Posted: November 8, 2021 | Updated: November 20, 2021

Toys R Us TRU Manaphy

Go on, Geoffrey. Blow out the candles, make a wish! What’s that? You wish for another Toys ‘R Us Pokémon event distribution? Like Mystery Mew, but even grander? North America’s first-ever Manaphy, even? Talk about ambitious! Well alright then, you canny giraffe, you’ll get your way. TRU Manaphy it is. But only if the stakeholders are permitted to unleash a nightmarish informational chaos upon utterly confused fans! Woo!

Manaphy. The Seafaring Pokémon. Ash’s pal May’s forever friend. Ocean Prince. Or my personal favourite term of endearment: blue blob.

The first of Sinnoh’s many Mythicals, Manaphy was originally distributed as an in-cinemas downloadable egg for Pokémon Ranger aaaaall the way back in 2006 (see here). Today, some fifteen years on, the blob is about to be Sinnoh 2.0’s first Mythical once again – that is, in the reimagined Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl (BDSP) for Nintendo Switch.

ManaphyI’m personally quite excited to start my rebooted adventure with the cheerful oceanic companion, included in BDSP as an early-bird preorder bonus. But the excitement that I and others feel pales in comparison to the buzz – extreme hype, even – that surrounded the 2007 arrival of the event Pokémon Manaphy on American soil. Lines formed at Toys ‘R Us before opening hours. Fans were ecstatic. Finally they’d get their very own blue blob, a year after Japan had gotten theirs.

…But in the weeks before that fateful day in September 2007, internetting Pokéfans had been anxious. Beset by nail-biting doubts, they found themselves in a manic limbo, wavering between glee and dejection, joyous relief and agony in a continuous cycle.

Now, I would really want to start this article by talking right away about the TRU Manaphy event as fans experienced it in stores. But we cannot. For first we absolutely must take a peek at the extraordinarily messy official messaging surrounding Manaphy, for it makes for arguably the most spectacularly bungled promotional campaign for the arrival of a new Legendary overseas in Pokémon history. I kid you not. And of course, this dumpster fire of a campaign also informed, to an extent, happenings at TRU on the big day itself. Which we’ll get to in time. So without further ado, let’s get stuck in.

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Sinnoh & Nintendo Power

CoroCoro Magazine. I assume that you know of it, right? It’s Japan’s premier otaku culture mag and has been since the 1980s. Now, have you ever looked at the cover of any of its issues? Any random one; doesn’t matter which. If you have, you’ll likely remember that it was jam-packed with a seemingly infinite array of beloved manga, anime and gaming characters that positively leapt out at you in a tapestry of spectacularly rich and flashy colours. All of CoroCoro is like this: ostentatious, eye-catching, and never shy.

Now, I assume that you’re also familiar with Nintendo Power (NP), the erstwhile Nintendo-endorsed North American gaming mag that experienced its heydey in the 1990s and folded in 2012. Did you ever get to cast your eyes on any of its issues? The visual contrast with CoroCoro could scarcely be bigger. Although NP’s content tended to be equally top-notch particularly in the pre-social media age, its visual presentation flirted with understatement to a fault, particularly in its dying years.

To be sure, CoroCoro-style wild, over-the-top graphics were never really NP’s style. But even accounting for all that, looking back, I find the celebratory twin Pokémon Diamond & Pearl covers of NP’s May 2007 issue a little underwhelming. While they dutifully featured the boxart fishgod legends, the magazine covers otherwise radiated precious little of the pent-up nervous energy and excitement that had built over Diamond & Pearl’s (D&P) slow march to release, and that had been captured so effectively by the chaotic art of Japanese counterpart CoroCoro. But you know, personal preference.

NP & CoroCoro

Left: CoroCoro Monthly, October 2006. Right: Nintendo Power Dialga Edition, May 2007

In some ways, this was par for the course however, as Nintendo Power found itself wide off the mark in terms of coverage for all of D&P lengthy development and promotion cycle. (Bear with me; this meandering discussion leads to TRU Manaphy.) To paint a picture: hints that a fourth generation of Pokémon games were in the works surfaced (ridiculously) early in Japan. Lucario’s furry face featured in CoroCoro in August 2005 as it dominated the silver screen in that Summer’s film: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew. Munchlax, another newcomer from Sinnoh, was famously snuck into Pokémon XD for GameCube (released October 2005). And, Manaphy, of course, starred in 2006’s Prince of the Sea and DS title Pokemon Ranger (see here). All the while, GameFreak laboured away developing D&P, and month after month CoroCoro teased new Pokémon and tipped readers about revolutionary features the games promised to have such as (global) WiFi connectivity and unrestricted worldwide trading. Naturally, these tasty morsels of information trickled out and found their way onto English-language fansites like PokeJungle, PokeBeach and GoNintendo, which throughout the year 2006 stumbled over one another to deliver the latest revelations culled from Pokémon Sunday, CoroCoro Monthly, and Pokémon Fan magazine. Quivering with anticipation, hungry Pokéfans on the far side of the Pacific devoured any and all informational tidbits about this Generation Sinnoh yet to make landfall in America.

