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Ash's Japanese Voice Actor Hints That The Character Might Not Be Done With Pokémon Just Yet

Rica Matsumoto has been part of the "Pokémon" universe for so long that her name is pretty much synonymous with the lead character, Ash Ketchum, also known as Satoshi. While Sarah Natochenny voices the English version of the character, Matsumoto has long voiced the Japanese iteration. In an interview with CoroCoro Online, she talked about how she's come to recognize the importance of the role she's inhabited for 25 years. At one point, she recorded a message for a child that was sick in the hospital, and recalled, "At that time I both felt so thankful to be able to have a job where I get to do things like this and, at the same time, felt that I have this incredible responsibility." 

Ash Ketchum and Pikachu and all the Pokémon have meant so much to fans over the years, and Matsumoto acknowledges that. "The children who watched the first broadcast in 1997 have grown up and I think that some people have moved away from anime," she told ORICON NEWS before the series' final episode, asking all fans — old and new — to cheer them on in the upcoming tournament. With the announcement that "Pokémon" is being rebooted without Ash and Pikachu, Matsumoto has seemingly hinted that the story of the series' longtime protagonist might not be over just yet.

Ash will appear in 2023 in 11 special episodes

With "Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series" ending after Ash Ketchum won the Masters Eight Tournament, fans naturally wondered what could possibly be next for the pair after Ash became the strongest trainer in the world. The answer came in an update that a new series is coming, but it will focus on characters Liko and Roy. A tweet by Rica Matsumoto left fans curious if we'll see Ash and Pikachu again in this new iteration. "Satoshi [Ash Ketchum] is still close to everyone's hearts, just like when they left Masala Town," she wrote. "Promise ... Always together! Satoshi's adventure continues ... If it continues, it will continue."

She could be referring to Ash appearing in the new series, or to Ash and Pikachu continuing their journey in the "Pokémon" manga comics. She reposted a tweet from manga artist Suzue Miuchi, who wrote, "Let's chase many dreams — I will do my best to continue the manga!!" Despite how beloved Ash and Pikachu are, many series fans think that moving on to new "Pokémon" characters is for the best. "Seriously, there's just no story left to tell for Ash without the anime rehashing the same plotline it's rehashed for 8 generations," u/jish5 wrote on a "Pokémon" subreddit.

What we do know is we'll get to see Ash's story wrap up in 11 special episodes of "Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series" in 2023, and fans and viewers will get a chance to say their goodbyes to Ash and Pikachu.