15 Best Gym Leader Character Designs in Pokémon (Ranked)

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Gym leaders play a massive part in the Pokémon games, despite not getting the love that I think they deserve.

I’ve decided to celebrate them in my own way by ranking gym leader based on their designs.

It’s hard to separate design from character, I’ll admit. And there are a few times in this list where I blend the two. So if you disagree with me and think I’m a total hack, I get it.

I also get if you think my admittedly male brain has influenced this list in any significant way, because it has.

Despite my flaws, I still think my conclusions are fairly solid. If you’re into character design at all then you’ll find plenty here to agree with.

 

15. Winona

Winona Gym Leader In Pokémon

You’re going to realize that there’s a massively disproportionate number of female trainers to male trainers.

I honestly have no idea why that could be, but it is what it is.

Starting off that trend (and this list) is Winona, the flying type gym leader from Gen III.

I fought with the idea of putting her on here because, realistically, she isn’t all that memorable. It’s been some years since I’ve visited Hoenn, but I forgot all about her.

She has a good design, though. The wings on the boots, vambraces, and hat make her look like a Pokémon Quicksilver, and the tail-like ponytail only adds to that aesthetic.

Her white and silvery blue color combination is also one of the most serene I’ve seen on any gym leader. She’s got a great design, even if I completely forgot that she existed in the first place.

 

14. Korrina

Korrina From Pokémon Anime

Korrina is a mixed bag for me.

On the one hand, she’s the popular girl in high school that you used to crush over, but couldn’t tell anyone because you were punk.

And on the other hand, she’s a prime example of one of X and Y’s biggest issues: the difficulty.

In terms of raw design, though, she’s a roller skater. And that’s pretty awesome.

The red and white color scheme works incredibly well, and the fact that she actually has somewhat of a role to play in X and Y helps her memorability immensely.

 

13. Clemont

Clemont Pokémon Anime Screenshot

There’s a weird thing about X and Y having a few stellar characters, and then a bunch of garbage.

Clemont just misses out on that garbage heap.

He’s a weird little child prodigy that, for some reason or another, has a backpack that shoots out a satellite and robotic arm.

He doesn’t need either of those things; he just has them for style points.

The fact that he’s the only gym leader(after Korrina) that I could remember from Kalos says everything about Clemont and why he’s on this list.

 

12. Nessa

Nessa From Pokémon Anime

Sword and Shield have some seriously standout designs.

Nessa is one of them.

There’s just something about her design that shows a certain level of care was put into her design.

Even down to her sandals, which have life rings on them.

The flowing blue streaked hair, her intimidating eyes, and the admittedly skimpy albeit tasteful clothing, all go towards cementing Nessa as one of my favorite gym leader designs.

 

11. Skyla

Skyla Pokémon Gym Leader

For whatever reason, Skyla is the single gym leader that I remember the most from the entire series.

It might have to do with my TCG deck at the time relying heavily on her trainer card. But I’m not sure that’s all there is to it.

I mean, she has one of the best-designed gyms of all time.

It essentially acts as a big middle finger to all health and safety regulatory officers, something which we’ve all wanted to do at some point.

In terms of design, though, she’s another flying type leader. Unlike Winona, there’s not all that much alluding to that on her design. The fact that I still love it despite that speaks volumes.

She’s simply got a multi-shaded blue crop top, shorts, boots, and some straps thrown around the place. It’s an incredibly cute design that’s as simple as it is effective.

 

10. Clair

Clair From Pokémon Anime

I feel sorry for Clair.

She’s Lance’s cousin, but instead of being the Champion, she’s relegated to gym duty. Just imagine how awful those family get-togethers must be for her.

Despite the inferiority issues that I’m positive she’s working through, Clair overcompensates big time when it comes to style.

The high-rise high heel boots, Lance-like flowing cape, the gloves that look like they’re made of satin and cost more than my net worth, the dress that shows off just enough leg to be both attractive and intimidating… and of course, those piercing blue eyes.

Forget her Gyarados’ ability; she’s going to be the one intimidating any 10-year-old trainer that wanders through the front door, hence the number 10 spot.

 

9. Crasher Wake

Crasher Wake From Pokémon Anime

Crasher Wake has a real man’s body.

He’s big, he’s chunky, and he could easily rip you in two.

He somehow balances being both a gym leader and a professional wrestler, although he seems like a bit of a Hulk Hogan because he never does the job on television, apparently.

There’s also the fact that the first time you meet him in Platinum, he sings his own theme song.

That doesn’t play into the design, but it’s funny to imagine.

