Episode 129: Yokai & Pokémon

Get ready for us to ruin your childhoods as we break down some of the creepy origins of your favorite pocket monsters. We talk Pokémon team naming conventions, the moral conundrum of eating baby-faced fruit, and how we’re always horny both for and by the ocean.

This week, Amanda recommends Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen.

Content Warning: This episode contains conversations about possession, starvation, natural disasters, & genital mutilation.

Links Discussed

Kitsune possession





Sazae oni (NSFW)

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Amanda:              Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy diamond into mythology, legends and folklore. Every week we pour a drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.

Julia:                     And I'm Julia.

Amanda:              And this is episode 129, Yokai and Pokemon.

Julia:                     Oh yeah. I was so excited to bring this one to you.

Amanda:              It's going to be a blast. We actually came up with this episode idea while driving with the Erics to Spaghetti warehouse in Akron.

Julia:                     We did.

Amanda:              So I feel like it is doubly blessed.

Julia:                     Yes. Thank you Eric Silver for bringing the suggestion in the first place. It was a lot of fun to do the research.

Amanda:              The games then the Pokemon... Also, I'm sure, Pokey masters. Our newest patrons: Kristen, Tyler, Celia, Kolel, Anna and Celine Dion's Barista, which I'm sorry, maybe the best Patreon name we have seen yet.

Julia:                     Yeah. I really hope you are Celine Dion's Barista. I honestly do.

Amanda:              I really want to know what she orders. I feel like Earl Grey tea, but that might just be wish fulfillment.

Julia:                     I feel like Earl Grey tea latte.

Amanda:              Ooh. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Julia:                     But with almond milk.

Amanda:              Totally. I bet that our supporting producer level patrons have dope Starbucks names. Philip, [inaudible 00:01:03], Mercedes, Christopher, Kathy, Vinny, Danica, Marissa, Sammy, Josie, Neal, Jessica, and Feel Fresh.

Julia:                     And our legends always get their coffees camped at Starbucks whenever they go.

Amanda:              Yes.

Julia:                     And that's Haley, James, Jess, Sarah T, Sandra, Audra, Jack Murray and Leanne.

Amanda:              We love you all, and we love what we sent you this month as your legend level patron gift.

Julia:                     So excited.

Amanda:              So if you want boxes of cool, creepy stuff from us every dang month, head on over to patrion.com/spiritspodcast.

Julia:                     Now Amanda, I'm really excited about the Sake that I picked out for this episode because one is, it's made in Oregon, and you don't see a lot of American made Sake. So I was really excited to try it. It's called Mura Mura Meadow Sake, and it's super mellow and actually reminds me more of a white wine than a traditional Cicada. So if you are just getting started into Sake and you're not sure where to start, this is a really good starter Sake.

Amanda:              Totally. And I actually reminded me of sitting in a park and reading a book, which is my preferred like spring, summer activity, which leads me to my recommendation for this week, which is a novel by a friend of the show, Lauren Shippen called Infinite Noise. Now, this is a novel about Caleb and Adam, two of, I think, the Internet's favorite characters from The Bright Sessions-

Julia:                     Sure.

Amanda:              ... which I hope at this point, everyone is listening to. But even if you don't know the podcast very well, or if you listened to it a while back and haven't listened since, it's still a wonderful novel. You don't need to know that context. It just is a beautiful, lovely story about being a teenager, and falling in love and just dealing with the stuff that teens deal with. And I was super, super, super in love with the book. So that's Infinite Noise. It comes out in September, and you can pre order it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local bookstore, wherever books are sold.

Julia:                     Yeah, Lauren writes teenagers better than anyone I've ever met before or read stuff from before, and it's really, really impressive and I'm going to steal Amanda's copy as soon as I see her next.

Amanda:              Yes, gladly. And maybe you to actually read it when we're on the plane down to Nashville, which we aren't going to in two short weeks-

Julia:                     Heck yeah.

Amanda:              ... for PodX, which is a very, very awesome podcast conference. I am really excited to see what it's like. A ton of our friends are going. I love the team that's organizing it, I really dig the programming, so I'm hoping that this will be one that we go to year after year. You can actually go to multitude.productions/live to get the info about our PodX performances, about our upcoming live show in New York City this June on the Summer Solstice, no big deal. We are going to Orlando in August to go to Podcast Movement, and then to Boston in October for our live show.

Julia:                     Let's talk a little bit about our programming for PodX, because I am really excited about those, and I think it'll get people more hyped to come see and the shows.

Amanda:              Yeah. I think that I may be most excited for DDR, which is Dungeons & Dragons in reality. It is something that we've come up with over on the Join The Party team to have a live improv show powered by D&D that doesn't require that you know any specific podcast or campaign or even the rules of D&D. We are just playing basically an escape room, but with the rules of D&D and playing ourselves. So I just came up with the special item that we're going to be using at the show. It is extremely funny, extremely me, and I'm really, really stoked to see what it's like.

Julia:                     It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm so stoked for that one. I'm also really excited for Playing For a Better World, how games make us better creators. Because I think that if you are a creator and you're not also playing games and learning how to play in your space better, this is the perfect panel for you because it's going to teach you so, so much.

