Gyarados is a piscine, draconic Pokémon with a long serpentine body covered in slightly overlapping scales. It is mostly blue with a yellow underbelly, and it has a row of yellow spots down each side. Its mouth is very large and gaping, bearing four pointed teeth and yellow lips. It has one pair of barbel and a small white fin on each side of its face. The barbels are white on a female and blue on a male. It has small, red eyes, a three-pointed, dark blue crest on its head, and four white, spiky dorsal fins. Gyarados's tail fin is similar in structure to the crest on its head, except with a thin, white fin spread between the points.
The process of evolution causes a change in its brain structure that is believed to cause its violent nature. Gyarados's fangs can crush stones and its scales are harder than steel. Gyarados is feared for its fierce temper and wanton destructive tendencies since ancient times. In some regions, Gyarados is called the "deity of destruction" because of this. It appears in times of conflict and destroys the surrounding area. Its rampages have been known to last a month at a time. These rampages can occur even during a harsh storm. A Gyarados's rage won't stop completely until everything is destroyed. Some believed any human settlement is fated to be destroyed should a Gyarados appear. Gyarados lives in both fresh and salty waters. Both Gyarados and its Mega form have demonstrated in the anime that it can leap huge distances both from the water and from the ground, usually several times its own body length. However, Gyarados is rarely seen in the wild. The move Hyper Beam is often associated with Gyarados due to it being being powerful enough to instantly destroy everything it hits.
When it Mega Evolves, Gyarados becomes bulkier. The fins on its cheeks become longer and gain a yellow tint. Its crest is larger and black, and its barbels also gain considerable length. A large spike extends downward underneath its chin, and it now has a black underside with a red stripe around the edges. The yellow spots along its body are replaced by raised red scales, which propel Mega Gyarados through the water. Two large yellow fins with blue spines appear on its back. Most of the other fins along its back disappear, replaced by two rows of blue spikes. There are now four yellowish, spiky fins near its tail: two on its back and two on its underside.
Due the stress Mega Evolution puts on a Gyarados's body, it becomes even more ferocious than before. All other brain functions cease when Mega Evolution occurs, except for the destructive drive to burn down anything into cinders. Despite its brain having a powerful destructive instinct, it will obey a Trainer it truly trusts. Mega Gyarados can launch at Mach Speed by using its orifices to release water from both sides. With this speed, it has enough power to split large ships in two. Mega Gyarados is tied with HoopaUnbound as the tallestDark-type.
In Cerulean Blues, Misty obtained a Gyarados after passing the PIA test. Prior to the test, Misty was terrified of Gyarados, but in order to pass the test, she had to overcome her fear of it. In the end, she calmed and kept the Gyarados. In When Regions Collide!, it was revealed that it can Mega Evolve into Mega Gyarados.
In Pokémon Shipwreck, four wild Gyarados joined James's Gyarados in using Dragon Rage.
In The Pi-Kahuna, multiple Gyarados seen from within the Team Rocket Gyarados submarine, shortly before the onset of a massive, annual tidal wave celebrated by local surfers who were apparently not aware of the annual migration. According to James, the Gyarados gathered each year in this location to lay their eggs.
In This Magik Moment!, a Magikarp actor nicknamed Karpy evolved into a Gyarados after several efforts to suppress its evolution so as to preserve its career. It subsequently went on a rampage, but it was eventually calmed down by George Charino, allowing it to be cast in an improvisational guest role in Lillie, Lana, and Mallow's episode of The Refreshing Trio: Alola Idols.
Gyarados debuted in Gyarados Splashes In!, where he attacks his own Trainer Misty but is recaptured by Red, who returns him to her. The drastic change in attitude of the Pokémon was the result of a Team Rocket experiment as is shown in Raging Rhydon. Later on, Misty traded this Gyarados to Red in exchange for Red's Krabby which he names him Gyara. When Red borrows Blue's Charizard to travel to Mt. Silver, he temporarily trades his Gyarados to Blue. He later appears as one of Blue's Pokémon in Entranced by Entei, used against Entei, and later part of his revealed team during the Gym Leader face-off. Prior to the FireRed and LeafGreen saga, Blue returns Gyarados to Red.
In Debonaire Dragonair, in the Dragon's Den, three Gyarados appeared, rising out of the water, but they did not attack Clair. Instead, they make way for her peacefully before Suicune appears and attacks.
In Team Galactic's Conspiracy, Revealed!!, Cyrus sent out his Gyarados after his Weavile suffered heavy damage from Piplup's surprise attack. He used its Giga Impact to destroy the rope bridge where the battle was taking place, sending Hareta and Piplup falling into the river below.
