I didn’t know we needed a VTuber Gym Leader in the Pokémon universe. Then, we met Iono.
Last week, Pokémon released a 14-minute trailer about the upcoming Pokémon Scarlet & Violet games, which will mark the ninth generation of the iconic franchise’s main series installments. So this morning, when Pokémon unveiled another teaser for the upcoming games, some fans expected that they’d learn about more new Pokémon species as exciting as Wiglett or Farigiraf. Eager trainers woke up in the wee hours of the morning, waiting for the big reveal.
Instead, they got a three-minute video of a bubbly, electric-type trainer jumping around her set, asking her legions of fans at home to guess her partner Pokémon. The Pokémon Company describes her as an “influencer, streamer, and Gym Leader.” We stan a multihyphenate queen!
If Iono is as powerful as she is fashionable, then we’ll have a tricky gym battle on our hands. Unfortunately, these games are made for children, so you’ll probably be able to take her out with a solid ground Pokémon … just know even if you beat her in combat, she will likely destroy you with her runway walk, so who’s the real winner here?
Iono’s characterization screams “VTuber,” or “virtual YouTuber,” the Japanese streaming genre in which creators inhabit a virtual persona, who they animate by using AR face-tracking or motion capture suits. Since Iono already exists within an animated Japanese video game, it might be a misnomer to call her a VTuber — is she really a pink-and-blue-haired goddess with Magnemite clipped into her hair, rocking the oversized sweatshirt à la Ariana Grande or Billie Eilish? Or is she a different animated Pokémon character who is inhabiting the persona of virtual streamer within a game that is already virtual? Of course, the influencer gym leader has click baited us into waiting until “next time” to find out who her partner Pokémon is, but I’m more curious about whether she’s a virtual character within a virtual game or not.
This also begs the question of what video games Iono is streaming, and what games even exist in the Pokémon universe. In main series games, we usually find the latest Nintendo console in our character’s bedroom — we even encounter kids playing the GameBoy and using link cables to trade Pokémon. So, could Iono be as strong a Pokémon video game player as she is a Pokémon trainer? We know that Pokémon exists within the universes of other Nintendo franchises, like Splatoon and Animal Crossing. Is the reverse true, too?
Hopefully, our existential questions about the extent of the Nintendo universe will be answered when Pokémon Scarlet & Violet come out on November 18. For now, nope, we did not learn any new information about the Paldea region, except that there’s a town called Levincia where Iono intimidates her challengers with her shining, purple eyes and impeccable fashion sense. Deal with it.