Amanda:              And we're also... All the multitudes are going to be on a panel called Never Too Late, Learning, Growing and Fixing Mistakes After Launch, which we have learned so much over the last three and a half years of running this show. We're always trying to do better and to share what we've learned with the rest of our community. So this is a really exciting way for us to talk about, not just what to do before you launch your show... In a perfect world, we would all get all of the things we have to get done done. But how do you continue to learn and grow and improve even when your show is already out in the world?

Julia:                     It's going to be a blast. Honestly, if you are in the Nashville area and you don't already have tickets, you should get them and come out to see these because they're going to be an absolute blast.

Amanda:              Yeah. If we've already sold you, just go right on over to PodX.com/multitude and get 10% off your tickets.

Julia:                     Yeah. Do it. Do it up.

Amanda:              So that brings us to a close of our housekeeping. We hope to see you soon. And if you are going to be seeing us, please tweet us and let us know. We are really, really getting hyped. Enjoy Spirits Podcast episode 129, Yokai and Pokemon.

Julia:                     So Amanda, when I talk about our childhood, what is one of the biggest pop culture things you remember? I know pop culture isn't your specialty, but let's try and play in the space here.

Amanda:              Definitely Harry Potter, going to book release parties and being really excited. There were pugs that I remember, there were beanie babies at really earlier childhood. I played in Yugioh tournaments.

Julia:                     You did?

Amanda:              [crosstalk 00:06:11] was true.

Julia:                     I forgot about that.

Amanda:              Beyblades.

Julia:                     Let it rip.

Amanda:              And Pokemon, of course.

Julia:                     You hit the nail on the head as always.

Amanda:              Oh really?

Julia:                     A good, good friend.

Amanda:              So the mythology of Beyblades is what you're telling me?

Julia:                     Yes. Let me tell you about... Actually, it does have some Eastern mythology in it, but we'll talk about that another time. Now, we're probably never going to do an episode on Beyblades, but whatever. Tell me your favorite Pokemon memories. Tell me what Pokemon means to you.

Amanda:              Oh Man. Well, yesterday on the subway, someone looked at me and said, "I can't believe you still play Pokemon Go," as they watched me play Pokemon Go, and I was flabbergasted and just looked them in the eyes and said, "What a strange thing to say to a stranger." Shout out to Daniel Mallory Ortberg, who often says that as a line in his Dear Prudence column, like just, "What a strange thing to say." That is such a good comeback for-

Julia:                     So good.

Amanda:              ... weirdos on the subway.

Julia:                     Oh my God. That's fantastic.

Amanda:              So I like Pokemon. I like catching them all. I don't love the conflict as much. I don't really do battles or gyms, in Pokemon Go, that is. But in the Pokemon games, my brother and I would always buy each of the sets that came out. So he had red, I had blue, he had gold, I had silver, he had ruby and sapphire. So going through each game, we would buy the $25 manual with the walk through the game, and it was always really exciting to be devoted to a thing for a couple months until you played it through.

Julia:                     Wow. Now I'm just thinking about how I missed out as an only child because all I wanted in life was a Vulpix, but I had whatever the be opposite one was. I always had an Arcanine and not a Vulpix.

Amanda:              That was nice. And Connor's a very good sharer. So we [crosstalk 00:07:56], we helped each other out, which was nice.

Julia:                     Yeah, I loved the Pokemon days. But Amanda, did you know that a lot of Pokemon, all the ones that you know and love are actually inspired by one of our favorite things, Japanese myths and urban legends.

Amanda:              That honestly never occurred to me, and I feel like the biggest dum dum in the world, because, of course it is.

Julia:                     So today we going to do a roundup of some of the myths and legends that inspired the character design for Pokemon. So buckle in, I'm about to ruin your childhood.

Amanda:              Julia, that's what I come back for week after week.

Julia:                     So Amanda, I think Ninetales is a great place to start. I'll admit as a kid, I wanted an Arcanine rather than a Ninetales, but I had Pokemon Blue as a kid and never wanted to trade any of my Pokemon, so I stuck with my Ninetales and never got my Arcanine.

Amanda:              That reminds me, Jules, how did you name your parties? I would do themed Pokemon party names and a bunch of 19th century authors because I was a weird 10 year old and stuff like that.

Julia:                     Yeah, I usually did it based on characters of the book I was reading at that time, and usually, Greek mythology.

Amanda:              Nice. Classic. Just because I was on point.

Julia:                     Ninetales is directly inspired by a Kitsune, which is a manipulative shape shifter and trickster spirit. So while their natural state is a multi tailed fox, they could often shape shift into humans to just fuck around with mortals.

Amanda:              Cool. Love a trickster.

Julia:                     But they weren't always manipulative and malicious. So, for instance, there is a great story where a relationship between a Kitsune and a mortal actually doesn't end tragically. Almost all of them do. This is one of the few ones where it doesn't. So there was a man named Ono who spent years searching for a woman that would fit all of his ideas of what a beautiful woman should be. This happens a lot in Japanese mythology. I feel like we talked about this with the icicle woman. Do you remember that?

Amanda:              Yeah. Just searching after an ideal. It's like, whoops, she's an icicle.

Julia:                     So one day, he saw such a woman on the moors near his home and he married her immediately.

Amanda:              Listen, we talked about this. Never go on the moors, and that includes marrying people that you see on the moors.

Julia:                     Yeah. Just the moors, all bad. All bad moors.

Amanda:              They're beautiful to look at from a distance, crucially, the distance.

