Asking about the anime and manga, as I'm pretty sure none of the games allow this.

In the event of death of a Pokemon or its release from a trainer, can the ball originally used to capture it be used to capture again? If so, does it have any restrictions like only being able to be catch the same species?


Pokeballs are never reused in the TV shows or movies, because they can never be reused in the games.

Once a Pokeball's trap has broken due to an escape, or been locked in due to a successful capture, that's it. The pokeball is locked to that one Pokemon.

One issue you'll run into is the fact that except for the games and the mainline anime, most other information is noncanon. But even in non-canon media, Pokeballs are treated as expendable. Even a bespoke built Pokeball, like the Enormo Poké Ball XI built in Chapter 4 of The Electric Tale of Pikachu is never recovered or recycled, despite the Pokemon which was captured with it self-destructing (a permanent state in the comics apparently). Everyone just acts as if the Pokeball is worthless, nothing worth recovering. In addition, the Hyper Ball thrown by Ash at the self-destructing Haunter is considered lost, even though Sabrina has shown the ability to teleport through rock and, if Ash asked really nicely, she'd recover it for him. It's just stated as "Lost" because the capture was attemped before the Pokemon died.

The "trade mechanics" for various games seem to switch back and forth between the pokeballs themselves being traded, or the Pokemon individually being traded. Red/Green/Blue version had two trainers meet up in a link cable room, so it's likely the balls themselves were traded. Later games imply that the pokemon data itself is traded between games, so it's POSSIBLE (considering that a trade doesn't cost you a Pokeball) that the Pokeball you place into the trade machine is reused. But this is glossed over.

One early reference to the Pokeball/Pokemon lock theory that I can remember is in the anime episode Mystery at the Lighthouse!. In it, Ash catches his 7th Pokemon, a Krabby. Once the Pokemon is successfully caught, the Pokeball itself is teleported to Oak's lab (despite this episode introducing Bill, who in the game created the PC network that stores Pokemon, they had to send it to Oak to set up Ash's moping about not finding his Pokemon (as Bill could have otherwise provided it), as well as the running joke about Professor Oak being overrun by Ash's Pokemon).

If Pokeballs were reusable, it would make much more sense for the Pokeball itself to transmit the data about Krabby, while remaining in Ash's possession; the fact that the ball itself is transferred continues with the "locked" theme; Pokeballs are locked to their Pokemon, and if the ball itself wasn't transmitted, you would need to maintain an inventory of Pokeballs to transfer monsters back into your party.

All of the above is a bit handwavy, yes. Simple fact is, the Pokeball mechanic exists as it does because that's how the games do it; and in the games Pokeballs remain with their Pokemon their entire lives.*

Continuing on from the game logic, releasing a Pokemon from Bill's PC in the game never refunds you a Pokeball; if they were intended to be recycled you'd get a Pokeball back for releasing a Pokemon.

  • Technically, the game works the way it does because Pokeballs are just an increment of an inventory. You use one, the game decrements your inventory by one, does a capture mechanic, and then the Pokemon data record is added to your player's inventory. Until Generation IV, the specific ID number of the ball used to capture the Pokemon wasn't even stored, as far as the game was concerned, the ball no longer existed.
  • Is that true? (about the first bit) I thought ash throws a Pokemon and catches it a few times when he tries to catch a Pokemon that's already owned by a trainer.
    – Edlothiad
    Apr 27 '17 at 2:36
  • @Edlothiad Can you look up a source for your claim? Apr 27 '17 at 15:27
  • 1
    @SonOfSam I've been looking but can't find anything, when I get out of the metro I'll write a new comment with some info I found.
    – Edlothiad
    Apr 28 '17 at 0:32
  • @Edlothiad Did you ever find anything? Jun 22 '17 at 17:06
  • hrmph, nope. Nothing at all
    – Edlothiad
    Jun 22 '17 at 18:19

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