Sure enough, when Pokémon Diamond & Pearl released in Japan in October 2006, these games quickly eclipsed the sales posted by Ruby & Sapphire some years prior. Pokémon was back on the up, scaling familiar lofty heights once more. D&P’s uniformly warm reception by Japanese gamers all but foretold that the games would become a worldwide smash hit. To print Sinnoh speculation and info-teasers was to print an audience, As the aforementioned fansites were finding. And Nintendo Power… Well. At no point was Nintendo Power the place to acquire the hottest take, the latest scrap of insight, or even exclusive content. Or not much of it, anyway. NP boarded the Sinnoh publicity train noticeably late, starting up its Diamond & Pearl press cycle only (and rather tentatively) in February 2007 (#212),1With a “Springtime for Pokémon” subsection. by which time the internet was positively ablaze with D&P analysis and gameplay footage sourced from Japan. And what NP *did* put out was rather tame. The March and April 2007 issues offered little news that hadn’t been available elsewhere months, months earlier.2Issue #213 (March) had an in-depth preview of the Sinnoh games in a subsection titled “Priceless Pokémon”; April 2007’s issue (#214) listed seven major features in Pokémon Diamond … Continue reading It wasn’t until May 2007’s issue (#215), when D&P were about to hit shelves in North America, that NP finally applied its main thrust and printed the collectible twin Dialga & Palkia magazine covers we mentioned earlier and ran an exclusive “Pearls of Wisdom ” interview with D&P developers Junichi Masuda, Ken Sugimori, Shigeru Ohmori and Takao Unno. (Does anyone have the transcript somewhere? I’d love to read it.)

NP Manaphy Scan

Nintendo Power, October 2007, p.93, via Filb.de

So. Why am I telling you all this? Well! Taking all the above into consideration, I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to decide whether it was surprising (or not) that when Nintendo Power was tasked with promoting the surprise appearance of a particular Mythical Pokémon on US soil – a certain Manaphy – they didn’t do all that much with it. Perhaps NP considered itself to merely be the dutiful messenger in matters that did not concern it directly. Perhaps there was an issue of legal permissions. Or perhaps NP simply failed to grasp the magnitude of the assignment. Who knows. Either way, Nintendo Power’s October 2007 issue (#220) contained but an inconspicuous little announcement on p.93 that Manaphy would be available from Toys ‘R Us stores nationwide on September 29, 2007 between 12PM to 3PM. The outward appearance of this October issue presented no clues that it carried such sensational Pokénews. (See the cover here.) And mind you, they had the scoop! Puzzling, isn’t it? If anything sells copies of your gaming magazine, it’s to slap a Mythical on the cover with the promise of tantalising exclusive news. Ask CoroCoro. They would know. Yeah… Nintendo Power dropped the ball on this one.

But fans did not! When NP subscribers received the October issue in their mailboxes on or around August 20, 2007, they were quick to spot the announcement and spread the word online just as fast. From what I can tell, one “mm_excello” was the first to broadcast the message webwide (see here) and Pokebeach carried the news of Manaphy that same day (here). A full-page scan of Nintendo Power’s Manaphy notice appeared online a week later, on August 28. It’s hard to say for certain, but it appears that the scan was originally posted to GoNintendo, after which Filb.de, The Tanooki, and – presumably – many other long-defunct fansites reproduced or hotlinked it. As for the NP announcement itself, it was a little barebones and austere (cf. again CoroCoro), taking but a few lines to introduce Manaphy before instructing players to take their copies of D&P to their nearest Toys ‘R US on September 29 for a “download” of the blue Pokémon and pointing to readers to external sources for more information. No fancy pictures, either.

American Manaphy – A Hoax?

In fact, to have Nintendo Power break the news in this rather nonplussed fashion had an immediate unfortunate consequence: it gave rise to the persistent belief among a portion of Pokéfans that the whole thing was a hoax! Word of TRU Manaphy was received with considerable skepticism – not surprising, perhaps, given the traction that wholly fictitious whispers of a Nintendo World Store “Wish Cresselia” had gained but months prior. In ideal world, the appearance of NP scan(s) online would have instantly dispelled all doubts. But the mundane reality was that not all internet users knew where to locate said image(s) even as rumours of a US Manaphy spread like wildfire on forums and playgrounds. It also certainly didn’t help persuade skeptics that the two external websites to which NP directed readers – toysrus.com and pokemon-games.com – made no mention (yet) of TRU Manaphy throughout August and well into September. To those who had naively pinned their hopes on the ultimately fictitious Wish Cresselia, this Manaphy news smacked of another fake. It’s little wonder, then, that for weeks on end, tender hearts hedged their bets, arming themselves against disappointment by choosing to believe (and voicing loud and clear) that the NP images might yet prove doctored, simply too good to be true. Surely America wouldn’t get Manaphy!

Manaphy Flash Guide Mention

A direct mention of a Manaphy Flash instruction guide. Posted to Livejournal by user “applemint”, September 28, 2007.

