KalosianPorygon asks:

I have legitimate, serious problems about Poké Balls that isn’t about what’s inside or how they catch Pokémon.
In all medias the humans have Poké Balls, video games, animes, mangas, when they want to send out a Pokémon, they throw it. When they switch Pokémon (fainting, Volt Switch/U-turn, changing Pokémon, whenever), they call them back in their Ball, with the Trainer holding the Ball.
I have a couple questions about Balls:
First, why do we never see Trainers pick up their thrown Poké Balls after calling their Pokémon? It’s not like they are one-use items.
Second, why do Trainers THROW their Poké Balls when sending a Pokémon in battle? Why can’t they keep them in their hands at all times?
Third, Pokémon Eggs are kept in Poké Balls as soon as you get them. Where do those Balls came from? Do the Pokémon Day Care have boxes of them? And why are Eggs always inside Poké Balls in the games?
Fourth, so Beast Balls are one of the only Poké Ball type that has a decent catch rate against Ultra Beasts. This would make sense, as Ultra Beasts are creatures from another dimension and not (initially) acknowledged as Pokémon. Except, the Master Ball can also catch UBs without trouble. So… how does the Master Ball keep its perfect catch rate against UBs?

Okay, let’s go down the line.

Question the First:

‘cause it’s boring.

No, seriously, I think this is more of a media question than a worldbuilding question; why would you show a trainer going to pick up their thrown Pokéballs?  Don’t waste the screentime or the animation budget.

Alternatively, well… maybe they were originally understood as single-use items, and some of that bled into the anime’s portrayal.  Like, a lot of that stuff got blown out of the water very early on with rare and special Pokéballs, but considering that ordinary Pokéballs retail for roughly the equivalent of two US dollars and regularly break while trying to catch Pokémon, they might actually have been imagined as disposable at one point.  Maybe you only bother to retrieve Great Balls or better.  You could even imagine this as a whole thing in the Pokémon world, where trainers just leaving their broken Pokéballs lying around all over the place is actually a huge problem.

Question the Second:

‘cause it looks cool.

More specifically than that though, I think it’s deliberately evoking stances and throws from baseball (which is an incredibly popular sport in Japan) and thus emphasising that Pokémon training is a competitive sport as well as a lifestyle.  I mean, look at Ash’s throws in the anime.  Even in-universe, it’s actually plausible to me that they do it because they think it looks cool, not for any practical reason.

Question the Third:

Well, the anime has actually shown eggs given to trainers in protective glass capsules that come with a Pokéball attached.  I don’t think there’s anything problematic about assuming that these are supplied by the daycare – again, Pokéballs are extremely cheap.  Starting in Sword and Shield, hatched Pokémon come in balls of the same type as the mother, even if it’s a really special one like a Master Ball, but frankly that could just be an ordinary Pokéball that’s had cosmetic modifications; how would we know the difference?  I mean, to us the actual effect is strictly cosmetic, anyway.  As for eggs being kept in Pokéballs in the games… um, are they?  They show up as a little Pokéball icon in the little in-battle graphic that shows how many Pokémon you have, but I’m not sure that means anything.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of any other evidence for that.

Question the Fourth:

The Master Ball… sort of breaks a lot of things, and honestly I think the world is better off without it, both in terms of worldbuilding consistency and as a moral issue in-universe.  Clearly it cheats somehow, and bypasses whatever it is that makes Pokémon difficult to catch.  That’s a problem for me, because I think that Pokémon are caught only when they acknowledge a trainer’s strength and accept that they have something to gain from partnership.  If the Master Ball doesn’t care about that, then it’s kind of awful and you should never use it (its original context in generation I as the objective of Team Rocket’s Silph Co. takeover, and possibly as a weapon against Mewtwo, is worth recalling here).  So… I don’t know how the Master Ball cheats exactly and I doubt there’s a clear answer to that question; but I think it might work using fundamentally different principles to every other type of Pokéball, I think Beast Balls probably don’t bypass whatever is different about Ultra Beasts in the same way as the Master Ball does, and I don’t think I would want them to.

9 thoughts on “KalosianPorygon asks:

  1. I wonder what it is about Yamper’s new Ball Fetch ability that makes used, broken Poké Balls usable a second time. To go 1000% overanalytical nerd on this subject, perhaps newly-manufactured Poké Balls have a finite “charge,” and a wild Pokémon breaking out of the ball depletes that charge. In most cases, this totally bricks the Poké Ball, but the unique way that Yamper builds up static electricity by running can actually restore that charge if the broken Poké Ball is carried by Yamper while it runs.

