With Pikmin 4 officially revealed in September's Nintendo Direct, players have already started speculating what the upcoming game's story might entail and, in particular, how the fans' umibozu theory from Japanese folklore might tie in. Despite its adorable charm and unassuming design, the Pikmin series has already had its fair share of strange and unsettling revelations, ranging from Louie potentially controlling the Titan Dweevil to PNF-404 being a future version of Earth. It's therefore unsurprising that fans have managed to find out all sorts of weird details about Pikmin, especially between Pikmin and vengeful spirits.
Built up across the three Pikmin games, the umibozu theory takes after the yokai of the same name. In short, umibozu are the spirits of drowned priests that manifest out in calm oceans. Their appearance quickly turns the weather stormy, and the waves caused by their sudden emergence can capsize or even destroy ships. So linking umibozu to a fun game of iconic inch-tall astronauts roaming round a garden is undeniably odd, but as players have dug deeper into the theory, the more the connections take shape.
How Pikmin and Umibozu Connect
The umibozu theory formed somewhat retrospectively, as it was after Pikmin 2 and further reinforced by Pikmin 3 when fans began to connect the dots between the games. The theory began with a focus on the Japanese names of Pikmin's most memorable enemies, the Waterwraith and Plasm Wraith seen in Pikmin 2 and 3 respectively. The name "Amebouzu" given to both is a portmanteau of amoeba and, of course, umibozu. Catalyzing fans with possible hints to this strange creatures' origin and purpose, they began digging deeper into the Wraiths and how they might impact the bigger picture of Pikmin.
Small in-game details were scrutinized to reveal yet more connections to umibozu, with the most prominent example being how frequently ships seem to crash on PNF-404. Case in point, in Pikmin Olimar's ship is struck by a meteorite, in Pikmin 2 he misses hitting another meteorite that could have done the same, and in Pikmin 3 the S.S. Drake inexplicably malfunctions and crashes. Since umibozu are known to intentionally shipwreck captains in order to capture or kill them, the theory suggests the Wraiths are targeting Olimar and his Pikmin for an unknown reason and intentionally causing passing ships to crash.
In one of Pikmin 3's four endings, this involvement is actually "confirmed." The best ending, achieved when the player has obtained all 66 fruit, the narrator implies that the Drake's malfunction that caused its crash may not have been accidental at all. Though it's not explicitly stated if the Wraiths caused this or if it was just an accident, the uncanny link between this and the umibozu only strengthens the theory. With Pikmin 4 on the horizon, the question on these fans' minds now is how will the umibozu manifest this time around.
How Pikmin 4 and Umibozu Could Connect
Details about Pikmin 4's plot are currently scarce. Currently, it does seem that players will be returning to PNF-404, though whether Olimar will feature remains to be seen as early images shows a possible Brittany from Pikmin 3 or new female character fending off a bulborb. Despite this, since Olimar remains the series' most iconic character and is an integral part of the umibozu theory, fans are convinced that he will factor into the game somehow either as another lead protagonist or in another secondary side role like Pikmin 3.
In terms of plot, Pikmin has always relied on fairly unassuming stories where players are tasked with recovering collectibles from ship parts to fruits, so even in spite of Pikmin 4's ten year hiatus, the game is unlikely to be any different. However, all the games do carry darker undertones, and with Pikmin 3 going further than any of its previous games in terms of world- and lore-building, its sequel should be on track to up the ante. Since the Plasm Wraith is shown to have survived the boss fight, Pikmin 4 can follow up on this ideal opportunity to better explore the Wraiths' origins and intentions.
So far there are only two known Wraiths, leading fans to believe that the Waterwraith evolved into the Plasm Wraith, though this is loose speculation based on details such as a shared appearance and invincibility. However, this invincibility does tie to something Pikmin 4 could finally address. In-game dialogue for the Waterwraith implies that it's an interdimensional entity, hence why it is possible the Plasm Wraith will be difficult to beat conventionally. Being from another dimension could also help explain their supernatural ability to crash ships, just like the umibozu spirits.
With the Plasm Wraith still alive on PNF-404, and players returning to the planet, it's possible that they could once again come face-to-face with the strange entity. Between the different forms previously seen, Pikmin 4 could likely see a new or even third stage to the Wraith's evolution. Additionally, given that the series has only teased its umibozu ties before now, Pikmin 4 should finally explore the Wraiths in greater detail and could confirm where they came from, how they ended up on PNF-404 and how it might connect to humanity's fate, or what they ultimately want with Olimar.
Pikmin 4 is set to release in 2023 exclusively for Nintendo Switch.