Why Does Ash Ketchum Catch So Much Grief?

Longtime readers know that there are certain fandoms that I don’t know or belong to, so I don’t write about them. But, I occasionally enlist a friend who is into them to write a guest post. Evan Minton, for instance, has already written about Bleach and Pokemon. It’s been almost a year since we’ve heard from him, so I asked him if he had anything anime/manga-like on his mind. He did. This time, Evan has a few thoughts to share regarding various complaints he has heard about Pokemon’s Ash Ketchum character. Whether or not you have observed a similar trend, you might find his analysis of interest. (Btw, if any of those Pokemon names are misspelled, it’s all on Evan, ‘cuz I ain’t got a clue!) 🙂

Why I Think Most Of The Ash Ketchum Hate Is Unjustified

by Evan Minton

thumbnail_assshhhhhhAsh Ketchum is the 10 year old protagonist of the long running Pokemon anime series. On the morning that Ash was to see Professor Oak to get his starter Pokemon, he overslept and frantically ran to Oak’s lab, not even changing out of his pajamas, to see if there were any Pokemon left. Alas, Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle were all given to new trainers prior to Ash’s arrival. There was one left, but Professor Oak was reluctant to give it to him because it was unruly. This Pokemon was Pikachu. Ash finally gained Pikachu’s trust after protecting him from a flock of angry Spearow, and they’ve been best friends ever since. Ash has traveled 6 regions, collecting the 8 badges from each of them to get into the region’s league.

Ever since generation 5, I’ve seen Ash receive a lot of hate from Pokemon fans. People simply don’t like him. When you ask them why they hate Ash so much, these are usually the reasons they’ll give you:

“Ash Never Improves”

One reason Ash haters give to justify their hate is that Ash never gets better. He’s still at the same skill level that he was back in the first season. Given how long he’s been traveling and battling, you would have expected him to have improved by now, but he hasn’t. Or at least that’s what the Ash haters say. The fact is, this just simply isn’t true. Since February of 2016, I’ve been re-watching the entire anime series in commemoration of Pokemon’s 20th Anniversary. So far, I’m in the Black and White series. I was astonished to find just how many mistakes Ash was making throughout his Kanto journey. When he first started, it seemed like he was making a mistake every 5 seconds. From not waking up on time to get his starter Pokemon to trying to capture Pidgeotto without battling it first, Ash was making all sorts of errors. I was surprised by this, because Ash doesn’t make that many mistakes like those in more recent seasons. Often times, he’ll help new trainers accompanying him like May or Dawn with things like their first Pokemon capture or their first trainer battle.

Moreover, if you look at all of Ash’s League losses, you can see how much he’s improved. Ash made it into the top 16 of the Kanto League, the top 8 of the Johto League, the top 8 in the Hoenn League, the top 4 in the Sinnoh League, top 8 in Unova, and the runner up in the Kalos League. Ash went from being in the top 16 to the top 8 to the top 4 to being the runner up! Does that not sound like improvement to you? Now, the reason why he was farther from the championship in Unova than he was in Sinnoh is probably due to the fact that he scarcely evolved his Pokemon during that arc, whereas he fully evolved the majority of his Pokemon in the Sinnoh arc. This is a nice segue to my next point….

“Ash Never Evolves His Pokemon”

Unlike the last complaint, this objection isn’t completely unjustified. A lot of Ash’s Pokemon should have evolved but haven’t (e.g., Squirtle, Totodile, Gible, Buisel, etc.) and several of them evolved once but didn’t evolve to their final form (e.g., Bayleef, Quilava, Pignite, Boldore). However, two things need to be considered: for one, some of Ash’s Pokemon explicitly objected to evolving (e.g., Pikachu and Bulbasaur) and Ash simply respected their wishes. He would be a jerk if he forced Pikachu to become a Raichu or Bulbasaur to become an Ivysaur, then a Venusaur, against their will. Secondly: one could argue that the Pokemon Ash has evolved and evolved fully outnumber the ones he didn’t evolve.

