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The Rich History Behind Pokémon's Ash Ketchum

Alongside his partner Pikachu, Ash Ketchum has been catching Pokémon, traveling with friends, chasing his dreams, and saving the world since 1997. His Pokémon journey begins one fateful morning when he accidentally oversleeps and is forced to partner up with a rather stubborn Pikachu. Their relationship gets off to a rocky start with Pikachu electrocuting Ash and refusing to listen to him, but they quickly earn each other's trust and have been best friends ever since. From there, 10-year-old Ash becomes a respectable trainer with many accomplishments under his belt, and even more people and Pokémon he calls friends.

With over 1,200 episodes, the "Pokémon" anime has given us an extensive look into Ash's life as a traveling trainer. We get to see everything from his most triumphant victories to his most brutal losses to a handful of moments where he probably should have died. There's so much story and history behind this iconic 10-year-old that it's definitely worth taking a closer look at Ash Ketchum.

Voiced by multiple women

This first fact may be surprising to some and obvious to others. In anime, it's not unusual for young male protagonists to be voiced by women. This is the case in popular anime like "Naruto," "One Piece," "Hunter x Hunter," and of course "Pokémon." In both the Japanese and English versions, Ash is voiced by a few different women. He's been voiced by Rica Matsumoto and Hana Takeda (as a 6-year-old Ash during a flashback) in the Japanese version, while Veronica Taylor, Sarah Natochenny, and Jamie Peacock (aka Kayzie Rogers) have voiced him in English dubs.

In addition to voicing Ash, Taylor and Natochenny have also voiced his mother, Delia, along with other characters and Pokémon. That's an impressive feat, considering how Ash has such a distinct voice that doesn't really sound like Delia's at all. Similarly, the other characters Taylor and Natochenny have voiced — for instance, Ash's traveling companion May and gym leader Skyla, respectively — barely sound like Ash. Peacock voiced Ash in 2006's "The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon" special, but also provided voices for other characters on the series who don't sound a thing like our spunky hero. 

Similarities with the video game protagonists

Since the "Pokémon" anime is appropriately based on the "Pokémon" video game series, it makes sense that Ash has a lot in common with the protagonists from the games. In every generation of the video game series, the protagonists receive their starter Pokémon from the professor of their region, battle their rivals, and share the same goal of becoming the Pokémon champion. This is the same for Ash, who gets his Pikachu from Professor Oak, battles it out with rivals like Gary and Paul, and participates in tournaments with the championship title on the line.

Perhaps the most bizarre similarity between Ash and the video game protagonists is that they all (with one exception) don't have a father figure around. Just as Ash has his mother Delia to come home to, the video game protagonists can always visit their mothers in their hometown. However, it remains a mystery where all of the fathers are. The only exception is in the third-generation games where the player's father is the Petalburg gym leader, Norman.

His changing appearance over the years

Despite remaining 10 years old throughout the many seasons of the anime, Ash's appearance has definitely undergone some changes. He doesn't change at all between the Kanto and Johto eras, but his changes after that mostly come down to new clothes, hats, and an upgraded Pokédex model at the start of a new series and region. Those changes in appearance are fairly subtle up until the series "Pokémon: Sun & Moon."

When Ash arrives in the Alola Region, more than just his outfit gets a makeover. There's a huge shift in the anime's drawing style, which results in Ash having an overall younger appearance. He even ditches the fingerless gloves previously considered a key part of his outfits. Then, in "Pokémon Journeys," he gets bigger irises in his eyes to continue the trend towards youthful looks. Perhaps the only physical features that can never change are the zigzag markings on his cheeks that resemble lightning bolts.

He can't be trusted with bikes

One of the most memorable parts of the "Pokémon" anime comes when Ash meets Misty in the very first episode. While being attacked and chased by a flock of Spearow, Ash rushes to get Pikachu and himself to safety and gets caught on Misty's fishing line. Instead of properly introducing himself, Ash hops onto Misty's bike without permission and speeds off toward the nearest Pokémon Center. He promises he'll return the bike someday. Spoiler alert: He never returns the bike. Shortly after, Pikachu destroys the bike while attacking the Spearow flock with a powerful electric attack.

Unfortunately for bike owners in the Pokémon universe, this is not a one-time thing for Ash and Pikachu. The same thing that happens to Misty also happens to May and Dawn. In the first episode of "Pokémon Advanced," Pikachu zaps May's bike along with Team Rocket. Likewise, the second episode of "Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl" sees the destruction of Dawn's bike in the midst of a quick battle against Pikachu.

