Saying goodbye to Ash and Pikachu
Producers of Pokémon have announced 11 new episodes to finally wrap up Ash and Pikachu's journey spanning 25 years. However, this doesn't mark the end of the franchise as it will continue with new protagonists and stories.
Ash's departure as the Pokémon hero comes as no surprise. Having been crowned champion at Alola league and Pokémon World Championship in Pokémon: Ultimate Journeys, he has finally achieved what he sought to do 25 seasons ago.
However, for long-time fans, bidding adieu to Ash and Pikachu is akin to saying goodbye to core memories.
I have spent countless hours of my childhood tuned into Cartoon Network, lip-syncing to Pokémon intros and rooting for Ash throughout his battles. Each Pokémon episode and movie followed a hackneyed formula but I couldn't get enough of it. Guessing which animal or bug each Pokémon based its design on was as fun as playing with a deck of Pokémon cards.
Each time Ash got closer to becoming a champion only to come up short, I would echo the disappointment felt by fans all across the world. But Ash's overbearing ability to dust off defeat, valiant displays of sportsmanship and start anew from scratch would keep the series going and fans would stick along. To "be the very best like no one ever was", Ash had to lose, lament and learn.
There is a deeper reason why Ash chose to not use his old Pokémon each time he embarked on a journey through a new region. His goal was never about winning battles by obliterating his opponents with overpowered Pokémon. Instead, he aspired to be capable enough to guide his Pokémon to victory, form emotional connections with them and in the process, meet friends who shared his vision.
He imparted valuable lessons on the inevitability of goodbyes when he let go of Butterfree, Charizard, Goodra, and Greninja and bade farewell to the friends he made along the way.
But Pikachu unfailingly stayed with him. In Pikachu's Goodbye in Season 1, Pikachu chose to stay with Ash over a life with his own species. Ash and Pikachu's lifelong partnership became the heart of the series. Young and old fans found solace in their friendship. The pair would go on to become synonymous with the Pokémon series.
In Indigo league and Orange Island adventures, Ash was a budding trainer often weighed down by his impulsiveness and arrogance. But he had Misty and Brock to advise him every step of the way and to ground him when required. Through the introduction of new characters – friends and rivals alike – both Ash's perception of the aftermath of defeat and his ability as a trainer had to be reimagined.
Ash and Pikachu's world was devoid of adult intervention. There's something deeply aspirational and nostalgic in watching these young characters make their own choices and be heroes of arcane adventures.
Nonetheless, Ash's stagnated ageing often plagued his character arc. But his adventures and even his saviour complex have always depicted the bonds and companionship humans can form veiled under the excitement of Pokémon battles.
Ash's journey with Pikachu has spanned countless generations and has changed the bedrock of pop culture forever. Their departure has certainly signalled the end of an era but our love for these characters will not wane.
Nuzha is sad that Ash Ketchum couldn't "catch 'em all." Send consolations at [email protected]