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Shows start, shows end but one thing always seemed eternal: Ash Ketchum is 10 years old, aiming to become a Pokemon Master. It would be that way till the end of time.
Until now that is. Ash Ketchum has won the Pokemon League, and become a Pokemon Master and now it’s been confirmed that he will no longer be the main character of the Pokemon anime. The Gen 9 series will begin with two brand-new protagonists on a new journey with Ash seemingly retired.
It’s quite the change and a lot of people have rather mixed feelings about it. Ash has been around for pretty much my entire life and I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of people, at the same time though he’s also been a divisive character precisely because he’s been around for so long. So let’s take a look at Ash, both the good and the bad of the never-aging, bike-wrecking Pokemon master.
Gotta Catch Em All
Ash first appeared in the Pokemon anime. Clearly inspired by Red, the player character from the game, Ash is a ten-year-old kid from Pallet Town who dreams of training Pokemon. After waking up late, he’s given a rowdy Pikachu and while they initially don’t like each other, their partnership that would end up lasting decades.
As a kid, Ash was ever popular on the playground because he was essentially what every Pokemon-loving kid wanted to be. He traveled the world and battled Pokemon as he pleased. He met gods, fought evil organizations, and had a team with Pokemon like Charizard, Sceptile, and Greninja. Ash even had some legitimately emotional moments like releasing his Butterfree, jumping in front of Mewtwo and Mew’s psychic blasts, and finally beating Gary at the Silver League.
Ash is especially important as the Pokemon anime is a large part of why many kids got into Pokemon. Most people I knew watched the show before they played the games since it was free on television and as the main character, Ash was people’s first window into the series and an important of many fans’ childhood. I definitely knew who Ash was before Red, Brenden, or anyone from the games really.
With that being said, Ash didn’t exactly stay a cool character, especially as many of those initial Pokemon fans started to get older. Ash’s eternal youth started becoming the subject of memes, mockery, and even frustration from fans that wished he would just be a little more competent and mature like his game and manga counterparts. I still remember at the beginning of the Black and White anime, when they reiterated he was still 10. People were not happy with that reveal.
As Pokemon fans got older, a lot of people noticed just how stagnant Ash could be as a character. He never wins the league, he constantly makes basic mistakes in battle, and most infamously, at the end of every region, he leaves his beefed-up fully evolved Pokemon team at Professor Oak’s lab. When you’re multi-league-winning Pikachu loses to a Snivy some newbie got a couple of minutes ago, your doing something wrong.
Ultimately though this is because the Pokemon anime isn’t really aimed at older fans. Ash as a character is made to introduce younger children to Pokemon for the first time meaning Ash has to reflect on the mistakes and perseverance of a child’s first pokemon adventure. When you’re an adult who’s beaten the Pokemon League five times and is calculating the EVs of your Stunfisk, Ash just doesn’t represent you anymore. You’ve surpassed him and there’s nothing wrong with that.
That being said any character constantly doing the same thing over and over again with no progress, doesn’t make for a good story, Ash and Pokemon included, and with 8 generations under his belt, there’s likely so much they could keep doing with Mr. Ketchum. That’s probably why things needed to change and now they have.
The End of Ash
Despite all the ridicule and jokes over the years, people were shocked and sad to hear that Ash was leaving to show (or just joking about him being a 10-year-old with 25 years of experience). Both his English voice actors: Veronica Taylor and Sarah Natochenny have spoken about what a privilege it was to voice Ash and that they’re glad he brought so many people together.
Many fans likewise have posted about their fond memories of Ash and the many adventures they’ve shared with him:
Thank you Ash Ketchum…
We will miss you. pic.twitter.com/p4ceWsKaRQ
— Wesley/CartoonFan18 (@CartoonFan18) December 16, 2022
With this being said, most people seem happy for Ash to finally retire. The last season saw Ash finally achieve his goal of being a Pokemon Master so continuing the series would feel almost redundant, especially with a show that is often criticized for its redundancy. Ash has been through a lot and I think most people are happy to move on to something new.
Honestly makes me weirdly emotional to see him go. I used to twitch the Pokémon anime as a kid, and I’ll treasure that for a long time.
So long, kid. pic.twitter.com/3OYQEsRtCP
— NicK (@NicholasCCasill) December 16, 2022
It’s also important because it fulfills the overall message of the Pokemon. Even if you fail, a lot, if you continue to try your hardest you’ll eventually achieve your goals and have a bit of fun along the way. It’s a message that started wearing thin when Ash still only placed second in his sixth Pokemon League but now it feels properly earned. Ash got there in the end, it seems like a good time to give the guy a break.
Til We Meet Again
Pokemon has confirmed that there will be one final 11-episode series with Ash called ‘Pokemon: Aim to Be a Pokemon Master’. It’s even been confirmed that Misty and Brock are returning and that Ash is going to reunite with his old Butterfree. Hopefully, the anime will see him off on a high note.
Of course, it’s sad to see Ash go but from what I’ve seen, most people ultimately seem to be ok with it. There’s only so long we can watch the same character without allowing them to properly progress. Ash is finally moving on now and who knows, maybe we’ll see him again sometime down the road.
I don’t know what Pokemon has in store with the new protagonists but if they’re anything like Ash, a whole new generation of kids will have a great time exploring the world of Pokemon.
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