    On the fourth issue, I agree that it’s easier to just pretend that Master Balls don’t exist other than the one that drove the plot in the Kanto games (which was a prototype – and weirdly, one of the Silph scientists actually says after you beat Team Rocket that the project is now going to be cancelled, but that never stopped Master Balls from being available in subsequent games, with the local lottery giving them out to whoever draws a winning ticket). Case in point, in Ultra Smoon, one half of the Ultra Recon Squad expresses that their goal is to catch Necrozma and make it obey them. They work with Lusamine to this end, and collaborate with her Foundation in order to mass-produce Beast Balls. Only, these end up having nothing to do with Necrozma, and Lusamine takes matters into her own hands by running on ahead into Ultra Megalopolis… only for Gladion to hand you a Master Ball that he found among her belongings the next day. But if the Beast Balls weren’t relevant to Necrozma, that kinda suggests that they knew that regular Poké Balls would work better, but then why would Lusamine take off without her guaranteed-catch Master Ball?

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    1. oh, jesus christ I forgot about Yamper

      Maybe they aren’t even broken at all and trainers are just literally too fµ¢£ing lazy to pick them up, because they’ve all been raised in this bizarre post-scarcity consumer-culture that throws away working pieces of high technology on a whim because it’s easier to produce another one than to walk 15 fµ¢£ing paces and bend over

      (something about Sword and Shield has just put me in a weird “late capitalist dystopia” mood; I can’t imagine what)

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      1. Also yeah I struggle with Lusamine’s motivations and the role of the Ultra Recon Squad overall in Ultra SMoon, so I’m not inclined to speculate too hard about what they might have been thinking.

        In general, though… Master Balls do kinda turn up in some weird circumstances. Like, Red and Blue have the Master Ball as this one-of-a-kind prototype; Let’s Go expands on that by implying that Silph designed the ball *for Giovanni* before realising what kind of person he was; in Ruby and Sapphire you find it in Maxie/Archie’s office; in Diamond and Pearl it’s a gift from *Cyrus* of all people, which in retrospect ought to have been a *hell* of a red flag; and, yeah, in Sun and Moon it was Lusamine’s. That’s four out of eight generations where this thing is associated with the primary villain (and I remember Professor Elm in Gold and Silver remarking that normally they’re only given to trusted researchers, so even there we get an acknowledgement that a certain degree of special responsibility is required).

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  2. According to the anime, when a trainer throws a Pokeball to release their Pokémon into battle, it returns to the trainer as if it’s magnetically attracted to their hand. This only applies to Pokeballs that contain Pokémon that have already been caught. When a trainer first catches a Pokémon, the Pokeball drops straight to the ground so we can get a shot of it shaking as the Pokémon tries to escape. Then the trainer walks over to pick it up.

    So I guess a Pokeball is somehow able to identify and home in on the person who owns it, but only after it has registered a Pokémon as having been captured. And the Pokeball is able to to turn its homing ability on and off (otherwise a trainer would never be able to put their Pokeballs down.) In the anime, trainers are usually shown pressing the button on the Pokeball to make it expand to full size before they throw it, so maybe this also turns on the homing feature.

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    1. I do know somewhere in the anime they make it clear trainers have their Pokeball registered to them. This at the very least comes up in episodes about trading (where they need a device to transfer the registered trainer) and when Misty “catches” Psyduck (who willingly pressed the button on one of her Pokeballs, becoming her Pokémon despite her protests). So that explains how the Pokeballs know who to go to, but as for how they propel themselves? Something something bioenergy magnetism? I’m BSing but there’s not much to go on…

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  3. A little bit of trivia about the Master Ball from that most dreaded of places: Pokemon Go.

    The Master Ball isn’t used like the other balls. In Go you have to swipe to throw the balls and can even straight-up miss and waste the ball since it rolls off into the aether. The Master Ball isn’t used like any others, you simply tap it and it auto-throws, guaranteeing the capture. If you *really* want to place stock in Go as a vehicle for lore, this could say something about the Master Ball’s mechanics, since it fundamentally functions differently to any other ball you can use.

    Also again worth noting from the slightly less dreaded: Let’s Go. In Pikeevee if you use a Master Ball on Mewtwo or any of the legendary birds it plays a small custom cutscene of the pokemon *actively resisting* capture by attempting to swat the ball away but it thwicks back anyway. Again giving away that Master Balled pokemon don’t actually *want* it used against them in a distinct way from any other.

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      1. The Mewtwo one should be easy to find because that’s what a non-idiot player is going to use it on.

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