Pokémon Type Rants: Girafarig

What is the deal with Girafarig's tail?

Written by ritabuuk and dubiousdisc
Posted on May 31st 2018

We started writing our thoughts about Girafarig before the rediscovery of the Pokémon Gold and Silver demo. Now that all the information about the beta Pokémon contained therein has been leaked, there's even more backing up our thoughts. In the wake of this new information, we decided to complete and publish this article about Girafarig, letting us be timely for once in our review -- of something that came out 18 years ago.

Girafarig

We always thought that there was something off with Girafarig. Don't get us wrong: we think the design is really cool and off-the-wall in a good way. But what is with its concept, and especially its type? Girafarig has a body with split coloration, half giraffe, half Chain Chomp. The end of its tail has teeth. The Pokédex says that the tail head has a small brain of its own, and can choose to bite independently of the front head.

Its tail has a small brain of its own. Beware! If you get close, it may react to your scent and bite. (Pokémon Gold)

Given the split nature of Girafarig, its typing is split too: Normal/Psychic. This was the first Pokémon to be Normal and something else (except Flying ). We take this to mean that the front half is Normal, and the back half is Psychic. After all, if you were to take the front half and give it a matching tail, you would have a reasonable-looking giraffe, a perfect candidate for a Normal-type Pokémon design. But it's split down the middle, the back half has inverted colors, and then it has a head on the butt. That's certainly not normal.

If that's the case, why did they choose Psychic for the back half?

Psychic Energy
The symbol of the Psychic type in the Trading Card Game is the inner eye, representing insight.

The back half notably has a small brain, and this counters everything that the Psychic type stands for. The Psychic type is all about willpower and thinking the opponent to death. The back head of Girafarig could chomp on you, but it is said to be otherwise barely sentient. Girafarig's Pokédex description in Pokémon Sapphire specifically points out that the back head is too small for thinking, and other descriptions tell us that the back head only reacts to basic stimuli, like scent and sound.

The only time we hear anything about the tail head having any sort of mystical powers is in the Crystal Pokédex description:

When it is in danger, its tail uses some sort of mysterious powers to drive away the enemy. (Pokémon Crystal)

...and this was probably some desperate attempt to make sense of Girafarig's non-existent Psychic type. Besides, it never specifies that the tail head is psychic, just that is has some unspecified mysterious power. And this idea was then abandoned in later descriptions, never to be heard of again.

We guess that the anime staff too couldn't believe that the back half was Girafarig's Psychic half, because they portray Girafarig doing Psychic moves with its front half.

Girafarig using Psybeam
Lisa's Girafarig uses Psybeam in the opening credits of Spell of the Unown.

Also, Girafarig's back half is black. By the common conventions of Pokémon designs, this would affiliate it with the Dark type. Since the Dark type was newly unveiled and supposedly featured in Generation II, we were very thrown off to find a Pokémon that visually follows the conventions of the Dark type, but isn't.

Girafarig's tail
Chomp!

Another way that the back half of Girafarig seems to be related to the Dark type is because it bites. In Gold and Silver, the pre-existing move Bite was retyped to be a Dark-type move. Game Freak also added a new Dark-type move, Crunch, which is a powered-up version of Bite, and which Girafarig can learn by leveling up.

Looking at Girafarig's learned moves in Generation II, yes, they are mostly Normal or Psychic (plus the aforementioned Crunch). Over time, however, its moves shifted to also include more Dark-type moves.

So we wondered, why isn't Girafarig's type Normal/Dark?

For a long time, we've had a picture of an early beta version of Girafarig.

Girafarig in the beta
A photo from 1997.

Back then, it notably had two giraffe heads, one in the front and one in the back, one yellow and the other black. This concept is still evident in Girafarig's name, which is a palindrome, both in English and in Japanese (Kirinriki - it's a palindrome when written in katakana: キリンリキ).

Girafarig exquisite corpse
Once, we made an exquisite corpse of Girafarig without either of us seeing what the other was drawing, and then put all the pieces together in every possible configuration. In this one, left side was Rosy's, right side was Denise's. See here for the rest.

