It used to be a running joke on the internet, a mark of notoriety for decades — journeyman Pokémon anime protagonist Ash Ketchum and his Pikachu never won anything. Not in Kanto, in Johto, in Hoenn, in Sinnoh, or in Unova. Things got especially bad in Kalos, when fans cried he’d been robbed of the title by shoddy writing and a seeming mandate to keep him losing. But after becoming the first champion of Alola, Ash has aimed and reached even higher: becoming the Pokémon World Champion after defeating legends in the Masters Tournament, vanquishing Leon in the final round to become the true #1 after years of futility.

And it might mark the end.

 

 

Ash winning is a big deal — The Pokémon Company put an entire press release out about it, even though the episode has only aired in Japan and still has quite a bit of time before reaching the rest of the world. Fans and news outlets from all about are talking about it. It even showed in Shibuya.

 

 

However, this crowning achievement may also be a concluding one. Speculation is rampant among swarths of the community that the end of the Pokémon anime — or at least Ash’s role in it — is imminent. For one, the final episode titles for Pokémon Journeys have been revealed, with titles that certainly don’t sound out of place for a grand finale, with the last episode title even being a bit of a nod to the very first episode of Pokémon ever.

 

 

More pressingly, Studio OLM — which has made the entire Pokémon anime during its entire existence, for well over a thousand episodes — is in trouble. The entire anime industry is in dire straits, facing staffing shortages and stretched by overproduction in the wake of insane levels of demand: and this has grown to affect Studio OLM as well, with simply not enough hands on deck to make episodes consistently. And we’ve heard nothing about a Paldean anime followup, which is intensely unusual and possibly a sign that not just Ash’s journey but the Pokémon anime itself will conclude.

 

 

If this is the case, then Ash’s conquest is surely a poetic end to an adventure that touched millions — if not billions — of hearts over the years. If this comes to be the grand finale, we’ll be sure to report on it as Journeys concludes in December. 

 

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Written by Amelia Fruzzetti

A writer and Nintendo fan based in Seattle, Washington. When not working for NinWire, she can be found eating pasta, writing stories, and wondering about when Mother 3 is finally going to get an official localization.