Welcome back to Elite Evaluations, an ongoing series in which I review the Elite Four from each generation of games in the Pokemon series, with an especial focus on costume and character design. Previous entries can be found here.
This time, we’re looking at the Elite Four of the Alola region, featured in the 2016 games Sun and Moon and their sequels, 2017’s Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. (Together, all of these titles are commonly referred to as part of ‘Generation VII’.) The header image is from TheGamer, and all other sources are cited throughout.
As with their counterparts in Unova and Kalos, the Alola Elite Four can be fought in any order; however, this is where most of the similarities end. Prior to the events of Sun and Moon, the Alola region didn’t have an Elite Four. The Elite Four itself consists of trainers that (with one exception) we’ve previously met throughout the game, brought together by the region’s Professor Kukui to serve as one last challenge for the player.
The Elite Four haven’t changed their clothing as a result of their sudden new promotion, so we’ll be reviewing most of these looks from the perspective of how costume design reflects a character’s personality and background. My ratings will reflect that accordingly. With the Alola Elite Four, it’s often less about how high-impact these outfits are and more about the character work that goes into these looks.
Hala, a Fighting-type specialist, plays a number of roles throughout the player’s journey in Sun and Moon. He is the Kahuna of Melemele Island, the first of Alola’s four islands visited in the game. (The Kahuna is essentially the leader of each island.) Hala is also the grandfather of the player’s main rival, Hau, and is the player’s final opponent before leaving Melemele Island.
Most notably, Hala gives the player their very first Pokemon, a task normally assigned to the regional Professor. This marks Hala as a sort of parental figure for the player, so it makes sense that he would be part of the Elite Four in some capacity, even if he wasn’t a Kahuna. (Hala plays a much smaller role in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, where the starter Pokemon is provided by Professor Kukui instead.)
As a character, Hala clearly emphasizes comfort above all else, as evidenced by his sandals and oversized overshirt. His outfit isn’t exactly fashionable, but that’s the point; we’re looking at how these characters express themselves through clothing, not always how high-impact or stylish they are. I do like how his bright yellow overshirt plays off the dark blue of his shirt and sandals. I also like his overshirt’s subtle print, and how his red-and-white fan tucked into his belt provides a pop of colour and a focal point. It’s a very comfy and casual look, with more thought put into it than one might expect.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
In Ultra Sun and Moon, Hala’s place in the Elite Four is taken by Molayne, a former Trial Captain who plays a minor role in Sun and Moon. Molayne, who favours Steel-types, manages an observatory and is in charge of the Alola region’s Pokemon storage system, all of which might give you an idea of who he is without even seeing his character art. (Molayne and Professor Kukui are old friends, which may explain why he was chosen for the Elite Four over other, more prominent characters.)
Like Hala, Molayne has a very casual outfit that nevertheless includes a notable amount of detail. The more vivid blue and red of his jacket nicely contrast his sky-blue shirt, and all of these bright colours pop against Molayne’s dark blonde hair and understated pants and shoes. His speciality in Steel-type Pokemon is subtly conveyed through the gear-like frames of his glasses and by his silver bolo tie. As well, his tie’s slide resembles a Z-Crystal, an item introduced in Sun and Moon that allows players to use special attacks.
Molayne’s outfit both conveys his personality and nods to key gameplay elements. I like the details that elevate the outfit, but I’m not sure if it provides him with the gravitas worthy of an Elite Four member. Hala’s look, which is similarly casual, has bright primary colours that command attention; Molayne is less showy, which makes him an interesting choice for the Elite Four.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Olivia is the Kahuna of Akala Island, the second island visited by the player. She specializes in Rock-type Pokemon and runs a jewelry store, and both of these character details are present in her outfit as well.
Olivia’s look features a variety of crystal and rock-themed accessories – all of which are carefully curated and arranged, ensuring not only visual impact but impeccable coordination as well. Apart from her pink top, shorts and shoes, and her pink-and-teal necklace, Olivia’s teal and pink accessories are on separate sides respectively. Everything is coordinated, down to her teal nail polish. Furthermore, pink and teal is not a colour combination we often see in the Pokemon series, making the look even more eye-catching. It’s a confident, expertly put-together, instantly memorable outfit.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Acerola is the Trial Captain of a haunted supermarket on Ula’ula Island, the third island visited in Alola. In Acerola’s trial, the player must take photographs of ghosts inside a purportedly haunted supermarket, eventually coming face-to-face with everyone’s favourite affection-starved critter/supernatural terror, Mimikyu. (Watch the video in that link; you won’t regret it.)