1: Caterpie -> Metapod -> Butterfree
2: Charmander -> Charmeleon -> Charizard
3: Krabby -> Kingler
4: Mankey -> Primeape
5: Pidgeotto -> Pidgeot
6: Treecko -> Grovyle -> Sceptile
7: Tailow -> Swellow
8: Snorunt -> Glalie
9: Phanpy -> Donphan
10: Turtwig -> Grotle -> Torterra
11: Chimchar -> Monferno -> Infernape
12: Starly -> Staravia -> Staraptor
13: Gligar -> Gliscor
14: Sandile -> Krokorok -> Krookodile
15: Pidove -> Tranquill -> Unfezant
16: Sewaddle -> Swadloon -> Leavanny
17: Froakie -> Frogadier -> Greninja
18: Fletchling -> Flechinder -> Talonflame
19: Noibat -> Noivern
20: Goomy -> Sliggoo -> Goodra

That’s a lot of evolved Pokemon! Ash certainly evolves many of his Pokemon, many of them have evolved all the way, some of them have evolved only partially. But, the ones who have evolved far outnumber the ones that haven’t.

league-losses“Ash Was Stupid For Leaving His Charizard At Charicific Valley”

So, back in the Johto arc, Ash came across a valley full of Charizard run by a woman named Liza. Ash’s Charizard challenged one of the (much larger) Charizards there and got its butt kicked. Ash left his Charizard there to train because of how much his Charizard enjoyed spending time there, and because it was one of the weakest ones there. Ash decided to leave it in the valley so it could train. Fans of Pokemon still rake him over the coals about this. But what exactly is the big deal? It’s not like Ash released Charizard or anything. Ash called upon Charizard several times since then to use in battles such as when he battled in the Johto League or when he took on Noland at the Battle Factory (during the Battle Frontier arc). Whenever Ash wanted to battle with Charizard, Liza would send him over. By the end of Ash’s Unova journey, Charizard was done with his training and came back to Ash for good.

Since Ash didn’t release or abandon Charizard, I don’t see why this is such a big deal. What Ash did in the anime isn’t much different than what some players do in the games. Players can leave one of their Pokemon at The Day Care to level up while they travel around the region. Once it levels up sufficiently, they go back and get it. That’s very similar to what Ash did with his Charizard.

“Ash Never Stopped Team Rocket For Good”

When people bash Ash (Hey! That rhymes!), they will often compare him to Red and say that Red is so much better than Ash. Who is Red? Red is the protagonist character that the players of the original Kanto games play as. Ash was actually based on Red. You could say Ash is Red’s anime counterpart. However, Ash and Red lead slightly different lives within their respective canons. Red won the Pokemon League on his first try, dismantled Team Rocket’s organization, and completed the Pokedex for Professor Oak. Ash has done none of that. Team Rocket is still around in Ash’s universe, and he keeps having to deal with the same two grunts (Jessie and James) over and over and over again.

However, although Ash never shut down the Team Rocket organization, Ash did stop Team Magma and Aqua from destroying the world through Groudon and Kyogre’s powers. He did stop Team Galactic from using Dialga and Palkia to destroy the universe and make another one ruled by Cyrus (the Team Galactic leader). He also made Team Plasma split up for good. And while I haven’t seen the XYZ season yet, I’ll bet he stopped Team Flare as well. So, when it comes to dismantling evil organizations, Ash beats Red 5 to 1!

“Ash Releases His Best Pokemon”

Okay, I’ll give the haters this one. I do loathe the fact that Ash has released several of his Pokemon into the wild. Although in his defense, there’s usually a morally sufficient reason behind it. In Butterfree’s case, Ash wanted his Butterfree to be happy starting a family with a female Butterfree after they crossed the sea. It was the mating season for the Butterfree and a lot of other trainers were releasing their Butterfree to do the same thing. Ash would have been selfish if he had refused to let Butterfree go. In Lapras’ case, Ash had already decided to release it as soon as they located its family. The only reason he had Lapras with him during his Orange Islands journey was so he could reunite his Lapras with its family, though Lapras was certainly a big help to him during his Orange League gym battles. At the time of writing this, I have sadly found out that Ash released his Greninja as well. It was a spoiler because again, as I said, I’m a whole season behind due to the fact that I’ve been rewatching the entire series from season 1, episode 1, to the present (I’m even watching the movies). I don’t know why Ash released his Greninja, but he has a track record of not letting his Pokemon go for no good reason. I’m very sad to find out that he released his Greninja because he was indeed one of Ash’s best Pokemon. Moreover, they had a strong bond, not nearly as strong as the one he shares with Pikachu, but it was every bit as strong as the bond he has with his Charizard and Infernape. That’s why they were able to use Greninja’s Battle Bond ability.


