Mimikyu and the horror of anxiety

“A lonely Pokémon, it conceals its terrifying appearance beneath an old rag so it can get closer to people and other Pokémon..”
Mimikyu’s Pokedex Entry from Pokemon Sun

In 2016, Pokemon Sun & Moon, the latest in the long running, monster-training RPG series was released. It pushed the number of collectible Pokemon up to a whopping 807 (not including all the variations; Mega Evolutions etc). In a game series that has been going for over twenty years and full of so many different characters, you’d think it’s next to impossible for any of the more recent Pokemon to stand out and find a place in popular culture. But one did – all they needed to do was copy from the best.

Pokemon #778 is a Ghost & Fairy type, and within the confines of the game it isn’t the most powerful. But what it lacks in usage it makes up for in flair & design. We’re of course talking about Mimikyu. The name is a combination of the words Mimic and kyūkyū (the Japanese onomatopoeia for squeaking); and this Pokémon is an undefined shadow that disguises itself as the mascot character Pikachu. Why do they do this? Well, turns out Mimikyu just wants to be loved.

To do this and make friends, it has decided to disguise itself as the most lovable Pokemon of all. The problem is however that if you get too close to a Mimikyu or even try to look under their rags you’ll suffer a terrible fate.

Announced as part of the marketing for Pokemon Sun & Moon, Mimikyu was an instant hit.
Source: Nintendo & Game Freak

So why is Mimikyu so popular? Is it their eerie design, the horror element to the character, the fact they look like an off-brand Pikachu or perhaps some mixture of all the above? For us, Mimikyu feels the closest we’ve had to a Pokemon with real personality. In a game where Pokemon are species and not individuals, it’s refreshing to meet one which has its own definable character. With only a few lines of text explaining what they are like, it gives the Pokemon a real sense of character, and their design reinforces this. All Mimikyu wants is someone to be their friend and so it hides behind a costume to get closer to people. In the end this combination of anxiety and Japanese horror wrapped up in a raggedy-doll version of Pikachu just stands out from the crowd.

Mimikyu even appeared in the Pokemon Anime. This particular Mimikyu though had an intense hatred of Pikachu – so naturally they joined Team Rocket.
Source: Pokemon the series Sun & Moon

In a manner, we see these traits every day. Social Anxiety is often misinterpreted as simply being shy. It’s a real condition whose sufferers have an an intense fear of social situations.  They find it difficult to be in large groups and will often over-analyse their actions, which ends up creating a vicious circle that only helps to isolate them further. It takes a lot for those affected by it to try and move past their anxiety and some unfortunately never do.

The idea of wearing a disguise, to wrap yourself in the robes of a more confident person, is often a technique used by people to get through these situations. “Fake it till you make it,” as some would say. All this shadow Pokemon wants is to be closer to people and be part of the party. They wrap themselves up in the look of someone they see as popular and loved to accomplish this.

Those who try to take a look under Mimikyu’s costume suffer a terrible fate. As it is in our world where trying to force someone with anxiety to do something will only serve to make things exponentially worse. One of the best things you can do is be loving and supportive. Not dismissive or forcing to change things you’ve perceived as flaws.

When Mimikyu takes damage there is a chance the costume will break creating  the “Busted Form”. The form itself has its own Pokedex Entry which lets you know just how much Mimikyu needs the disguise:  “It stands in front of a mirror, trying to fix its broken neck as if its life depended on it. It has a hard time getting it right, so it’s crying inside.”

Mimikyu Busted Mode is also known online by its more disturbing name
“Broken Neck”; because of how the head of the costume hangs to the side in a horrific fashion.
Source: Nintendo

Mimikyu doesn’t need the costume to live, but to them it’s their technique to get through the day. Without it they couldn’t face the world, and for a lot of people suffering not only from Social Anxiety but other unseen issues, it means so much to have a coping mechanism. We all have our ways of getting through the day, but rarely do we talk about these methods or even have a character from a video game be a metaphor for it.

That is why we love Mimikyu. It isn’t just the aesthetic but it’s what is underneath that robe. Someone who wants to be liked but doesn’t know how to, and is afraid of messing it up. And at the end of the day isn’t that what all of us are?

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