It was ultimately a website not referenced by Nintendo Power in its Manaphy article – ie. pokemon.com – that broke the silence to impart confidence that TRU Manaphy was, in fact, both very real and imminent. What the site shared with readers about the clione Pokémon exactly, I’m unable to tell you. Not because I don’t want to, but because the information is frankly lost. The extent of our understanding is that pokemon.com put up some kind of announcement in early September,3See this post on Serebii Forums: https://forums.serebii.net/threads/manaphy-give-away.274227/#post-6837326 and that by late September, the “front page of Pokemon.com ha[d] a little Flash instruction guide to downloading your Manaphys.”4Source for this quote is: https://pokemon.livejournal.com/1167167.html I’ve sought high and low for a preserved instance of this animation, to no avail. Even the fantastic Wayback Machine on which we so often rely is no help here. The URL where these Manaphy teasers resided was likely pokemon.com/manaphy, whose archived version unfortunately renders as a giant crimson slab sans any content. The reason for this is as simple as it is tragic: pokemon.com operated on Flash architecture during this period, which was a popular choice for webdesign with which archival crawlers of the time were entirely incompatible. As a result, pokemon.com is a festival of broken hyperlinks on Wayback for the years 2007-09. In all probability, the dedicated official website for Manaphy (manaphy.com) also straight-up 301 redirected to pokemon.com/manaphy. Again, Nintendo Power surprisingly neglected to mention the existence of this useful Manasite. What a mess.5There was also a manaphy.eu, which may or may not have had similar content to manaphy.com, and in any event redirected visitors to nintendo.com – a site which is an archivist’s nightmare … Continue reading

TRU Manaphy Banner

Toys ‘R Us homepage Manaphy banner!

What about Toys ‘R Us itself, then, the host for the whole affair? Ha! Pokéfans had to wait a whole month following the August 20 Nintendo Power announcement before TRU acknowledged the imminent Manaphy distribution on its homepage. A whole month! Of doubt. Of uncertainty. As late as September 22 – seven days before M-Day – there was still no trace of Manaphy on the TRU website. (See here.) Not until Sunday September 23 did a clickable Manaphy graphic appear on the TRU frontpage (see inset).6The first such snapshot is from September 29. We can, however, deduce the September 23 date from the timestamp on the Manaphy image itself.. Much like the original announcement in Nintendo Power, Toys ‘R Us’ advertising was notable for everything it did not say. Sure, the Manaphy picture promised a “free exclusive character download” between 12PM and 3PM on September 29. Great! Where? How? Ah… We might have reasonably expected the clickable Manaphy image to point to an information page rattling off all the pertinent to-knows, right? Something like this Mystery Mew page from the year before. But as far as we can tell, it did not. Rather, it appears that pressing Manaphy’s image “just [led] to a Pokémon related goods page”.7Quote is from user “Draconis”, Smogon Forums, September 25, 2007, at: https://www.smogon.com/forums/threads/tru-manaphy-giveaway-wifi-capture.29620. Even a list of participating stores was nowhere to be found.8As it was, *all* US TRU stores partook in the distribution, something fans could not, and did not, know. As such, the Toys ‘R Us site did *not* touch upon the Diamond & Pearl preparations required to successfully claim Manaphy. Worse, it also did not think to provide outbound hyperlinks to sources of further information (e.g. manaphy.com). Hmm. I bet Toys ‘R Us received a lot of phonecalls on the matter.

Distribution Confusion Reigns

TRU Manaphy’s technical distro fine print of appeared on yet another domain: pokemon-games.com. Don’t bother googling it – the site’s long gone. A short-lived official infosite, it sought to keep English-speaking fans apprised of the latest developments in the world of Pokémon. In so doing, the site naturally also communicated news pertaining to the blue blob. For instance, the Manaphy egg unlock codes for the American version of Pokémon Ranger were posted there. As was information about the TRU Manaphy distribution. But analogous to Toys R Us’ decision to begin promoting Manaphy a mere seven days in advance, pokemon-games.com delayed putting up a topical newspost until September 21-22 – once again a full month after Nintendo Power had directed readers to this very website for further reading! Once pokemon-games made the official announcement, (more) third-party media outlets picked up the news for a second, condensed wave of press coverage (i.a. Pokefarm, NintendoWorldReport, and Livejournal. All (hot)linked the digital poster.9It’s challenging to precisely reconstruct this timeline, not least because the Mana-post on pokemon-games was dateless. However, the fact that these websites all suddenly, in the space of 48 … Continue reading

On the plus side, when pokemon-games did finally put up that long-awaited article, readers discovered in it a hyperlink to an informative and appealing TRU Manaphy distribution poster that, for possibly the first time,10Pokemon.com’s Manaphy Flash animation is the wildcard here properly shed light on the confuzzling process of Manaphy acquisition. …Facts that reasonably should have been printed in Nintendo Power to begin with. Or alternatively, should have been posted to official webchannels in the immediate wake of NP’s scoop, ie. by late August, so as to stave off confusion and belief among American fans.11That this digital poster was preserved for posterity is a minor miracle. Webcrawlers failed to archive the poster from its original source, presumably because pokemon-games.com didn’t leave it … Continue reading In any case, this poster was designed in the familiar style of Japan’s wireless distribution infocharts,12See our many “Spectacular Sinnoh” articles here! its pleasing visuals communicating the the software requirements and breaking down the Mystery Gift download procedure and step by step in glorious, pinpoint detail. This poster finally made it unequivocally clear to all who saw it what the loose mention of “download” in Nintendo Power had actually meant. Namely: TRU Manaphy was to leverage the Nintendo DS’s new at-range communications technology and be distributed via local wirelessly wireless connection. This was a first for Pokémon in the United States. It promised to end the age of manual event Pokémon trading from copies of Pokémon RSE and FRLG by store staff, as had been the case for Toys ‘R Us’ 2004 “Trade & Battle Day” and 2006 “Mystery Mew”. The GBA’s separately sold wireless adapters, used to download “Wish” eggs or the Aurora Ticket at the Pokémon Center New York for example, would also no longer be required to obtain event Pokémon. The revolutionary convenience of a local wireless signal that interacted directly with the DS’ onboard WiFi antenna, necessitating neither human to human contact nor peripheral, was to shortly rule supreme.