Julia:                     There's is a reason why they represent logging and whatnot in English literature. They get married, she gives birth to a son, but at the same time, the man's dog gave birth to a puppy. The dog, as it grew, became more and more hostile towards the wife, which confused the man. His wife begged him to get rid of the dog, Ono refused. One day the dog attacked the wife and completely startled, she transformed into her fox form and fled the home.

Amanda:              Ay.

Julia:                     Ay. Ono was confused obviously, because his wife had just turned into a fox, but he-

Amanda:              I just pictured his tombstone saying, "Ono, confused."

Julia:                     But he called out to his wife over the moors saying, "You may be a Fox, but you are the mother of my son and I will always love you. Come back when you please, you will always be welcome."

Amanda:              Aww.

Julia:                     And so she did. So every night she would appear at the house as the sun went down and she would sleep in the comfort of his arms.

Amanda:              Oh Shit. That's super cute.

Julia:                     This is actually also where the Kitsune gets its name. So [foreign language 00:11:04] means come and sleep, and [foreign language 00:11:08] means always come.

Amanda:              Aww. Shit. That's adorable.

Julia:                     So they always come to sleep. But yeah, it's a really, really common myth in Japan. It's a super common story actually, across most of the Eastern mythologies. So China has a lot of Fox myths, Korea has some Fox myths. A lot of the area just has trickster Fox stuff, like you do.

Amanda:              You look at a Fox, you know it's a trickster god.

Julia:                     You just do.

Amanda:              It just has that face.

Julia:                     So Kitsune are said to grow a extra towel every 100 years. And when a Kitsune grows its ninth tail, Aka reaches 900 years, they gain infinite wisdom and their fur goes from red to white, which is why if you look at Vulpix versus Ninetales in Pokemon-

Amanda:              Ooh, that's true.

Julia:                     ... that's the color change.

Amanda:              Damn.

Julia:                     There are typically two forms of Kitsune, the Zenko, which are these benevolent celestial foxes that are associated with the non-binary Kami of agriculture, industry and prosperity in Nari. And then there are the Yaco, which are the mischievous kind. And Kitsune are actually also known to possess people, usually young women. The spirit will enter either through underneath her fingernails or through her breasts-

Amanda:              Oh, no.

Julia:                     ... because those are the best places to get possessed through.

Amanda:              Oh no. No, no, no painful.

Julia:                     The possessed woman's features will become more fox like, and here's actually a description of what the possession looks like according to a Greek folklorist Lafcadio Hearn, who wrote several histories of Japanese legends through the late 1800s. So, "Strange is the madness of those into whom demon foxes enter. Sometimes they run naked shouting through the streets, sometimes they lie down and froth at the mouth and yelp as a Fox yelps. And on some part of the body of the possessed, a moving lump appears under the skin-

Amanda:              Oh no.

Julia:                     ... which seems to have a life of its own. Possessed folk are also said to speak and write in languages of which they were totally ignorant prior to possession." That's-

Amanda:              Wow.

Julia:                     One of the most interesting parts to me.

Amanda:              That is one of those... After a head injury, people sometimes lose or gain very unexpected abilities. Have you heard this before?

Julia:                     No, I've never heard of that before.

Amanda:              People will know how to play the piano suddenly and they never did before-

Julia:                     Whoa.

Amanda:              ... or they'll know languages they didn't know before. That has happened in the world. Te brain is a wild and most mythological place.

Julia:                     That is very, very cool. So this form of possession in modern day Japan is tied... They've looked back at these histories and then tied to obviously, mental illness. It's also similar to another case study that has happened in the past, which is called clinical lycanthropy, where they're convinced that they are possessed by a wolf spirit and will fulfill those prophecies of what we expect a werewolf to be.

Amanda:              Interesting. So do the people that are possessed by the Kitsune realize that and have that as a framework, or is this something that you place on them like we did with witchcraft, for example?

Julia:                     So it is something that we did place on them during that period, but now it's so ingrained into Japanese society that some people will develop these symptoms and convinced themselves that they are possessed by Kitsune.

Amanda:              Gotcha. So any [inaudible 00:14:23] state of mind, you use the framework that you have around you, right?

Julia:                     Right.

Amanda:              Things that grew up with the myths that are in your brain. Those can remap in unexpected ways.

Julia:                     Yeah, absolutely. So I think that one's really cool, and that's a good start to our Pokemon with [crosstalk 00:14:38].

Amanda:              Oh no. Bet it's going to get creepier now, doesn't it?

Julia:                     Of course it does. What did you think though of the Ninetales? I tried to start you off very easy.

Amanda:              Thank you. I like it a lot. I imagine how cool it is knowing that mythology, to see the little nugget of the red to to white transformation. I was just totally ignorant of it and I was like, "Oh, what a pretty fox. OH, it has gray tails. That's cool."

Julia:                     It was one of the prettiest original Pokemon. I will say that. So I think we're going to go next to Mawile. Do you remember Mawile?

Amanda:              No.

Julia:                     I'm going to send you a photo real quick.

Amanda:              Oh, big, scary mouth boy.

Julia:                     Big scary mouth boy.

Amanda:              Yup. Yup. Little yellow skirt, big old Venus flytrap mouth. I like it.

