Just a quick warning: This article contains spoilers for an episode of the Pokémon anime that just aired in Japan. You have been warned!
Ash Ketchum has competed in six different regional Pokémon League events over the course of the Pokémon anime. He’s even conquered two big, non-league challenges, and won countless Pokémon battles. Ash Ketchum most recently had a chance to win the entire Kalos League, making it to the grand final. Everything was in place: he had a strong team, he had acquired some spin-off of mega evolution, and he was even facing a rival he’s lost to twice before. All signs pointed to what looked like Ash’s first Pokémon League win. But he lost, again. In a way it comes as a surprise and is, at the same time, not surprising at all. Why is that? Why can Ash never seem to win? Let’s talk about it.
Since the beginning, Ash Ketchum has inspired Pokémon trainers around the world to be the very best. For the last 19 years, young trainers have turned to Ash as an example of what it takes to be a Pokémon Master. But is that really the case? Has our perpetual ten year-old really done anything of worth to earn him the title of Pokémon Master? Over the course of the week we’re going to take a look at some key moments in Ash Ketchum’s journey to see exactly what he has done, and, more importantly, dig in to what he has failed to do, and why.
The Indigo League
Ash gets off to a pretty bad start on his journey; sleeping in late and being forced to start with an unruly and easily irritated Pikachu while his rival, Gary, makes off with a then-unknown Pokémon and a car full of cheerleaders. Worse than that though, Ash seems to know almost nothing about the Pokémon he’s setting out to master. He doesn’t know the first thing about the simple Rattata and Pidgey that live just outside of his hometown. He also doesn’t know the first thing about battling Pokémon, or the fact that he has to weaken them to catch them. This lack of knowledge continues to infect the next few steps of his Pokémon journey, most apparent when he sends his freshly-caught Caterpie to fight a Pidgeotto, and when he attempts to fight Brock’s Ground-type Pokémon with his Pikachu.
In the end, not all is lost, as Ash manages to get his first badge from Brock in his first official Gym victory. Or is it? As Brock is calling for Ash to forfeit the match, a fire sets off the sprinklers in the gym, weakening Brock’s Onix. It’s at this point that Ash refuses to have Pikachu make a final blow, because he knows that it isn’t really a win if he wins because of the sprinklers. As Ash is leaving Pewter City, without the Boulder Badge, Brock catches up to him and awards him the badge anyway, due to his “kindness towards Pokémon.” Ash would go on to be given many of his badges, regardless of winning battles. However, Ash did win a few of his Indigo League badges fair and square, beating Surge, Koga and Blaine. It can also be argued that Ash won the Earth Badge fairly, albeit against Jessie and James, who were not official Gym Leaders.
With Ash being handed half of his badges without actually winning the battles, it’s safe to say that he was in no way prepared for what the talented trainers of the Indigo League had to offer. The Indigo League saw Ash place at his all-time lowest to date, only making it to the top 16. While the Indigo League did see some of Ash’s best battles to date, his major downfall was the fact that he was not experienced enough for his Charizard to listen to him. Had Ash won all eight of his gym badges, he may have had enough experience to command Charizard’s respect and make it further in the Indigo League.
Although Ash failed to win the Indigo League, he did prove himself a competent Pokémon Trainer by the end of his adventures in Kanto, with even his rival, Gary, acknowledging that he is a pretty good Pokémon Trainer after watching his battle for the Earth Badge. Ash, always refusing to give up, continues his journey, heading to the Orange Islands at Professor Oak’s request. This next journey doesn’t end in failure, but does its unconventional nature bring into question how big of a success it was for Ash? There’s only one way to find out, by joining us tomorrow as we continue to journey through Ash’s wins and losses. See you all tomorrow, right here at Nintendo Wire!
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