Pokémon-games poster

Manaphy distribution info poster, pokemon-games.com

Of course, you had to have seen the poster (or possibly manaphy.com’s Flash animation) to understand all this. And not everybody got the memo. Poster terminology like “Mystery Gift” and “Wonder Card” was as new to the American audience as it had been to Japanese players a year earlier. And so by this point, concerns over a hoax gave way to confused online speculation about Manaphy’s distribution method. As a natural consequence of Manaphy’s staggered, uncoordinated news rollout and comparative lateness of the TRU and pokemon-games announcements, most people had gotten their news from the Nintendo Power scans, which continued to make the rounds and were, as we’ve seen, completely quiet on Manaphy technicals. For example, on September 15, a smogon user linked to an NP scan to share the news with another user instead of to any website. Users on Serebii Forums also initially linked to NP scans on September 7 rather than to pokemon.com. Many fans simply didn’t know what they didn’t know, and denied further context, readers of the NP scans simply glossed over the its puzzling mention of “download” and intuitively assumed that Manaphy would follow the manual distro patterns of Generation Hoenn.

Examples abound. As wrote one “shinkuu” rather aptly on August 21: “Just prepare a Pokemon to trade, I guess? I wonder how this will work, since the GBA games had link cables, but now we have the Union room… How will they make sure everyone gets their fair turn?” Even the aforementioned “mm_excello”, a then soon-to-be TRU Pokémon event distribution manager, initially failed to grasp the full implications of the NP article, writing: “It’ll be interesting to see how they actually do the trade [my emphasis] now since it is with the DS instead of the GBA…”13He received and posted new information to that effect four days later: https://pokemon.livejournal.com/1045495.html This confusion would have stayed without consequence, if it weren’t for the fact that some never saw another source. As a result, a good chunk of the Pokémon fanbase stayed oblivious to the wireless process and encouraged themselves and others to turn up to Toys’ R Us way early on September 29 to try and beat the queues… In the process creating the paradoxical phenomenon of queueing for a wireless distribution.14User “M3wThr33” for example wrote on NeoGAF in late September: “I was there last year to get Mew for the GBA games. It says noon, but GET THERE EARLY [sic]. I’m dead … Continue reading All in all, then, the TRU Manaphy promotional campaign was a veritable shitshow. And a completely avoidable one at that, had NP seen fit to include the announcement in December’s issue (out September 20), not November’s! Thankfully, on the big day itself, the kinks mostly ironed themselves out.

The Big Day

So with all that in mind, let’s take a look at the big day!

TRU scenes

Image credit: Pikabellechu

September 29, 2007: the day of TRU Manaphy’s arrival on American soil and, coincidental or not, Toys ‘R Us mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe’s birthday. With 200+ participating TRU stores of all shapes and sizes across the United States, there was some natural variance in the level of sincere enthusiasm with which each branch handled the promotion. In some places, staff were content to plonk down a Manaphy instruction signboard sans any fanfare and only grudgingly doled out the special occasion Pokémon-themed goodies when pestered to do so (see below). Other stores took the polar opposite approach, and went the extra mile to prepare additional bells and whistles. At least one store had a costumed Geoffrey the Giraffe and slightly terrifying anorexic Pikachu prancing around, and presumably at their own initiative, also hired a “Trainer” dressed as Ash Ketchum to entertain kids for a good couple of hours – who moreover arrived in style in one of America’s handful of Pikabugs! The common denominator everywhere, however, was that stores fired up the TRU Manaphy distribution hard- and software package sent in from TPCi at noon, 12PM, and ran it for approximately three hours until 3PM. And the fans, boy. Were they keen to get underway!

By which I mean, of course, that some people showed up silly, silly early… Not quite at the crack of dawn, but not far from it, hoping to be up front in an entirely superfluous line. Precautions which, commendably, spoke to a genuine hyperbolic excitement about TRU Manaphy but also to a blissful ignorance of distribution protocol. In fact, these ultra early birds were some of the more likely Manaphy-seekers to need help acquiring the blue blob, as their very presence suggested that they had either remained unaware of the pokemon-games.com instructional poster or not understood the implications of wireless distribution and the 12PM starting time. For example, one “kawaiiranchan” arrived at their local TRU to queue at 8:30AM, the previous year’s experience of Mystery Mew still firmly in mind. Another, “prguitarman”, made it to Toys ‘R Us around 10AM, and found “already about a dozen people standing in line”, only to be informed “when the store opened … that the Manaphy event wouldn’t start until 12, so we’d have to wait 2 hours.” He concluded: “If I would have known that I wouldn’t have rushed.” The result was reminiscent of what had occurred in Japan with *their* first wireless distribution, ie. the formation of orderly winding queues outside PokéCenters as hoards of fans, unaccustomed to the conveniences of Mystery Gift, sought to collect Shokotan Tropius through physical transfer. In turn, these queues created a small management problem for TRU staff, who not only had to fall back on tried and tested crowd control aided-delivery methods from the Mystery Mew days, but also needed to educate these Manaphy-fans on the fly in the ways of Mystery Gift. Perhaps for a combination of both reasons, some stores served the crowd in batches. Noted “prguitarman”: “Finally at noon, he [a TRU employee] calls the first 10 people (although you can have up to 16) to the front to get their Manaphy.”15Prguitarman’s “you can have 16” comment is a little puzzling. It’s possible that the supporting materials that TRU’s across the country had received on the matter of … Continue reading Elsewhere, the final preparations were less orderly. Consider this quote from journalist and Pokéblogger Fourhman:

“30 minutes before 12, the guy puts up a poster for the event, and everybody rushes up to it. By now there are around 20 or more people waiting. At one point, the employee confuses everybody in line by mentioning that you can’t have three Wonder Cards, and everybody in the line gets in an uproar because they don’t know what a Wonder Card is.”

manasign

Manaphy instructional sign at Toys ‘R Us. Image credit: Fourhman

Yes, what *was* a Wonder Card? The pokemon-games poster had explained it eloquently, as had, presumably, the now-lost Manaphy Flash animation, but… See the provisos above. In the end, however, the not-knowing didn’t seem to matter. Between a little help from a Manaphy instructional sign that all stores were obliged to put up (read: a large printout of the pokemon-games poster), and a little help from friends and fellow Pokéfans, any issues mostly seemed to sort themselves out on the day.

Fourhman chronicled: “The largest clusters formed around this instructional sign and over by the RZone checkouts… […] Follow the Mystery Gift instructions and bammo, everybody gets a Manaphy.” I will however highlight the possibility that some TRU branches failed, or forgot, to put up the Mystery Gift signboard; for one thing, I certainly didn’t espy it in any of pikabellechu’s many pictures of the event.16In this regard, some forum users reported certain “glitches in the matrix”. Take one “XD Mewtwo” on Serebii forums in a topic on TRU Darkrai’s announcement, and … Continue reading Which would explain why some fans still needed help, even after 12PM. Wrote one “schiroandfubuki”: “I had to help at least five little kids get mystery gift.” Others, on the other hand, were confused by the apparent need to help anyone unlock Mystery Gift at all. Said a “shinkuu”: “So many people are talking about helping others get Mystery Gift… Do they realize you don’t need Mystery Gift activated beforehand? It will be automatically activated when you’re near a Mystery Gift, and a little notice will even pop up to inform you of this.” Shinkuu was correct: in a game mechanic little known even today, D&P’s Mystery Gift functionality auto-unlocked from the games’ main menu if the Nintendo DS detected a compatible WiFi distribution signal in range. The beautiful pokemon-games poster was helpfully explicit about this. Still, this being everyone’s first experience with WiFi events, few showed up with Mystery Gift unlocked and ready to go,17By manually unlocking Mystery Gift, that is, by going up to a fella in D&P’s Jubilife City and inputting the secret phrase “EVERYONE HAPPY WI-FI CONNECTION”. so the process was predictably prone to growing pains, particularly in light of missing or hard to locate Manaphy instructional signs. Surveying the situation at a TRU on the 29th, author Fourhman commented:

“[T]he Mystery Gift menu was totally unknown. The whole Wonder Card thing is woefully under-reported. Where’s the Nintendo Power two page spread explaining how you download, what kinds of gifts you can download, and where you have to go to download? Nowhere, that’s where…”

Quite right! Regardless, it’s readily apparent from primary sources that Pokéfans felt an overwhelming satisfaction with the ease of acquiring Manaphy — a sentiment present even among those who had needlessly queued, a mistake they were unlikely to repeat next time(s), when TRU Dragonite and TRU Darkrai made their appearance. I don’t think I really need to belabour the point here, but for completeness’ sake, let’s go over a selection of forum messages with positive vibes. There are just so many! Koomaster on NeoGAF,18Thread for the below quotes is here: https://www.neogaf.com/threads/manaphy-downloads-this-saturday-at-toys-r-us.194439 for instance, shared: “Just got back from picking mine [Manaphy] up. It was really easy. I was able to download right from the DS games isle while browsing.” Narag wrote: “Grabbed mine [Manaphy] today. Totally painless and took under a minute.” OgnodoD said: “Just got back from picking mine up. Easy as pie to download.” One Ravidrath: “Just got mine – in and out in 5 minutes with four downloads.”