Julia:                     So I never really got into Mawile as a Pokemon. I do love a steel type, though I never realized why it was a steel type because as an ignorant Pokemon player, I would never read the Pokedex descriptions. So here is the Pokedex description from sapphire. "Don't be taken by this Pokemon's cute face. It's very dangerous. Mawile fools the foe into letting his guard down then chomps down with its massive jaws. The steel jaws are actually horns that have been transformed." And then the description from Ultra Sun claims that it swallows its foes hole. So what horrifying [inaudible 00:15:57] could this Pokemon be inspired by?

Amanda:              Sounds like a big ole muncher.

Julia:                     Big muncher, that's the Japanese term for it.

Amanda:              No.

Julia:                     The [foreign language 00:16:07], do you want to take a guess of what that means?

Amanda:              Is it big ole muncher?

Julia:                     It's not big ole muncher. It is the two mouthed woman.

Amanda:              Ooh. Oh no. Oh no. Is the second mouth is a vagina?

Julia:                     It's not.

Amanda:              Okay. Good.

Julia:                     I promise. So she is quite literally just a normal looking woman apart from the fact that she has a second mouth on the back of her head, usually-

Amanda:              No!

Julia:                     ... beneath her hair.

Amanda:              Oh God.

Julia:                     So it's an entirely functional mouth that has lips, teeth, and a tongue. Now, a woman can become a [foreign language 00:16:38] and grow a second mouth if she does not eat enough. So many of these stories start with the woman being the wife of a miser who refuses to spend money on food. So his wife royally eats and as a result, the second mouth appears on the back of her head, muttering, spiteful things about her husband, spouting threats and then giving the woman headaches if she refuses to eat.

Amanda:              Wow. Man, there's so much here about the bounds of femininity that we allow women to inhabit and making an exaggerated monster out of those who don't comply.

Julia:                     Yeah, seriously. So the hungrier she gets the louder the complaints from the second mouth become and the worse her headaches get.

Amanda:              That is really god. Oh no.

Julia:                     Eventually, if the woman refuses to feed the second mouth, her hair will turn against her, basically becoming a life of its own and grabbing food off of her plate to feed the second mouth.

Amanda:              Wow. I'm getting strong medusa vibes and I'm really here for it.

Julia:                     It's a really, really good. I really liked that one too, if only because I like the idea of... We talk a lot about how women defining certain expectations and roles become monstrous, and I think this very much one of those cases, and I like the idea of just being like, "I'm going to eat my fill and you have nothing you're going to say about it because I have a second mouth and hair that moves."

Amanda:              Yeah. And when your societal conditioning won't allow you to assert yourself as you need to, that there is some survival instinct within you that will take over.

Julia:                     Yeah, absolutely. So moving on, how about the Whiscash? Do you remember Whiscash? It's a very dorky looking Pokemon.

Amanda:              Yes, I do. Is that big fish, long whisker?

Julia:                     Big fish, long whisker. Yes, Amanda.

Amanda:              Yes!

Julia:                     Very good. So it looks super dorky. It's actually a water and ground type, which whenever I was playing the games I was like, "Why? Why? Why is that a thing?"

Amanda:              Is he a bottom feeder?

Julia:                     So he's inspired by a catfish.

Amanda:              Ooh.

Julia:                     And he doesn't seem particularly intimidating, but then you read the Pokedex entry. Again, as a child, I should have been reading the Pokedex entries because I would have had so much more appreciation for these Pokemon. So from Ruby and Sapphire, Whiscash is extremely territorial. Just one of these Pokemon will claim a large pond as its exclusive territory. If a foe approaches it, it thrashes about and triggers a massive earthquake. And if Whiscash goes on a wild rampage, it sets off a quake like tremor with a radius of over three miles. This Pokemon has the ability to predict real earthquakes. So earthquakes-

Amanda:              Wow.

Julia:                     ... that's got to be a part of the original story, right?

Amanda:              Surely. You would be right.

Julia:                     Whiscash is inspired by Namazu, which is a giant catfish, hence why Whiscash looks so dorky, because he's a big old catfish.

Amanda:              Yeah. Catfish are a super dorky looking fish, aren't they? They are like. You can't even be mad. They should be, theoretically, so close to a worm. That's creepy. But I just think they're adorable.

Julia:                     Yeah. So while the Pokemon Whiscash is only about three feet in the game, a Namazu is huge. So in pictures, about a dozen men can fit on top of him.

Amanda:              Whoa.

Julia:                     It is said to live in the mud underneath the islands of Japan, inhabiting large watery caverns, deep underground.

Amanda:              That makes sense.

Julia:                     And honestly, it's just a big old catfish, and it's not trying to do anything wrong necessarily. It's not like a monster who is trying to fuck up the lives of the poor Japanese people. But catfish tend to thrash around in the mud when they're either disturbed or excited. So because of how big it is, their thrashing shakes the earth violently, causing earthquakes in the area near and above where they reside.

                                Most of the art of the Namazu is the giant fish thrashing around while various people, mortals, but even Kami and Yokai are trying to calm it down to stop the tremors because obviously everyone is very disturbed by these big old earthquakes that are happening. The most popular story about the Namazu comes from the [foreign language 00:20:37] prefecture. So the patron deity of martial arts, Takemikazuchi is said to be one of the few people that was able to subdue Namazu single handedly.

                                So he painted the giant fish under where his shrine is now erected, piercing it's head and tail with a sacred stone that still remains in the shrine today. So if you visit the shrine, you can see the stone protruding from the ground, which is cool.