Ash loses a lot of important battles

As someone who dreams of being the best, Ash must face off against the toughest Pokémon trainers in every region. It might sound like a breeze in the video games, but it's no easy task for Ash in the anime. Between gym battles and tournaments, he actually loses quite a bit.

In fact, he loses his very first gym battle in Episode 5. Ash rushes into the Pewter City Gym and challenges Brock to a battle without thinking. Brock's Onix wraps its rock body around Pikachu and immediately forces Ash to surrender. Later in Episode 14, Ash and Pikachu suffer a demoralizing loss to Lt. Surge and his Raichu, which almost convinces the 10-year-old to evolve Pikachu to match the strength of Raichu.

The most humiliating defeat, however, comes during the hyped league battle between Ash and his friendly rival Ritchie in Episode 79 (or Episode 81 if you're in Japan). Ash puts his faith in his powerful yet disobedient Charizard to defeat Ritchie's Pikachu, but Charizard lies down and refuses to battle or listen to its trainer. Because of this, Ash loses the match altogether and is eliminated from the Indigo Plateau Conference.

A few of his Kanto badges are unearned

In addition to losing a few gym battles in the Kanto Region, Ash also acquires some of his gym badges in ways that don't really seem fair. The fact that this happens more than once throughout Ash's Kanto journey makes us question his true talents as a trainer and takes away from his early achievements.

After Ash loses to Brock for the first time in Episode 5, he trains up his Pikachu and challenges the rock-type gym leader to a rematch. This time, Pikachu defeats Brock's rock-ground-type Geodude with a single electric attack which should technically not be possible since ground-types are completely immune to electric attacks. When Onix is on the field, the sprinklers conveniently go off and weaken Onix to the point where Pikachu's attack is enough to bring it down. Ash ends up showing mercy to the Onix and abandons the match. This somehow earns him both Brock's respect and a badge.

Another controversial gym victory happens in his rematch against Sabrina and her Kadabra in Episode 24. Just like their initial fight, Sabrina seems to be in full control. However, the battle is interrupted by the mischievous Haunter who shows up after following Ash from Lavender Town. The Haunter simply goofs around and makes Sabrina and her Kadabra laugh until they are deemed unable to battle. By default, Ash is declared the winner and receives the Marsh Badge.

His championship victory is exciting but questionable

After traveling through region after region, Ash finally snags his first championship title in the Manalo Conference of the Alola Region. In Episodes 46 and 47 of "Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon — Ultra Legends," Ash's final battle against his rival Gladion starts out pretty balanced. Ash's Melmetal is taken down by Gladion's Silvally who is knocked out by Pikachu. Pikachu then faces Gladion's Zoroark and they both use their Z-Moves to take each other out.

This leaves Gladion and Ash with just one Pokémon each. Coincidence or not, they both put their faith in their two Lycanroc. At first, it doesn't look good for Ash's Lycanroc as it struggles to deal with the other Lycanroc's counter-attack. But thankfully, Ash comes up with an unconventional strategy to secure the victory — he has his Lycanroc use a counter after Gladion's Lycanroc uses the same move. This gives Ash's Lycanroc enough momentum for the final blow.

While it's exciting to watch Ash's counter strategy play out, the win isn't as satisfying as it could have been. In the video games, a counter cannot actually be countered with another counter from the opponent, so Ash's use of it doesn't feel totally legit. This isn't the only time the anime breaks the rules that the video games have established, but it's a shame that it happens in an all-important battle that results in Ash becoming the new champion.

Many of his Pokémon don't reach their full potential

Since the beginning of his journey, Ash has captured many different Pokémon. Some of these Pokémon turn out to be incredibly strong members of his team with a little bit of training. The best example of this is Ash's Charizard. Ash first catches it as a Charmander, it evolves into Charmeleon and then Charizard, and it receives special training at Charicific Valley. To this day, Charizard is still considered one of Ash's strongest Pokémon.

Unfortunately, many of Ash's other Pokémon don't get the same amount of attention or training to become that powerful. This is most evident in the fact that Ash has a lot of Pokémon that aren't fully evolved, including Pikachu, Totodile, and Bayleef. Pikachu has expressed their lack of interest in evolving in Episode 14, but that doesn't mean Ash can't evolve his other Pokémon to make them stronger. It's just very odd to see Ash using all these Pokémon instead of their evolutions in championship tournaments.

His team in Pokémon Masters Journey is his strongest one yet

While Ash does not have the best track record when it comes to putting together a solid team of six, his team in "Pokémon Master Journeys" is quite powerful. His team consists of Pikachu, Lucario, Gengar, Dragonite, Dracovish, and Sirfetch'd. Surprisingly, all of these Pokémon are fully evolved (or cannot evolve) with the exception of Pikachu. In this case, it works out for Pikachu because Pikachu has a special Gigantamax form that it would not otherwise have access to if it had evolved into Raichu.