Beyond the walls of NeoGAF, too, there were delighted voices aplenty. Magicpineapple on Livejournal: “It was so easy because we didn’t have to deal with horrible crowds.” One “Pale”, who had shuddered at remembering Mystery Mew – “I waited forever for Mew” – reported back happily: “At noon, I opened up my DS, hit mystery gift, nabbed him [Manaphy], and ran out.”19Pale provided a longer quote, which is interesting in its own right: “I couldn’t help but laugh, as I went into Toys R Us at 11:50, and there was a big line. This confused me because I … Continue reading And author Fourhman contended: “Unlike last year’s Mew Day, this event was a piece of cake.” Altogether, these experiences truly convey a scintillating vibe similar to, I imagine, that of a crowd witnessing the marvels of electricity for the first time, or getting to take a pioneering ride on a steam train. Event Pokémon via wireless… Whoooaaa!20I don’t have the space to accommodate Pokefarm’s HMTKSteve’s personal account of TRU Manaphy in full, which is absolutely worth quoting because his genuine delight at Manaphy Day is … Continue reading

Manaphy Bookmark

Manaphy bookmark. Image credit: webofglass

I’m sure the various freebies also to helped enhance the sense of an (up until that point) one-of-a-kind experience. Fans received a complementary Manaphy bookmark with some trivia about the Seafaring Pokémon and 9th Pokémon film Prince of the Sea in which it appeared on the back. They also bagged a copy of Pokémon Fan, an official quarterly infomag. To double the Saturday’s excitement, the booklet revealed the 12-digit code required to unlock Electivire in Pokémon Battle Revolution, the 3D turn-based Colosseum-style battler for Nintendo Wii. Besides this, the mini-mag had “tips and tricks for Pokemon Diamond/Pearl and Pokemon battling in general, [c]ontest tips, [ads for Pokémon] products coming out (or are already out)” and lots of pictures.21Words of “webofglass”, here. If anyone can help digitise this and other issues of Pokémon Fan Magazine, please get in touch! Not only this, some Manaphy-seekers apparently also received a set of Kanto Pokémon stickers from 1999 that were dug of a warehouse either by TRU itself or by TPCi / NoA and shipped in with the distribution carts. Bizarre. Fans loved it though! Oh, and everybody got a $5 off games coupon valid that weekend only. Nice.

Was it all rainbows and butterflies, then? Well, mostly, to be honest! A scattered few found that the sheer convenience of acquiring Manaphy wirelessly deducted from that irreplaceable communal feeling borne of the collective (gruelling) ordeal of standing in line (for hours and hours) to acquire a Pokémon, like a bond forged in the heat of battle. Livejournal blogger “pacificpikachu” for instance bemoaned the absence of visible Pokémania at their local TRU. They wrote: “[I] got there late” [at 1.30PM and] there was almost no one there[.] […] No booklet, and my brother and I had to pester the employee to get the bookmark and stickers. […] Man, I was hoping this Pokémon event would be a little more like the good ol’ days, but I was disappointed. It felt so lonely.” Which is fair, I get it. At smaller, more rural stores in particular, fans trickled in at a slower place and, absent the familiar queue and crowd, pondered if they’d even come the right place, perplexed like Pulp Fiction’s Vincent Vega in that famous gif of universal befuddlement. Furthermore, the upshot was that by the official ending time of 3PM, the event was indeed well and truly over, since hardcore fans had turned up hours before and casuals had been self-served faster than you could say “Prince of the Sea” thanks to wireless magic. Overall, these were isolated noises of disappointment though; few wept for the loss of manual event distribution and instead wholeheartedly embraced the new wireless age of Pokémon, coming away satisfied and even going on to retrospectively identify TRU Manaphy as their formative Poké-experience years down the line.22Julie, co-webmaster of pokecenternewyork.com, most notably!

Should you prefer a more visual illustration of what genuine enjoyment of the TRU Manaphy event looked like, then I recommend the below homevideo, filmed at a TRU on Manaphy Day by “Pokémon Trainer SeiferA” and uploaded to YouTube shortly thereafter. Fair warning: the video is what you might call “extremely early YouTube”, which I think adds to its charm, but also means that the raw, unedited footage isn’t terribly informative beyond its historical value as the most readily available primary video source on the web. As it is, the footage shows a healthy mixed demographic of Manaphy-seekers ranging from young kids accompanied by their parents to middle schoolers, teenagers and the rare solo adult — very much as Pokefarm’s HMTKSteve described it. That said, the raw enthusiasm over first Sinnoh mythical on US soil is very much palpable in the vid, not only from the attendees who make inadvertent cameos in the homevideo, but certainly also from the cameraman who, brandishing a borrowed camcorder, made up for what he lacked in filming and editing skills with youthful vigour. Notably, the video ends on a shot of the pokemon-games.com Manaphy instructional sign we’ve talked about so much.

This TRU Manaphy of Mine

Right. Before we wrap up, let’s take a quick look at the TRU Manaphy event Pokémon itself. As the first American event of a generation,23Disregarding the highly elusive August 2007 TCGWC Pikachu for a moment Manaphy was the subject of rife speculation as fans wondered what the event template for Generation Sinnoh would be. Soft-resettable for favourable natures? For shininess, even? Might OTNs vary between places and be prone to input errors? Pokebeach boldly took a stab at predicting Manaphy’s distribution characteristics, citing the insights of inside source “Spacechild” on the site’s front page. When the dust settled, it turned out he had gotten some things right, and some not quite so. It was, for example, certainly *not* the case that “[e]ach Toys R Us ha[d] to enter the original trainer name manually ahead of time, so different Toys R Us may give different original trainer names”. As we understand today, event Pokémon Trainer names were – and still are – fully hardcoded onto DS distribution cartridges and inalterable by the end-user. Spacechild did infer correctly that the Manaphy’s OTN would be “TRU”. He also optimistically assessed, however, that you’d be able to “receive a shiny Manaphy if you reset enough times.” Which was false; Sinnoh’s events were by and large firmly shiny-locked with the exception of, ironically, another Manaphy, namely the Ranger egg, which could hatch with different colours through a nifty workaround known as TSV matching. (See also here!) But for these errors Pokebeach was obviously forgiven, for it’s quite hard to make predictions, especially about the future.