"An Atrocious Pokémon rarely seen in the wild. When it does appear, it's usually running rampant in a destructive rage--behavior that has the unfortunate side effect of leaving whole cities in ruin. It is said that when humans begin a conflict, Gyarados incinerates the towns of both warring parties. There are records of a Gyarados rampage lasting as long as a month. Its pre-evolution form is Magikarp."
The radio drama The Birth of Mewtwo contains an audio footage of Gyarados' discovery by a female researcher which ends disturbingly.
Gyarados's original design resembled a massive leech-like creature without eyes. Though this has now been debunked and is attributed to the myth of Namazu (read more below in Origin). The eyes can now be spotted as tiny dots.
Despite being part Flying-type, Gyarados couldn't learn any Flying-type moves naturally prior to Generation VII.
Gyarados is tied with Pelipper as the most common Pokémon found amongst Gym Leaders, being used by seven of them.
In many ways, Gyarados is the counterpart of Milotic. Both are the serpentine evolved forms of weak fish Pokémon, and both appear in times of conflict; Gyarados to destroy, Milotic to becalm. Both have base stat totals of 540, the only difference being the distribution of their Attack, Special Attack and Special Defense stats.
Gyarados is tied with Milotic for the greatest increase in base stat total after evolving, at 340 points.
Gyarados appears in Pokémon Battle Chess. It doesn't behave like any traditional piece in chess. It is only present after Magikarp is damaged.
Gyarados has featured as multiple cultural references in the Pokémon Franchise including Koinobori in the anime and a 1997 May Calendar Insert, Shachihoko on a Nagoya Castle pin, Merlion from Pokémon Center Singapore, and most historically as the the Dragon Gate myth discussed further below.
The unnamed Pokémon resembling Mega Gyarados
Gyarados appears to be based on a sea dragon or sea serpent and a Chinese dragon. It is also partially based on a legend about how carp that leaped over the Dragon Gate would become dragons. Several waterfalls and cataracts in China are believed to be the location of the Dragon Gate such as the Longmen Mountains. This is referenced by Pokémon Snap, as the player needs to get a Magikarp into a waterfall to evolve it into Gyarados but only after it leaps over a mountain. This legend is an allegory of the drive and efforts needed to overcome obstacles, which can be tied to the fact that Gyarados' pre-evolved form, Magikarp, could possibly take a lot of drive and effort to legitimately evolve into Gyarados.
It may be partially based on the kraken, as both are destructive sea monsters that are infamous for terrorizing humans. To add to this, one of Gyarados' original names was considered to be "Skullkraken". Gyarados's Flying type may be a reference to koinobori, a carp-shaped windsock traditionally flown to celebrate Children's Day in Japan, formerly called Tango no Sekku (端午の節句). Though it is more likely to be associated with Eastern Dragons in general due to their associations to Water and the Sky - such as the Azure Dragon. It could also be inspired by the South African cryptid Inkanyamba, a giant, winged eel that causes storms when angry, a trait Gyarados is famous for.
Mega Gyarados' appearance bears similarities to the aforementioned koinobori. Furthermore, its design, specifically its large dorsal fins, strongly resembles that of the unnamed "legendary water Pokémon" seen in the Pokémon anime episode Enlighten Up!, first aired on April 18, 2002, in which Misty recounts seeing an unknown water Pokémon. This creature may have inspired the design of Mega Gyarados when it was eventually created 10 years later.
On December 2018, the Beta Sprite for Gyarados was showcased on the NHK Broadcast in Japan bearing the resemblance of a worm-like body with a mouthful of sharp teeth, barbels on the top of its head, and multiple fins on the side of its body. The inspiration for this original design may be related to the myth of 鯰 Namazu or 大鯰 Ōnamazu from 16th century Japan. Namazu was known as a catfish that was said to destroy cities with earthquakes and appears during times of human conflict - much like Gyarados’ Pokedex entries in the original first 2 generations of games. Namazu’s history as a mythos is also directly tied to Lake Biwa - the real life version of the Lake of Rage - where said earthquakes were said to occur. This idea was later replaced with the Dragon Gate myth and rehashed in Gen 3 as the inspiration for Whiscash appropriately named ナマズン "Namazun".
Gyarados may be a combination of 虐殺 gyakusatsu (slaughter), 逆境 gyakkyō (adversity), or 逆転 gyakuten (reversal, turnaround), 荒らす arasu (to devastate), and 脅す odosu (to threaten).
In other languages
From 虐殺 gyakusatsu, 逆境 gyakkyō or 逆転 gyakuten, 荒らす arasu, and 脅す odosu