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Pokémon Ash and Pikachu retire at the perfect moment

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Ash Ketchum has been very busy these past few weeks. First, is Become world championan impressive feat that quickly became an aperitif for the entry’s announcement: that the Pokémon anime would be It concludes its main story entirely. In a series that fans often single out for its relative lack of narrative or emotional urgency, it felt like an overhaul while also capping off the goals Ash set out to achieve when He was just the loudest kid in his hometown. And given how much Ash represents Pokemon itself and the franchise’s 25-plus goals, its importance has only grown.

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Ash has been the central character in the Pokémon anime since there have been Pokémon anime. He was born as Satoshi, named after the creator of Pokémon, Satoshi Tajiri, in April 1997. When the series was localized for American audiences and released in the US in the fall of 1998, Ash Ketchum was born, his name now an obvious pun on the series’ previous tagline, “Should Catch them all!” Since then, he’s been 10 years old, trotting the globe, unchanged, and receiving a soft reboot when a new anime arc loosely based on the latest video game sequel is set.

Depending on who you are, this either turns Ash into the cartoon’s comfort food or one of its most frustrating heroes. “He shouldn’t Pikachu To be, like, level 1,000,000 now? became a familiar critique. From a franchise perspective, it makes sense: Every few years, a new “generation” of toys is released, serving as a Pikachu-filled outreach program for a new generation of fans. By keeping Ash always young and eternally struggling, he relates to each round New Pokemon trainers in training.

But then, in 2019, things changed. He had it too Famous win in Alola league, giving him his first friendly tournament. (He was previously inducted into the Orange League Hall of Fame thanks to his victory in the Orange Islands, an anime-specific location mostly from a story designed to buy time for video game development.) It was the culmination of The sun and moon part of the anime, which is a particularly good arc, and the media’s reaction to it is like discovering that a friend from your childhood has actually made his dreams come true. Sure, you haven’t spoken to him in years, but look at him!

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Photo: OLM/The Pokémon Company

Fast forward to now, he’s the world champion, and he’s finally “the best ever, like never before.” In retrospect, a win like this seems almost guaranteed. latest anime series, dubbed Pokemon Trips, not a region-specific fun but a nostalgic world tour. Ash’s group of monsters is no longer dedicated to introducing excited kids to their cute potential friends (this duty will be shifted primarily to his new traveling companion Goh, a synergistic nod to the huge audience pokemon go mobile game). Instead, his team will consist of classic hitters (Dragonite! Gengar! Lucario!) and new blood (Dracovish and Sirfetch’d). With a cast like this and a gripping story about visiting a lot of familiar places, Ash was playing to survive.

Winning something so momentous seems to go against Ash’s basic nature. He’s had a long time as the embodiment of the anime for new fans of the franchise, and is a trusted newbie whose insatiable passion for Pokemon and penchant for learning lessons about its world and growth in general can be reflected in each growing crop of Pokemon fans. To earn a lot of wins only to lose narrowly in the big one, he gave just a few of those other lessons, relating to everything from going to an unfamiliar new school to experiencing defeat in sports. Ash would wake up, dust himself off, drop his old team at Professor Oak, move on to the next location with his best friend Pikachu, and keep his love for Pokemon untainted.

The win provided the culmination of an arc in a franchise normally unknown to these, especially when it came to Ash and the anime. Even in games, winning the regional tournament at the end usually sends you back to your childhood bedroom, your journey stretching indefinitely as you desperately search for post-game content. Age turns into a somewhat meaningless qualifier when the quest is cyclical and perpetual, which is perhaps one reason older fans have been able to remain deeply attached to the franchise even as it pushes the constant renewal of its audience. Ash never gets old for Pokemon, so why should you?

However, in order for Ash to truly become the best trainer in the known Pokémon world, he called out questions that many weren’t sure the anime carrier’s comfort zone would be able to answer. Will Ash ever return to his fledgling state like he did many times before? Will Pikachu lose his godlike status and turn to fighting new threats again? Having been referred to as the ultimate conqueror of the Pokémon species, that would be a little embarrassing, right?

Ash and Pikachu are lying in bed together.

Photo: OLM/The Pokémon Company

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Two Pokémon trainers Corridon and Myridon, with Sprigatito, Fuikoku and Coaxly between them, ride in artwork of Pokémon Scarlett and Violet

Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company, Nintendo

Providing a final curtain call for Ash and Pikachu as co-leaders in the series mitigate these issues, a discovery that arrives in conjunction with the massive popularity of carmine And the Violetthe latest pair of Pokémon games. It features an open world like her The franchise is unprecedented before f A flood of errors and glitches To keep up), their release collectively made them the fastest-selling exclusive game of all time. If there was ever a time to embrace the new and let the old guard walk off into the sunset, it’s now.

How long this finale was planned for is unknown. And although each previous ranking in the anime tournaments required at the end of the season has brought Ash closer and closer to first place, it’s an exciting occasion. Ash was built, for a long time, as a character that didn’t win specifically. His job in the general franchise has been driven by his demands for consistent new rounds of games and merchandise, which is the antithesis of most definitions of storytelling. In a different story, Ash’s goals are likely to be more specific, and his inevitable end tied to his personality. These goals will be slowly chipped away, and at the end of each region, he will find a specific piece of progress toward these rather than serving at the mercy of the longevity of the franchise. In that respect, winning the championship becomes somewhat ironic – evolving by forced means for companies seeking a brand revamp rather than concluding a satisfying and coherent emotional arc.

Ultimately, though, this dueling process is the backbone of the Pokémon itself. It’s a franchise with themes built on the beautiful ideal, a world where humans and nature are able to communicate in ultimate harmony and its army of wide-eyed fourth-grade heroes ready to deliver any and all messages about growing up and gaining courage. However, as the highest-grossing entertainment giant, it’s also about the constant ballpark – new games, new anime, new cards, new games. It always sells, each pillar announcing the other in a structure that many companies can only dream of.

Ash Ketchum was a salesman, best friend, marketing guru, and motivational speaker. He may be on the way out, but his spirit is too entwined with the franchise to ever be removed. New monsters to collect, new places to explore, new lessons to learn, create new fans, and it all goes along at a fast pace, new products to buy and series to watch. Ash Ketchum’s adventure continues forever.

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