The Pokemon series has always been great at endearing you to a character in a very brief amount of time. This is true of gym leaders you see for mere minutes of screentime, professors who only check in on you periodically throughout an entire game, and even people who are mostly just recurring set dressing.
Pokemon Sword and Shield’s second DLC “The Crown Tundra” introduces someone new as well, and he might be my favorite supporting character in the whole game. Friends, I’m talking about daddy Peony, a father, an ex-gym leader, and dumbass stud and a half.
Peony gives off some of the most wholesome and endearing himbo energy in a game already chock full of himbos. When you boot up “Crown Tundra,” you stumble upon him and his daughter Nia arguing about the “adventour” they were supposed to be having in the area to find and capture legendary Pokemon. She’s not feeling it. She wants to go out and take part in Raid battles against legendary Dynamax Pokemon in the caves nearby rather than spend time trying to track down lost legends of the Galar Region that are mostly considered fairy tales by the locals. Peony, ever the dumbass, isn’t catching on, but Nia insists he battle us as a distraction, and he thinks this will help her see that her dear ol’ dad is actually super cool. We get into a Pokemon battle and by the time we’re done she’s run away into the caverns in search of Dynamax Pokemon. Eventually, Peony gets sort of thrust upon us, as we’ve now got to be his surrogate kid for his “adventour.” He put all this work into his father/daughter outing. The least we can do is ensure his trip isn’t entirely wasted thanks to his ungrateful daughter.
And this is good, because I am immediately happier when I’m in Peony’s presence. The sheer chaos of his unrelenting excitement, the way my heart drops when I see his positivity falter as he has to quickly think up an excuse every time his daughter breaks his heart, and the absolute stupidity of a man who will casually stumble upon a rock that has been missing from a precious statue in the town he’s staying at and say “you know what? This would make an excellent pillow to rest my head on.” Peony manages to elevate every moment of “Crown Tundra” in a way that it felt like much of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s first DLC “The Isle of Armor” was missing. Sure, there were rivals like Avery, who definitely made an impression, but they weren’t as integral to the bulk of the new content, and were sidelined shortly after they’d fulfilled their role. Peony is like a warm fire in the snowy weather of the Crown Tundra, one that crackles and sparks, keeping everything cozy and also bright, even if it requires a few logs to keep it going when something dampers the whole thing.
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But also, we’ve gotta talk about Peony’s status as a gay icon, which, seems to be canon? Or, at least as canon as it can get in a Pokemon game. Our himbo dad gives you a League Card like most characters do in Pokemon Sword and Shield, and not only is it adorned with one of the best glamour shots of anyone’s in the game, but the description on the back says something that seems to imply that Peony’s daddy aesthetic has not gone unnoticed by gays in the Pokemon world.
“Peony is a former Steel-type Gym Leader. His powerful and dynamic battle style meant that anyone stuck on pitch maintenance had their work cut out for them. To this day, he is known as “Steel Peony” and has many fans, especially among men.”
I would be surprised if the Pokemon universe ever acknowledged queerness in any official capacity. Heck, this is the series that still has an ability called “Attract” that only works on opposite sex opponents and also insists that Leon and Raihon are just friends despite the subtext. But Peony carries around a card that says his fanbase is primarily men, and he is absolutely a notable muscle bear in the Galar Region. So it’s natural that the unseen gays of the Pokemon world would flock to him. Is Peony gay himself? I’m not far enough into the DLC to tell, but he is absolutely the kind of man who has hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and doesn’t know why. But given that he acknowledges his male fanbase on his own League Card, he at least recognizes his demographic.
It’s me. I am part of his demographic. Thank you to Game Freak for delivering him to us.