Amanda:              Whoa. That would be awesome. Man, I want to go Japan so bad.

Julia:                     Me too. So any earthquakes that happened during the 10th lunar month in Japan, which is known as the godless month, because that's when the Kami traveled to Izumo is said to be the Namazu active because Takemikazuchi is absent.

Amanda:              Makes sense. I like that one.

Julia:                     In Japan, earthquakes are tied to catfish because in 1855, there was a huge earthquake and hundreds of illustrations were shared in newspapers of thrashing catfish alongside reports of the earthquake, and that's because witnesses to the event noticed that catfish were behaving strangely just before the earthquake and speculated the catfish had the ability to foresee the upcoming disaster. So like, "Oh, these fishes can see the future."

Amanda:              There are animals... One of the ways that we predict forest fires or know that they're coming is seeing the animals start to flee or to behave strangely. That's not prediction. It's just that they probably... That probably makes sense in physics, that the water would feel vibrations before the land does.

Julia:                     So Amanda, I'm glad you pointed that out because in 1855, that would seem ridiculous. Oh, these fish can see the future. But in recent studies, catfish are extremely electro sensitive, and they actually do become more active before earthquakes hit.

Amanda:              There it is.

Julia:                     There it is.

Amanda:              [inaudible 00:22:16] there it is.

Julia:                     So Amanda, I'm going to tell you a little bit more about some horrifying Pokemon in just a bit. But do you want to get a refill first?

Amanda:              I'm going to need it now. Now, Julia, we spoke in the intro about the many performances that we have coming up. I couldn't be more excited. But I also want to look my best for meeting and taking selfies with all of the conspirators that we're going to be meeting on the road.

Julia:                     Heck yeah.

Amanda:              And I definitely want to live up to my reputation, that some people seem to think I am stylish, which is very sweet. I need to refresh the wardrobe. So, you know, my first instinct was to get a new Stitch Fix box.

Julia:                     Heck yeah.

Amanda:              We've told you a lot about Stitch Fix. They are giving you clothes to fit your style, your budget, your wardrobe, your body, and you know that you can get it as a subscription, where they send you automatic shipments every so often. But you can also just get boxes whenever you need. You don't have to commit to a subscription, which I really appreciate because between travel and it just being new weather, I don't know what kinds of clothes I'm going to need. So you can just order a box whenever you need it. Shipping exchanges and returns are always free.

                                The way it works is that Stitch Fix has a $20 styling fee to get the stuff curated for you and sent over to you. But if you keep anything from the box, that 20 bucks is deducted from the price. So in other words, if you keep something, it is completely free, including the shipping and the returns.

Julia:                     I love Stitch Fix. I love everything that they... I've kept so many things that they've sent me, which really speaks to the quality of the product and also the fact that they really are starting to get my style. I love working with my stylist to kind of figure out, "Hey, I liked this. How about more bold prints next time?"

Amanda:              It's awesome. A celebrity always looked so good because they have these personal stylists making sure that they always look fresh and that their clothing fits them really well, so I feel like I get to enjoy that action with Stitch Fix. So if we have convinced you, hopefully we have, to try stitch fix and see what they will send you, go to stichfix.com/spirit to get 25% off when you keep everything in your box. That's stitchfix.com/spirits.

Julia:                     Right. That's stitchfix.com/spirits and you'll get 25% off when you keep all of the items in the box. All right, Amanda, I've talked about [inaudible 00:24:32] many times, and especially in relation to Care/of, just because I love Care/of. Care/of is a subscription service that gets me vitamins, protein powders and more that are personalized to me and delivered to my door. And they come in these little cute packets that I can just rip open, take my vitamins for the day and then not have to worry about it.

                                And as someone who my ADHD makes it hard to remember to take anything ever, it is really, really useful to just be able to pull out the thing from the box they sent me, rip it open and then I'm done for the day. I don't need to remember-

Amanda:              Heck yeah.

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Amanda:              For sure. So listeners, you can join Julia in [inaudible 00:25:35] or just improving your health and your life by going to takecareof.com and enter the code spirits30 for 30% off your first Care/of order.

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Amanda:              Jules, my life has been changed by our final sponsor this week, and I'm not exaggerating, this is Away, the suitcase company, which I think you may have heard on other podcasts. They are known as first class luggage at a coach price. And I was a little bit anxious when Away got in touch with us because I have opinions about luggage. I have opinions, I have organizational systems, I have backpacked for the better part of like 10 years, and I know good luggage when I see it.

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Julia:                     That is very cool.

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Julia:                     Yes it is.

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Julia:                     That is awesome. Amanda, I know you are extremely picky when it comes to your travel goods. So I'm glad you found something that works for you.

Amanda:              I did. I'm so impressed with it. I love the colors. And when I was delayed for three hours leaving Chicago most recently, our date changed six times-

Julia:                     Oh my God.

Amanda:              ... so we had to run back and forth. So it's not like you can camp out by an outlet and then just charge all your stuff when you're there for longer than you thought. Having that built-in battery in the suitcase was a real game changer.

Julia:                     That sounds so useful. Oh my gosh. I need to get one right now.

Amanda:              It really was. I am genuinely a fan. They come through on their promise. So if you want to check out their suitcases, go to awaytravel.com/spirits and use promo code spirits during checkout for $20 off a suitcase. That is awaytravel.com/spirits and use the promo code spirits during checkout for $20 off a suitcase. And now let's get back to the show.

