The Pokémon Company International’s new mobile game, Magikarp Jump, is about raising the series’s most unloved fish into the best jumper it can be. Magikarp swims around its own little pond and gleefully gobbles snacks. It trains by bashing its face into punching bags. It gets itself into trouble. It dies.
Yes, Magikarp can die, and much like the demise of their very first goldfish, players have mourned the death of their Magikarp with surprise, confusion, and a little anger.
The Pokémon series has always been low-key about showing death on-screen. There are tragic stories scattered throughout the game’s lore. Cubone is a grieving creature that wears its dead mother’s skull. There’s a ghost-filled tower in Lavender Town where trainers mourn their fallen fighters. An episode of Pokémon Sun and Moon anime earlier this year tackled death through the story of Litten and Stoutland — two trainerless pals out on their own. When one falls ill, the other must learn how to live without its dear friend.
But when it comes to creatures in a trainer’s care, pokémon don’t die. They faint. Magikarp Jump’s dark twist on this recognized fact has compelled players to take their disbelief online. Searching for “magikarp died” on Twitter is like stumbling into a collective rant, filled with shock, swear words, and many very good screenshots.
Most Magikarp seem to kick the bucket in one of two ways: they’re blown up by an errant Voltorb, or a Pidgeotto snatches them mid-jump. To be fair, the game itself sort of warns you about this one on its app page: “When it flops its way too high in the sky, it’s sometimes snagged by the Bird Pokémon Pidgeotto—never to be seen again!” These deaths are grim upon the slightest reflection, but the game cheerfully bustles past each Magikarp shuffling of this mortal coil, quickly giving the player chance to fish up a replacement.
At the very least, it’s good to see that players understand what’s happening to their Magikarp. Nothing is sadder than someone in denial.
Off to that big pond in the sky, bud.