Manaphy Stats

Image credit: ICanSnake

Fans who examined their TRU Manaphy closely found that it was, in essence, a desirable carbon copy of Japan’s Summer 2007 PalCity Manaphy (See also our in-depth look at PalCity here.) But with an updated OTN of “TRU”, to reflect its origins at Toys ‘R Us, and a TID of 09297, for September 29, 2007. Its moveset was the familiar Heart Swap / Water Pulse / Whirlpool / Acid Armor, with IVs and a nature that could vary on soft-reset, as Pokebeach had correctly reported. It furthermore carried a Red Scarf, likely a reference to its Movie 9 surrogate momma May’s trademark red bandana, and came in a Cherish Ball, which marked the ball’s debut in America. A Classic Ribbon completed the Pokémon, and as byproduct, prevented it from being traded on the GTS. As for the Wonder Card, a message on back of explained the immediate inspiration for the gift: “This MANAPHY is a gift to you in
celebration of the movie Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea.” Okay. Fairly factual. And a far cry, I must say, from the often creative messages found on back of Japanese WCs which ranged from idol Shokotan’s personal expressions of gratitude (Shokotan Tropius) to a secret homepage for Eigakan Darkrai. The card could have at least mentioned Manaphy’s signature move Heart Swap, which is absolutely central to the Prince of the Sea film TRU Manaphy was supposed to celebrate and, incidentally, also the first thing a young lady in Seifer’s video pointed to when cameraguy asked her about the TRU Manaphy she had obtained! But all things considered, this was unimportant. Manaphy had arrived in America and made quite the Water Pulse Splash.

Closing Thoughts

A splash in the minds of fans. And a Scrooge McDuck dollaridoo splash in the eyes of Toys ‘R Us executives. From a corporate perspective, TRU Manaphy had the makings of a masterstoke, as the frivolity of Manaphy Mania in concert with the incentive of the $5 coupon worked its magic on the toystore’s end of day ledger, and left Toys ‘R Us hungry for more.24Or in the words of NeoGAF’s “dreampop”: “TRU gains the benefit of a million kids swamping the store with their parents and demanding a piece of software to be bought whilst … Continue reading But don’t just take my word for it. Pokebeach reported how Pokéfan “Tor-Chic”, an American Toys ‘R Us employee, was told – presumably by higher management – that because of TRU Manaphy’s “extreme” success, the toystore had decided to negotiate more Pokémon distributions, beginning with none other than TRU Darkrai a year later in May 2008.25Full quote from Pokebeach is: “Tor-Chic was also told that because the Manaphy event was extremely successful across Toys R Us stores (despite the fact that players had access to one in Pokemon … Continue reading Thus, as the company drew the conclusion that what was good for Pokémon fans was good for business, the Sinnoh era’s Pokémon-TRU partnership was born that would see not only Darkrai, but also Dragonite, Regigigas, Shaymin and even Arceus given away at TRU wirelessly, through similar methods and occasions, right down to the $5 coupon!

As for Manaphy, Americans who missed out at Toys ‘R Us would get second and third chances to grab a copy of the Seafaring Pokémon, albeit in far more geographically restricted settings. The Nintendo World Store made this same Manaphy available throughout October 2007 with OTN “NWS”; Californian videogame conference E4ALL did the same between October 18-21 with OTN “E4ALL”. After which, as Manaphy’s species descriptor suggests, this Seafaring Pokémon found its way to the Californian beaches to sink beneath the waves and begin a long seafaring, migratory journey to the faraway continent of Australia, where it surfaced once more in the guise of JB Hi-Fi “JBHF” Manaphy… Before returning to its Ocean Temple for good.