Aside from Pikachu, Ash has two of the strongest Pokémon from Kanto — Gengar and Dragonite. Gengar is a speedy glass cannon and another potential Gigantamax option for Ash, while Dragonite is a bulky and reliable flying dragon. Ash also has a great Mega Evolution in Lucario. This Lucario has shown the most growth on the team by starting out as an egg in Ash's care, training hard as a little Riolu, and evolving into the powerhouse it is today. The Galar duo — Dracovish and Sirfetch'd — should not be underestimated, or else their opponents are in for a surprise.

He has one shiny Pokémon

In the Pokémon universe, every species has an extremely rare color variant known as its shiny form. For example, a shiny Charizard is mostly black instead of its usual orange color, and a shiny Psyduck is blue instead of yellow. While many shiny Pokémon are noticeably different from their normal forms, some are pretty difficult to identify. Two of the worst offenders of this are shiny Pikachu and shiny Gengar, who are just slightly different shades of their normal colors. Ash's one shiny Pokémon, Noctowl, falls somewhere between noticeable and subtle.

At first glance, Ash's Noctowl can probably fool anyone who isn't familiar with the species since the shiny variant and normal variant both have brown color schemes. However, when Ash's Noctowl is side by side with a normal Noctowl, the difference is clear. Ash's Noctowl has a much lighter body and copper-toned wings, while the normal Noctowl is darker overall.

Ash has some unexpected admirers

At the young age of 10, Ash has put all of his time and effort into becoming the best Pokémon trainer he can be. For the most part, he's training or battling to strengthen his team and doesn't usually show much interest in anything that isn't related to Pokémon ... including romance. But despite Ash's lack of interest and experience in the love department, a few characters have taken an interest in him.

As Ash travels through the Kalos region, he's accompanied by Serena who has fond memories of him from when they were little. It's revealed in Episode 6 of "Pokémon the Series: XY" that the two of them met at a camp where Ash helped and encouraged Serena. Since then, he's held a special place in her heart and has been a source of inspiration for her. She even kisses him before parting ways in one of the most shocking moments in "Pokémon" anime history

In addition to Serena, Ash wins over the heart of one Pokémon in particular. Chikorita might act stubborn and tough in the beginning, but the grass-type Pokémon is ultimately swayed by the boy's kindness. She then gives him a kiss on the cheek when he asks if she'd like to join him on his adventure. Once she evolves into Bayleef, she develops a habit of tackling her trainer out of love and excitement.

Ash attracts mischievous Pokémon

The "Pokémon" anime wouldn't be nearly as exciting without some trouble and chaos, but it seems like mischievous Pokémon are naturally attracted to our hero. Whether these troublemakers are causing problems around town or just messing with their trainer, it's always up to Ash to handle it.

There are two notable instances where Ash befriends and captures the leader of a villainous Pokémon group. The first group is the infamous Squirtle Squad that initially helps Team Rocket kidnap Pikachu in Episode 12. After realizing who the bad guys really are, the Squirtle Squad works with Ash to defeat Team Rocket and put out a forest fire. The leader joins Ash's team while the rest of its squad become firefighters.

A similar group of Sandile appears in Episode 3 of "Pokémon: Black & White," where they act out in an attempt to get everyone away from the dangerous geysers that are ready to erupt. Ash eventually sees their good intentions, and they all work together to get everyone to safety. The leader of the pack then follows Ash around in various episodes throughout the series before officially being caught by Ash later on in the series.

Has more flying-types than you'd expect

When it comes to catching Pokémon, a lot of trainers have their preferences. For example, Misty has many water-types like Psyduck and Starmie, while Iris' team is mostly made up of dragon-types. Unlike them, Ash doesn't seem to care about types whenever he catches a new Pokémon. He instead cares more about the Pokémon's own willingness to join his team and battle alongside him. As a result, he's captured a bunch of Pokémon that vary greatly in strength, appearance, and typing.

That being said, he has a surprisingly large number of flying-type Pokémon despite not being part of the Bird Keeper trainer class. This is most apparent with Ash's Kalos team in which three out of the six members — Talonflame, Hawlucha, and Noivern — are part flying-type. Outside of Kalos, some of Ash's most iconic flying-types are Charizard, Swellow, and Rowlet. He has also used a couple of other winged Pokémon — Sirfetch'd and Naganadel — who may look like flying-types but aren't.