As much as we like the Chain Chomp head, we have to say that we much prefer the palindrome giraffe version in all its weirdness. It also seemed to embody a union of opposites, which led us to think its type should have been Psychic/Dark, since they are notably opposed types.

Fast forward to May 2018. The aforementioned beta version of Gold and Silver was rediscovered by the fandom and torn open to find all sorts of early designs and concepts that never made it to the final version. The sprite of Girafarig visible in the photo above is now available in full resolution:

Girafarig in the beta

You can also see for the first time its back sprite. Imagine this staring at you as you battle:

Girafarig in the beta - Back

Right before Girafarig in this beta Pokédex, there is another Pokémon. Girafarig was originally an evolved Pokémon, and it evolved from this:

Twins

It's called Twinz. Both Twinz and Girafarig were typed as Dark/Normal in this beta.

So here is validation on our theories that it should have been a Dark type. But this is way more than we expected, and we could have never anticipated this. We would have never guessed that the concept behind Girafarig seems to be that of the spirit of a conjoined-twin giraffe materializing from darkness, and one appears to be the evil twin and the other appears to be the good twin.

All in all to say: Wow.

But what happened to Twinz and to the original concept of Girafarig?

Chain Chomp
It wants to eat our words in retaliation.

Well, for whatever reason, Girafarig was decided to be changed. Maybe it was too scary? Since Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the Mario series, was involved in the development of Gold and Silver, Denise's theory is that he had a hand in replacing Girafarig's back head with a cameo of the Chain Chomp from Mario. It wouldn't be the first time that the Chain Chomp ended up in a bizarre cameo - see Link's Awakening, and much later Bayonetta 2. Whatever the reason, it's sad that such a cool concept was downgraded and lost its point in favor of a random, unexplained cameo.

But especially after learning all this, we have no idea why Girafarig ended up being Normal/Psychic and not Normal/Dark or Dark/Normal or Psychic/Dark. We now know that it was indeed the original intention for Girafarig to be part-Dark rather than part-Psychic. Why did it lose this Dark typing? It's not like Dark types ended up being overabundant in Generation II. Notably, quite the opposite. Despite being the featured new type, there's barely any Dark-type Pokémon in Generation II. And of all the types to replace its Dark type with, they chose Psychic, the type that the Dark type was invented to counter, thereby reversing some of their attempts to rebalance Psychic with Dark. And it's not like pairing the Psychic type with the Normal type acts as any sort of mollifying agent to the Psychic type - in fact, this combination trades Psychic's resistance against Fighting for Normal's immunity to Ghost, so, Girafarig even gets something special out of its (then-unique) type combination.

Inkay
Inkay when upside-down. Or rightside-up. Whichever.

As for what concerns the possibility of Girafarig having been Psychic/Dark, we want to point out that, while this combination sounds esoteric and overly badass, in practice, it's a perfectly valid type combination that doesn't result in catastrophic imbalances. Much later, in Generation VI, the concept of the meeting of opposites in the same creature was revisited with Inkay and its evolution Malamar, which are squids that have faces rightside-up or upside-down. They even evolve by needing to flip the 3DS. They are indeed Psychic/Dark to represent their opposed and dual nature, even though they are also candidates for being... Water-types... but whatever. And even though this feature of theirs seems to be all quirky aesthetics and no actual substance.

Putting all of this together, the final version of Girafarig ended up being so much less cool than its original design. It lost its evil twin aspect, it lost its opposites aspect, it lost its ghostliness. It even lost its Dark type. All it got to keep was the name, and literally half of what it had been. We're so sorry.

Girafarig exquisite corpse
Butt butt.

Notes

  1. The Flying type is treated more as a modifier than as a type, since, until unspeakable things happened in Generation V, there were no first-type Flying Pokémon, with Normal/Flying being a common type for all of those regular old birds like Pidgey and Spearow and so on.

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