Julia:                     Hey Amanda.

Amanda:              Yeah.

Julia:                     What the fuck is up with Executor and Executant?

Amanda:              That's a great question. On the one hand, it's like, okay, eggs are planted and make a palm tree. But why is a palm tree a Pokemon?

Julia:                     Why is a palm tree a Pokemon? Also, why are they eggs?

Amanda:              Yeah, that's true. Because that's not how you make trees.

Julia:                     That's not how you make trees. Correct. Do you want to take any guess or speculation as to what the Pokemon lore is behind this?

Amanda:              The Pokemon lore... Pokemon hatch from eggs, so having up Pokemon hatch from an egg, I get it. No idea. I don't know.

Julia:                     So I'm going to read you the entry from the Pokedex decks on both of these.

Amanda:              Okay.

Julia:                     So for Execute, "This Pokemon consists of six eggs that form a closely knit cluster. The six eggs attract each other and spin around. When cracks increasingly appear on the edges, Execute is close to evolution." So that's why you see them... fucked up eggs.

Amanda:              Sure.

Julia:                     Meanwhile, here's the entry for Executor. "It is called the walking jungle. If a head grows too big, it falls off and becomes an Execute."

Amanda:              Oh, okay.

Julia:                     So basically, this Pokemon is a bunch of coconuts with human faces. Pretty simple. No. Not simple. [crosstalk 00:29:42].

Amanda:              Because they really look like eggs. They don't look like coconuts, they look like eggs.

Julia:                     I know. Enter the Jinmenju, which is first described an art book published in 1781 by a Japanese artist Toriyama Sekien. It is a tree that is said to grow in the remote valleys of China. So now we all love trees, right? We all love trees?

Amanda:              Yeah. [inaudible 00:30:05].

Julia:                     We love trees until they're described as bearing fruit that resembles "human heads". The faces are always smiling or laughing even as they-

Amanda:              Oh no.

Julia:                     ... fall from their branch.

Amanda:              No. Don't like that one bit.

Julia:                     So the heads don't speak human language, thank God, but they are almost incessantly laughing out loud.

Amanda:              Oh Man. I bet this is where Joe got a got the mandrake from. Huh?

Julia:                     No mandrake was a pre this, I would say. Now I'm thinking about like, yeah mandrake. Happened.

Amanda:              Well, then that's even creepier that humans came to two different kinds of plants that bear screaming heads.

Julia:                     Oh no. This is the thing. There's mentions in the Quran, I think, of something very similar to this, and there is a couple of stories in Hindu traditions as well if I remember correctly. I did some research-

Amanda:              Terrifying.

Julia:                     ... but I was like, let's focus on Japan because Pokemon.

Amanda:              Thank you for not presenting me with an entire roundup of trees that grow human heads.

Julia:                     Wait until next month. No, no. Now that you mentioned it... Okay. So the stories say that you can eat the fruit that falls from the tree and that [crosstalk 00:31:10] it has this sweet and sour taste. I'm glad you're wondering, mm-mm (negative). Nope. Not going to eat the human face.

Amanda:              Don't eat the [inaudible 00:31:14] food. Nope.

Julia:                     So if you're wondering why someone would want to eat a fruit that looks like a cackling child's face, it's because at some stories say the fruit can either give one immortality or at least longevity.

Amanda:              Or you're super hungry. I get it. But if you have the choice...

Julia:                     That's some cannibalism shit right there, my friend. It looks like a child's face and will laugh at you while you eat it.

Amanda:              Listen, if it's between you and starvation, you know that I am here for light cannibalism joy. We just covered this last week.

Julia:                     Amanda's pro daughter party everyone.

Amanda:              No I am not.

Julia:                     I knew this would get a good reaction from you. That's why I started with this.

Amanda:              I'm actually really curious. In Pokemon Go, there's a version of Executor, that's the tree one-

Julia:                     Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amanda:              ... with a very long neck. It's so tall you can't see it in the screen properly.

Julia:                     That's the Alula version, the Pokemon Sun and Moon version because [crosstalk 00:32:10] the tropics, so he's an even taller palm tree.

Amanda:              Fair. So that way he can spread his head's far and wide.

Julia:                     He's also part drag in and type in that game for some reason. Probably because he's so tall, he looks like a big tall dragon. I don't know.

Amanda:              That's something else that's pretty trippy, is to look at the Pokedex heights of Pokemon. There are some scale model drawings of Pokemon you can find online. It is extremely terrifying.

Julia:                     Yep. Those are my favorite. I love those. Okay, so we're done with the creepy tree, I promise.

Amanda:              Thank God.

Julia:                     So we're going to talk about Gastly instead.

Amanda:              Okay.

Julia:                     Gastly was kind of cute for a ghost Pokemon, all things considered, with his big eyes and his little fangs and stuff like that.

Amanda:              Once he gets the hands though, that's no good. He gets the hands. Does he have Haunter? Haunter is the hands?

Julia:                     Yeah. Yeah. That's what I figured. Here's the sad little Pokedex entries for Gastly. It said that, "The gas emanating from a graveyard was possessed by the grievances of the deceased and thus became a Pokemon."

Amanda:              Aka the decomposing body gas?

Julia:                     Yeah.

Amanda:              Oh no. I bet that boy smells bad.

