Mantine has always been one of my personal favorite Water-types. He just looks so big and dopey and cuddly; what’s not to love about this fella?
It’s easy to have the knee-jerk reaction of “oh, yup, they just cartoon-i-fied an animal again“, but Pokémon is at least reasonably clever with how they go about those adaptations. Actual rays are pretty wonky-looking, with gaping maws dominating their front-side and stingers arming their rear. Mantine cute-i-fies that both ends to make them palatable, with its mandibles becoming springy antennae and its mouth being adorably mum. And its tail is something else entirely: a streamer,
Or: a kite’s tail.
Mantine being part-flying acts as a reflection of how actual manta rays are a breaching animal, leaping out of the ocean’s surface for reasons that we’re still not sure of, but hey, it sure makes for a striking image. Sure, whales are more famous for it, but mantas are more dynamic, majestically sailing through the air with their wide bodies. Water has always been and likely will always be the most populous type, so it’s nice to see a monster focusing on more unique forms of locomotion than just wading and swimming.
He’s also got our friend from before hanging out under his wing, just like how real mantas get suckerfish stuck under their “wings” that clean off parasites. But in this case, Remoraid serves an extra purpose as a living gun-barrel hanging out on their underside. Do you know what else flies and has guns mounted to its wings?
Okay, it’s a stretch. But it’s not a 0% factor.
There’s just so much going on with Mantine, and while some of it is “squint-your-eyes-and-believe”, none of it distracts from his basic appeal. That’s what a strong design can do.
Tip-top monster we’ve got, here.
It’s a baby Mantine.
I won’t fool with you, I think Mantyke is cute as a button and has an adorable pun-name to go with it. But inventive he ain’t. Still, of all the Pokémon they gave baby forms to, Mantine was probably the one that appeared least in the series’ marketing, so it’s nice to see that he got a bit of a boost. Plus, it allows the series to re-enforce their connection to Remoraid, so at least he kind of earns his lunch.
Mantine’s typing is a mixed bag, as we’ve seen before – Rock and Electric are dead-common weaknesses, but he gets a whopping five resistances and at least one immunity in return, plus a fantastic special-defense stat and perfectly workable special-attack. She does lack in other areas, but applied safely (which is easy to do against NPCs), she can easily tank her way through much of the main games.
While other monsters have taken their own jabs at symbiosis in the past, Mantine is the first family line to really make that part of the games’ mechanics. Mantyke has one of the games’ more obscure evolution methods, but one that’s at least hinted at well – a Mantyke has to be in the same party as a Remoraid to evolve, which makes their mutualism a more active part of the games.
Nobody really tells you the evolution method directly, but unlike some of the wackier one-off ways to evolve a monster, players could at least reasonably puzzle out how to evolve a Mantyke. Its evolved form was famously associated with Remoraid, and even a good chunk of Mantyke’s Pokédex entries mention the relationship – it’s not too far a jump to try having the two fight together to see what happens.
Oddly enough, Remoraid stopped appearing on Mantine’s in-game art at the same time that Mantyke came around, which did weaken the connection a bit. Maybe that’s just to close the babyest of logic-holes where the Remoraid in your party doesn’t “merge” with Mantine on evolution?
By the by, mutualism is probably the most on-brand way for the Pokémon series to tackle symbiosis; it’s not parasitism, and it’s not an uneven relationship in any way. It’s pure cooperation, which is one of those warm-and-fuzzy virtues that a series like this loves to champion. Good on them for working it into the lore in yet another way.
Oh, and Mantine can leverage the Remoraid for powered flight, which is pretty rad.
A parting shot, because I feel obligated to mention it whenever it shows up – the text around Mantyke asserts that the ring-patterns on the family’s back changes by region. It’s one of the many reasons why, in-universe, it’s popular with tourists. Unlike Arbok, though, the games haven’t even tried to reflect this in different art across the games. Both Mantine and Mantyke are of the same design everywhere, denying us that fun little bit of variety.
On the other hand, just look at how happy this little sucker is to be here. If we’re stuck with one pattern, this is hardly a bad one to go with.
Mantine is just a super-solid design for a water-type. Unfortunately, as with a lot of these monsters I respect, he also isn’t strictly necessary to fill a specific niche in the games. I’d wager he and his son can rotate in and out of Reserve, but hey – they’re another one I’m always distinctly excited to see.