of this Pokemon is a little more difficult to parse out, and even when it has been divided into English words it offers no hints about the origins of this strange looking creature. Most fans agree that Dunsparce is a portmanteau of “Dunce” (or sometimes “Dun,” meaning pale yellow) and “Sparse,” referencing the general rarity of catching a Dunsparce in the wild. In Pokemon Gold and Silver, where Dunsparce first appeared, it could only be caught in Dark Cave, and even within that single location its catch rate was extremely low.
Dunsparce’s rarity makes sense when its muse is taken into account: Dunsparce is based on a Japanese Cryptid (though the phrase “UMA,” or “Unidentified Mysterious Animal” is favored in Japan) called a Tsuchinoko. Tsuchinoko are described as snake-like animals with sightings dating back to the late Edo Period, or early 1800s. The name of the Tsuchinoko is derived from a Tsuchi, or a Japanese-style pestle, the shape of which the Tsuchinoko is said to resemble. Some accounts of Tsuchinoko describe them as dangerously venomous, and able to leap several feet into the air with little warning, even being able to leap a second time from midair. Tsuchinoko are described as skittish creatures, leaping, burrowing, or even swallowing their tail and rolling away like a wheel to escape humans. This is referenced in Dunsparce’s Pokedex entry in Pokemon Silver, “If spotted, it escapes by burrowing with its tail. It can float just slightly using its wings.” It is even said that Tsuchinoko heads can survive even if they are removed from their bodies.
In Northeastern Japan the Tsuchinoko is mostly known as “Bachi Hebi,” or “Bee Snake,” which is probably the inspiration for Dunsparce’s wings and striped pattern. Popularity for Tsuchinoko and Tsuchinoko sightings increased heavily in 1973 after an angler named Yamamoto Soseki published a book titled “Nigero Tsuchinoko,” (“Tsuchinoko Escape”) detailing his experience with the Cryptid, as well as collecting a number of eyewitness accounts from others. This book spawned a boom of popularity, with Tsuchinoko becoming widely featured in manga and television shows. While Tsuchinoko have never been proven conclusively to exist, they are still a popular reference in a variety of Japanese media, including video games like Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania, and Yokai Watch.
So what is the Tsuchinoko, really? It could be an as-yet undiscovered animal, a genuine UMA or Cryptid. Or it could be a misidentified snake (Japan has plenty of native species), lizard, or salamander. Like many Cryptids from around the world, it is possible we will never know for certain. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments! Tell us about the Tsuchinoko you saw underneath your deck, or in a van down by the river, or just let us know what Pokemon you think should be featured next week! And tune in to Ace of Geeks for all of your useless Pokemon Knowledge!