Crasher Wake’s design is actually quite simple but very effective. He has orange and blue wrestling tights that sort of make him look like Mermaid Man. He doesn’t wear a top, which is honestly more alluring to me than any of the female gym leader designs on this list, and he’s got a really weird and spikey mask.

It all comes together in not just a well-designed gym leader, but a genuine character. And that should be the goal of all character design.

 

8. Koga

Koga Pokémon Gym Leader

I go on and on about Koga in my lists, so I’ll give the inspirational story a rest for this one.

Design-wise, Koga is a literal ninja. That’s all.

Do I need to say anything else?

 

7. Clay

Clay Gym Leader In Pokémon

Ninjas are cool and all, but you know what I really want to battle against in my Pokémon games?

Oil barons!

Okay, he’s a mining baron, not an oil one. But let me have my fantasy all the same.

He kinda looks like Doug Dimmadome if Doug lost the wife and kids and turned to eating as a coping mechanism.

Clay has this constant scowl on his face, is always on the phone, and always checking the time. He looks like a nasty piece of work, as well as a wannabe cowboy.

I feel sorry for anyone that works for him. But there has to be points for whatever multi-million Pokédollar tailor dressed him.

 

6. Elesa

Elesa From Pokémon Anime

The Pokémon League must really have terrible wages with all these gym leaders turning to other professions to get by.

In Elesa’s case, it’s fashion.

Elesa is a model. Which instantly puts her on any list of mine, as far as I’m concerned.

However, it’s hard to talk about her design because she changes it up quite dramatically from BW to BW2.

Her outfits are simple, but they were a dream come true for 11-year-old me. That nostalgia factor might play into my bias, but take a look at her design and tell me that it’s not incredible.

 

5. Bea

Bea Galar Gym Leader - Pokémon Anime

Bea is the pinnacle of badass Pokémon character design.

She’s absolutely chiseled and is everything Crasher Wake wished he could be.

The ashen gray hair with the headband works incredibly well, and I have absolutely no idea why. Possibly because of the contrast between the orange and the gray, but either way, it looks incredible.

There’s not much room for creativity in the Gen 8 gym leader designs because of the jerseys that they have to wear.

But Bea makes it work.

It’s simple, strong, and effective, which is oftentimes more effective than some crazy OTT design.

 

4. Whitney

Whitney From Pokémon Anime

Whitney is simple, I’ll give you that.

But she’s so close to the top for one very specific reason:

Her design fits her character perfectly.

She’s the type of girl that puts on this cute front, but when it comes down to it, she’s an absolute little terror.

She’s constantly going on about cute Pokémon, but when you beat her, she throws a tantrum and refuses to hand over your badge… yeah.

You can tell she’s like this just from a glance.

Knee-high socks, pink hair and eyes (a classic anime trope for a psychopath), and a happy-go-lucky demeanor that you know is waiting to implode.

 

3. Valerie

Valerie Pokémon Gym Leader

Valerie is what I mean when I talk about how good the X and Y designs are, but how bad the actual characters are.

I forgot who Valerie was, which should never happen with a character this well designed.

If I can remember Whitney after fighting her 15+ years ago, then I should be able to remember a trainer I fought a few years back.

Valerie was the first fairy-type gym leader, and you can tell.

Her eyes have this massive dreamy anime feeling to them, which only combines with the clear fairy wings that she wears as sleeves.

Game Freak clearly went out of their way to make the fairy type debut special; it’s just a shame the writing team was absent that day.

 

2. Roxie

Roxie From Pokémon Anime

Remember when I said that Korrina is the girl you secretly had a crush on?

Roxie is the one you had a crush on and made absolutely no effort to hide it.

She’s a punk rocker, and not just in appearance.

You fight her when she’s on stage with her band in her gym. Which has been turned into a dingy underground club.

The punky hair, the big boots, and the oversized jumper were enough to capture my young heart. And even to this day, Roxie is still one of my favorite gym leader designs of all time.

 

1. Misty

Misty From Pokémon Anime

Could it be anyone else?

Like Elesa, Misty gets a redesign between games.

Also like Elesa, both designs are incredible.

She’s possibly the most recognizable side character in Pokémon history. Which says it all, really.

She’s meant to be tom-boyish, and the design leans into that very well. It’s not overly masculine, as well as not being overly feminine.

Shorts and a crop top, or a swimsuit.

It’s such a simple design that I’m sure we can all immediately visualize Misty in our collective minds. If for nothing else, that reason is more than deserving of giving Misty the top spot.

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