Just look at this child and tell me that she isn’t perfect.
A spherical seal is just such a perfect marriage of ideas. They’re already buoyant, round little pups, why not cut to the chase and make them living arctic beach balls? And those round eyes, the chubby little grin… even how they move about by tucking in and lazily rolling about. Everything about this girl is designed to set off your “cute animal, must befriend” response.
This whole thing is dulled a little bit by us already having an Ice/Water seal bobbing about, sure; I’m always skeptical about repeating monster concepts knowing the series’ in-built scope creep problem. But I’ve made my thoughts clear on Seel, and while they could have done something more unique with this spot in the roster – or even just with the idea of a pinniped – instead they made a creature that replaces it in my mind in every way.
Vote Spheal 2022 – The Better Seal™
Sealeo keeps the idea going, and while it’s obviously less satisfying to have a monster that isn’t oh-so-perfectly round, I do get a kick out of those whiskers, though, easily the premiere feature of an otherwise fairly-average middle evolution.
Interesting choice to start with visible ears on Spheal but remove them for her evolutions, though. There are both earless and ear-ful seals in the world, sure, but it’s overall rare to see a Pokémon lose an element when it evolves. Plus, wouldn’t you rather have Spheal be earless, bringing it even closer to perfect roundness? I suppose this better sells that Sealeo is one big ol’ sack of blubber, at least.
Here comes the big lass.
There’s a lot going on here – the rough mane that looks like a crashing wave, the fun reverse-jointed flippers, the lightly-webbed tail, her piggy nose. None of it terribly distracting, but all of it just a little goofy while keeping in with actual Walruses being pretty cool and actually a little scary in person.
I’ll admit that I’m biased toward walruses in general and Walrein’s luscious locks in particular, but Walrein’s sure got a lot more going on in her design than Dewgong – sorry, Kanto fans. Both lines have a nice simplicity to their concept, but this line just builds more of a visual personality – even the relatively humdrum Sealeo.
I’m actually pretty annoyed that Spheal shows up so late in just about every game she’s in, because I’ve been wanting to use this line in-game for a while. They’re clearly built as tanks, sure, but aside from Speed all of their stats are actually pass muster – including a serviceable Special Attack and solid move-pool. It’s a shame that her speed is paired with four type weaknesses, but at least one of its major abilities lets it almost completely wall out Fire- and Ice-types.
The Pokédex entries for this group are largely straightforward – Spheal is adorably plushy, claps cutely, and rolls about like a little goober, and Walrein is all about those big, beautiful tusks. Those do pair up in a fun way – Spheal tend to float ahead as scouts for the rest of their pod, spotting prey for the powerful adult Walrein – but a lot of their descriptions just run parallel to how well-insulated and coordinated seals are in order too survive near the poles. I actually don’t mind that style of depiction – half the joy of Pokémon is in its parallels to zoology – it just means that they’re very what-you-see-is-what-you-get.
That said, it’s kinda fun that Sealeo has a habit of juggling – even if it’s not really part of Walrein’s noted behavior. It’s not a natural behavior in actual seals, either, for that matter; the whole “juggling seal” thing is purely a zoo attraction, though a clever one for showing off the animals’ sensitive whiskers and overall intelligence. At least Sealeo has some justification in that they have a natural opportunity to play with younger sibling Spheal, tossing them around and making fun for the whole family. It’s kind of a nice back-port of learned behavior into natural behavior – I don’t know how hard the writers were trying to make that commentary, but it works nonetheless.
I have a hard time vouching for any Pokémon that feels like a repeat – especially knowing that a third is coming down the line – but this line feels like an update and replacement of Seel and Dewgong for me. Neither of those were strictly-necessary on a first glance either, mind, but Ice notably needs all the help it can get to bump its membership. I’d definitely like to see them in and out of Reserve, at least; who doesn’t love a big, boisterous walrus?