Manaphy Bookmark

Image credit: Harmony

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 With a “Springtime for Pokémon” subsection.
2 Issue #213 (March) had an in-depth preview of the Sinnoh games in a subsection titled “Priceless Pokémon”; April 2007’s issue (#214) listed seven major features in Pokémon Diamond & Pearl in “Creature Features”.
3 See this post on Serebii Forums: https://forums.serebii.net/threads/manaphy-give-away.274227/#post-6837326
4 Source for this quote is: https://pokemon.livejournal.com/1167167.html
5 There was also a manaphy.eu, which may or may not have had similar content to manaphy.com, and in any event redirected visitors to nintendo.com – a site which is an archivist’s nightmare in its own right. But we’ll talk about that another time, in the context of the franchise’s promotional sites for other Mythicals.
6 The first such snapshot is from September 29. We can, however, deduce the September 23 date from the timestamp on the Manaphy image itself.
7 Quote is from user “Draconis”, Smogon Forums, September 25, 2007, at: https://www.smogon.com/forums/threads/tru-manaphy-giveaway-wifi-capture.29620.
8 As it was, *all* US TRU stores partook in the distribution, something fans could not, and did not, know.
9 It’s challenging to precisely reconstruct this timeline, not least because the Mana-post on pokemon-games was dateless. However, the fact that these websites all suddenly, in the space of 48 hours, put up news articles linking to pokemon-games.com’s Manaphy poster, combined with the fact that not a single fansite had done so before then, is fairly compelling – if admittedly circumstantial – evidence for the September 21-22 dates. It’s also worth citing the August 20 comment(s) by Livejournal’s “mm_excello” here, made shortly after breaking the NP news: “Since it’s [Manaphy] over a month away, it’ll probably be listed elsewhere over the next few weeks[.] (The mag listed both Toysrus.com & Pokemon-games.com for more info, so I’d keep checking there).” See here.
10 Pokemon.com’s Manaphy Flash animation is the wildcard here
11 That this digital poster was preserved for posterity is a minor miracle. Webcrawlers failed to archive the poster from its original source, presumably because pokemon-games.com didn’t leave it up for very long. Thankfully, of the handful of fansites that referred to it, one – pokefarm.com – independently rehosted the image as an accompaniment to its TRU Manaphy news article, where it sat quietly for years for spiders and crawlers to index and capture. So, shout-out to PokeFarm for its forward-thinking. Or the universe, for this serendipity.
12 See our many “Spectacular Sinnoh” articles here!
13 He received and posted new information to that effect four days later: https://pokemon.livejournal.com/1045495.html
14 User “M3wThr33” for example wrote on NeoGAF in late September: “I was there last year to get Mew for the GBA games. It says noon, but GET THERE EARLY [sic]. I’m dead serious.”
15 Prguitarman’s “you can have 16” comment is a little puzzling. It’s possible that the supporting materials that TRU’s across the country had received on the matter of Manaphy’s distribution informed, or even warned, store managers to let TRU Manaphy be downloaded by a maximum of 16 people concurrently. The source for this suggestion is Pokebeach, relaying information from insider “Spacechild”, a TRU employee: “First off, 16 people will be able to download Manaphy at a time, which means lines should go pretty fast.” I don’t know that this simultaneous download limit has ever been independently verified.
16 In this regard, some forum users reported certain “glitches in the matrix”. Take one “XD Mewtwo” on Serebii forums in a topic on TRU Darkrai’s announcement, and reflecting on Manaphy a year prior: “The toys r us I went to to get manaphy was a bust, somehow nintendo sent that toys r us an empty box, so [M]anaphy could not be givin out and they had to pay a fine for the missing equipment. I hope that does not happen this time with [D]arkrai.” Quoting his own post, he repeated this piece of info on May 26, adding: “The toys r us I went had an extremely unsuccessful manaphy event.” These seem to have been isolated reports, however.
17 By manually unlocking Mystery Gift, that is, by going up to a fella in D&P’s Jubilife City and inputting the secret phrase “EVERYONE HAPPY WI-FI CONNECTION”.
18 Thread for the below quotes is here: https://www.neogaf.com/threads/manaphy-downloads-this-saturday-at-toys-r-us.194439
19 Pale provided a longer quote, which is interesting in its own right: “I couldn’t help but laugh, as I went into Toys R Us at 11:50, and there was a big line. This confused me because I thought it was wireless, so I went up and asked the guy there if they were doing individual trades for each person. [H]e said: ‘You have to wait in line. We are doing 10 people at a time.’ This confused me. So I just looked around the games department until noon, avoiding the line. At noon, I opened up my DS, hit mystery gift, nabbed him, and ran out. I feel kind of bad for all the other people who actually waited in line.” Source is NintendoWorldReport forums, here).
20 I don’t have the space to accommodate Pokefarm’s HMTKSteve’s personal account of TRU Manaphy in full, which is absolutely worth quoting because his genuine delight at Manaphy Day is super wholesome and captures exactly what Pokémon is all about! So here is some of it, in a footnote: “What an amazing day! […] When we entered the store we saw a small collection of Pokemon toys. A few steps later and we were in the video game section where a small crowd of Pokemon players had already gathered. There were a lot of kids there for the event and a few adults. Like me, those adults “claimed” to be there to get the Pokemon because their kids could not make it. After a few minutes of talking it quickly became apparent which adults were there for their kids and which were their for themselves! After downloading Manaphy into my two game cartridges I talked to some of the others who were there doing trades. I managed to trade about 30 Pokemon all told. I cleaned out all of my leftover Totodiles and Gibles today!”
21 Words of “webofglass”, here. If anyone can help digitise this and other issues of Pokémon Fan Magazine, please get in touch!
22 Julie, co-webmaster of pokecenternewyork.com, most notably!
23 Disregarding the highly elusive August 2007 TCGWC Pikachu for a moment
24 Or in the words of NeoGAF’s “dreampop”: “TRU gains the benefit of a million kids swamping the store with their parents and demanding a piece of software to be bought whilst still grabbing that rare Pokémon[,] hence the ‘$5 off at DS game title with your download!'” Source.
25 Full quote from Pokebeach is: “Tor-Chic was also told that because the Manaphy event was extremely successful across Toys R Us stores (despite the fact that players had access to one in Pokemon Ranger), Toys R Us decided to hold another Pokemon event (this event). Pokemon’s popularity is still going, obviously!” Link here.