Acerola specializes in Ghost-type Pokemon. It should come as no surprise by now that Acerola, like Ghost-type specialists before her, has one of the most inventive costume designs and most well-crafted backstories of any human character in the entire series.
Acerola is a young orphan who also happens to be the only remaining descendant of an Alolan royal family, maintaining a positive outlook in the face of adversity. She’s probably the youngest Elite Four member in the entire franchise. (In case you’re wondering how someone her age became a member of the Elite Four, she only accepted Professor Kukui’s invitation after the Kahuna of Ula’ula Island, a world-weary cat dad named Nanu, turned it down.)
Acerola’s outfit has a lot of great details, from the ghostly ribbons on the back of her dress, to her stitched-together sandals, to the gold bracelet that might be a family heirloom. The look may very well be sewn together by Acerola herself. The stitches and eye-like fringe on Acerola’s dress seem to deliberately echo similar details on Mimikyu’s own handmade costume, and her tendril-like hair could be a reference to Mimikyu’s own claws.
The connection between Acerola and Mimikyu is further emphasized by her Fall 2020 alternate outfit for Pokemon Masters EX. On its own, it’s a great Halloween costume – every detail is right, from the hoodie to the shoes – and the fact that Mimikyu, itself a Pikachu cosplayer, has inspired a Halloween costume is absolutely perfect. The outfit gains additional depth when we consider how the orphaned Acerola might see some similarities between herself and Mimikyu. It’s a look that works on multiple levels, using both a trainer and a Pokemon’s backgrounds as inspiration. This is genuinely top-tier work.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
In Sun and Moon, Kahili is the sole character the player doesn’t meet prior to battling her at the Elite Four. She’s a professional golfer who grew up in Alola, now travels the world, and returned to her home region specifically to join the Elite Four. (Kahili makes a brief pre-Elite Four cameo in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.)
Kahili is an expert in Flying-type Pokemon, and her outfit is appropriately full of avian references and motifs. Her hair and most of her outfit are sky-blue and white; her skirt includes a feather-like element; and the orange logo on her golf shirt and visor resembles a wing. I find the combination of the feather-like tuft and wing-like ends of Kahili’s hair entirely too on the nose, and one of these elements could easily be removed. In my opinion, the outfit could have either the feather tuft or the wing ends, but not both at the same time.
The designers brilliantly contrast the sky blue of Kahili’s outfit with a bright orange logo and socks. It helps the look feel less literal – and feels on point for a golf uniform. Perhaps the most inspired choice is the connection between Kahili and her signature Pokemon, the toucan-inspired Pokemon, Toucannon. Not only do Kahili and Toucannon share many of the same colours, but Kahili’s golf club is colour-coded to match Toucannon’s beak.
We rarely get insights into the Pokemon character design process, so it’s unclear whether Kahili and Toucannon were designed together, or whether Toucannon was designed first and the similarities between the two were added later. Whatever the case, it’s a great look, and is associated with a specific Pokemon without feeling like cosplay.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The Alola Elite Four is probably one of the most consistent Elite Four groups we’ve seen in the Pokemon series to date. As the number of high-level ratings I’ve given hopefully illustrates, the costume and character designs of these trainers are particularly strong overall.
Next time: Sword and Shield, the next mainline titles in the series, don’t have an Elite Four. so technically this would be the end of this feature (for now at least). However, I’m not quite ready to wrap this column up.
Instead, I’ll finish this series by covering a different batch of characters: the Frontier Brains from the Generation III title Emerald and the Generation IV titles Platinum, HeartGold and SoulSilver. The Frontier Brains preside over the Battle Frontier, a postgame area strictly devoted to Pokemon battles. They occupy a position somewhere between a Gym Leader and an Elite Four member, and many have amazing costumes that rarely get their due.
As such, the next article will cover the group of Frontier Brains from Emerald. There are some all-time great looks among this particular bunch, and I’m excited to highlight them. See you then!