Julia:                     He does. He smells real bad.

Amanda:              Oh no.

Julia:                     He smells like rot and decay. How adorable. Oh yeah. It's sad. But also accurate too is Yokai counterpart, which is the [foreign language 00:33:25]. So this is a fireball Yokai, which is specifically the head of an anguished monk covered in flame that flies through the sky.

Amanda:              Oh no. Why he anguished?

Julia:                     You'll see why. So here's how that ended up happening. In southern Kyoto, there was a monk named [inaudible 00:33:43]. [inaudible 00:33:43] was a bad man.

Amanda:              Bad, bad man.

Julia:                     He would steal money from the offering box at the temple that he resided at, he would steal offerings of oil to the gods and then sell it in secret keeping the money for himself.

Amanda:              Oh no.

Julia:                     So he did all of this in life and then when he grew old and died, he was punished for his wickedness by the gods. So his head was removed from his body, lit a flame and was said to float across the land near the temple, trying to seek pennants.

Amanda:              Okay. All right. I get it. Pretty straightforward.

Julia:                     Gastly cuter and probably less anguished than this this monk guy.

Amanda:              I get why the anguish exists now though, again, having a human head be the middle of a fireball, pretty terrifying.

Julia:                     All right. I think you're going to like this next one.

Amanda:              Did you have opinions on Slowbro as a Pokemon and Slowking?

Julia:                     No, I think pretty cute. Cute. A little dumb. That was their whole thing.

Amanda:              A little dumb, a little sleepy. But I identify with the Slowbros and [Snorlaxes 00:34:43]of the world.

Julia:                     That's fair. So Slowbro evolves from Slowpoke after a Shellder bites the Slowpoke's tail because Slowpoke, they fish with their tails, which is super cute, by the way. Similarly there is Slowking, which is a Shellder biting the head of the Slowpoke instead of the tale of the Slowpoke. So instead, the Slowking gets extreme intelligence from the Shellder's poison-

Amanda:              Oh no.

Julia:                     ... and the Slowbro just becomes more dumb from the Shellder's poison.

Amanda:              Oh no.

Julia:                     It's very sad

Amanda:              I'm trying to evolve one right now on Pokemon go, so I'll let you know when I get there.

Julia:                     Very cool. This one has less to do with Pokemon lore and more about the character design. So Shellder especially on Slowbro, makes the Pokemon resemble the Yokai, Saze-oni.

Amanda:              Well, oni sounds like [Onnie 00:35:30], which I have never eaten, but see a lot on Top Chef. Is this a delicious, spiky sea creature?

Julia:                     Almost. You're close. The Saze-oni is pretty much an ocean snail mermaid. That's really the best way to describe it. There-

Amanda:              Well, that's is interesting. What's the configuration here?

Julia:                     I will send you a photo real quick. One second.

Amanda:              Oh. Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh man. What a choice. It's not what I expected. Well, we have a tits out human from the belly up, and then some kind of just fleshy unified trunk into a shell with... Is that a shell on her face?

Julia:                     The Saze-oni is inspired by a turban snail, which is am ocean snail.

Amanda:              Interesting.

Julia:                     I will send a picture of what a turban snail looks like to you.

Amanda:              Do you know those bacteria that look like adorable little sea creatures?

Julia:                     Yes.

Amanda:              They look like the head of one of those, you know what I mean?

Julia:                     Yeah, I know what you're talking about. We'll link these in the show notes so everyone can look at when we're talking about. It's not a human face. It looks like a little weird animal face.

Amanda:              [inaudible 00:36:46]. I did not expect the hybrid to have snail on bottom and on top.

Julia:                     I think that the double snail really makes it.

Amanda:              It truly does.

Julia:                     They are inspired, like I said, by the turban snail and they hunt Japan's oceans. They typically only appear on moonlit nights and dance on the water's surface trying to lure sailors. They are shape shifters, so they can transform into beautiful women. They're not always double snail.

Amanda:              Honestly, that is how I feel when I get home, take off my bra immediately, wash off my makeup and sit on the couch. [crosstalk 00:37:22].

Julia:                     Become a double snail.

Amanda:              Leave a slime trail if I'm particularly sweaty. You know how it is.

Julia:                     I like that.

Amanda:              Listen, folks, don't romanticize your heroes, man. We sound edited and funny on mic, but it is summertime and I am always a little bit shiny.

Julia:                     I'm just always shiny, but that's just because of my skin. So they'll often pretend to be drowning and cry out as ships pass so that they will rescue her.

Amanda:              Classic.

Julia:                     So in her appreciation, she will offer to sleep with any of the sailors on the ship, but she will cut off their testicles after the deed is done.

Amanda:              Oh no.

Julia:                     The pissed off sailors will then throw her back into the ocean, where she reveals her true form.

Amanda:              "Ha ha, I was a snail all along."

Julia:                     Often, she'll barter with the captain of the ship the balls of the crew for part of their gold.

Amanda:              Oh, okay.

Julia:                     This is why it says Oni is often described as having golden shells in their natural state because they're crusted with the gold that the [crosstalk 00:38:17] stole from.

Amanda:              Yes. Fuck yeah.

Julia:                     Also, in Japanese, testicles are referred to as [foreign language 00:38:23] or golden balls, so she literally trades gold for gold.

Amanda:              Very good. Love a pun.

Julia:                     It's very, very good.

Amanda:              Love a pun.

Julia:                     It says that Oni can be formed in a couple of ways. When a turban snail reaches the age of 30, for instance, it transforms into this Yokai.

Amanda:              So we have three... How old are we? Three years is what I'm hearing until we become golden nails.

Julia:                     No, no. So this is only if we're already turban snails.

Amanda:              Damn it.

Julia:                     But there is another option.

Amanda:              Do we become golden women then?

Julia:                     Yes, obviously. We become golden girls, and then we have a TV show.

Amanda:              True. Per our conversation last week, I hear that you just lose self consciousness and all the fucks that you have to give when you turn 30, so that's what I'm hoping for.

Julia:                     Sounds great, honestly. So another way, this is, this is our goal here, is that if a lustful woman drowns in the ocean, she becomes a sea snail and then after 30 years, she can transform into a Sazae-oni.

Amanda:              Not a bad way to go-

Julia:                     Honestly.

Amanda:              ... if that's going to be it. Yeah.

Julia:                     I just got to be horny, but near water all the time, and then I can achieve my goals.

Amanda:              It sounds like we're already most of the way there. Aren't you horny for the ocean?

Julia:                     I'm always horny for the ocean.

Amanda:              I've always horny for the ocean. I hear my neighbor's unlocking their door next to me and-

Julia:                     I'm always horny for the ocean.

Amanda:              Here we are. This is just the life that we're living.

Julia:                     I'm going to do a honorable mention with Froslass, if only because we've done a full episode on the Yokai that she is inspired by, which is the Yuki-Onna.

Amanda:              Yeah, one of the best episodes, I think, that we've done so far.

Julia:                     I really like that one. So several of the Pokedex entries from the game confirm this. So for instance, in Heartgold and Soulsilver, it says, "Legends in snowy regions say that a woman who is lost on an icy mountain was reborn as a Froslass", which is horrifying-

Amanda:              Nice.

Julia:                     ... because it's not like there's only one Froslass in the game. It's a pretty common Pokemon.

Amanda:              Ooh, there's a lot.

Julia:                     So that means a lot of women died and then turned into this Pokemon.

Amanda:              Horrifying. But also, please do live on as a Poke. I think that'll be cute.

Julia:                     Sure. In Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, there's also this horrifying one, "It freezes hikers that have come to climb snowy mountains and carries them back to its home. It only goes after men that it thinks are handsome. Or it's said that on nights of terrible blizzards, it comes down to human settlements. If you hear it knocking at your door, do not open it!"

Amanda:              Sound advice, just check the people before you open the door.

Julia:                     It's very, very good. So Amanda, did I successfully ruin Pokemon and your childhood today?

Amanda:              No, Julia. I think you gave me more reasons to pay attention and to love the Pokes and to wonder at their mythological origins, and to have a little more sense about the Executor, their very creepy origins.

Julia:                     Yes, they're really, really bad. And for some reason, you'll still eat the laughing face fruit, and I worry about you.

Amanda:              Listen, only from the belt to starve, Julia.

Julia:                     I don't think you qualified that. You were like, "I would eat the fruit," and I was like, "Wait, what?"

Amanda:              No, if you need to. If you need to. No, no. I would not touch the fairy food out of choice. What I'm saying is in desperate times, if that's all that stands between you and certain death, it's animal eat animal, you've got to do it.

Julia:                     That's fair. And to be fair, if you eat the fruit, you'll live forever, probably.

Amanda:              Maybe.

Julia:                     Maybe.

Amanda:              That's not a thing that compels me.

Julia:                     Okay, good. I don't want to live forever either.

Amanda:              I want teleportation, I want flight. I want to be able to fall asleep on demand and stay asleep as long as they want to-

Julia:                     Oh God. Mood.

Amanda:              maybe more than anything else. That's about all I need.

Julia:                     So even if we didn't completely creepy you out with these Pokemon, I think we can remind our listeners to stay creepy.

Amanda:              Stay cool.

Julia:                     Don't eat the fairy fruit, only if it'll give you a mortality.

Amanda:              No, only if you're really hungry and [inaudible 00:42:14] to die. All right, conspirators. Have a good week. Thanks again to our sponsors. Head to takecareof.com and use the code spirits30 for 30% off your first Care/of order. Stitchfix.com/spirits will get your 25% off when you keep all five items in your Stitch Fix box, and visit awaytravel.com/spirits and then plug in that promo code, spirits, during checkout for $20 off a suitcase with Away. Spirits was created by Amanda McLaughlin, Julia Shepeni and Eric Schneider, with music by Kevin McCloud and visual design by Alison Wakeman.

Julia:                     Keep up with all things creeping cool by following us at Spirits Podcast on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. We also have all of our episode transcripts, guest appearances and merch on our website, as well as a form to send us your urban legends at spiritspodcast.com.

Amanda:              Join our member community on Patreon, patreon.com/spiritspodcast for all kinds of behind the scenes stuff. Just $1 gets you access to audio extras with so much more available to, recipe cards, director's commentaries, exclusive merch and real physical gifts.

Julia:                     We are a founding member of Multitude, a collective of independent audio professionals. If you like Spirits, you will love the other shows that live on our website at multitude.productions.

Amanda:              And above all else, if you liked what you heard today, please share us with your friends. That is the very best way to help us keep on growing. Thank you so much for listening. Til next time.