I could go on, but I’ll stop here for the sake of brevity. I do think some of the criticism lodged towards Ash is justified, but the vast majority of it is just nonsense. Truth be told, I think the real reason people hate Ash is just because he keeps losing Pokemon League battles. I’ll admit, I’m annoyed at that as well. It’s been 20 seasons since he vowed to become “The greatest Pokemon Master of all time!” and the farthest he’s ever gotten to achieving that goal is becoming the runner up of the Kalos League. However, that isn’t enough reason for me to hate him.

I wish the anime writers would replace Ash just like the haters do, but this isn’t because I hate Ash, but because I like him. I like Ash. I want to see him succeed in becoming League Champion. If that means having to replace him as protagonist in the season that proceeds, so be it! If the anime writers think people won’t watch the show if it doesn’t have Ash and Pikachu in it, they are sorely mistaken! Many people loved Pokemon Origins and the fans were more excited about Pokemon Generation (a mini series of short animated clips recapping moments from the video game series) than they were the upcoming Sun and Moon series. If they made a full time anime like origins, the ratings wouldn’t suffer one bit. On the other hand, I would be a little sad to see Ash and Pikachu go, since they’ve been the main characters for so long, but I’d be more thrilled at seeing him FINALLY achieve his dream.

Final conclusion: Ash may not be “the very best like no one ever was” yet, but it’s unwarranted to say that “he sucks”. Let’s just say you don’t become runner up of a major Pokemon League tournament by sucking.

Yeah! Give poor Ash a break, guys!

Why Do New Pokemon Keep Popping Up?

You may remember that my friend Evan wrote a guest-post last October, where he explained his theory about twin zangetsus in Bleach. Now, he’s back with another fan-theory — this time about Pokemon, which I understand just celebrated its 20th Anniversary. ((Belated) Happy Pokemon Day!) Check it out and let Evan (and me) know what you think….

Pokemon Fan Theory: Why Do New Pokemon Keep Popping Up?

by Evan Minton

huge collage of PokemonsWhen the first Pokemon games came out, we were told there were only 151 of them, and Professor Oak wanted Red (i.e., the main player) to go out and capture them, so that a brief synopsis of information about them could register in an electronic encyclopedia called the Pokedex. But 3 years later, when Gold/Silver came out, we found out there were 100 more. Fortunately, you could transfer the pocket monsters you caught on Red/Blue over to Gold/Silver, so it’s not like you had to start all over again. When Ruby and Sapphire came out, the number of Pokemon totaled to 386. Now, in generation 6, there are up to 721 different Pokemon species in existence. How is this to be explained? Where in the world are all these new monsters coming from and how is it that they just keep popping up?

Are These Newly Discovered Species?

In the anime series, the characters talked as if Pokemon like Totodile, Hoothoot, Togepi, and so on, were just species that had remained Unown (see what I did there?) until scientists discovered them. That seemed plausible at the dawn of generation 2. After all, this happens in the real world; scientists even today are discovering new species of animals that nobody knew about before. However, given the vast quantity and size of Pokemon that arrive with every new generation, the credibility of this theory stretches far beyond the bounds of plausibility and into absurdity.

My Theory: Most Pokemon Have Always Existed

Here’s my theory: Most Pokemon have always existed. Only a rather small number of species could count as “newly discovered”. There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence to back this up. For example, in generation 4, we find out that the Pokemon Arceus created Dialga and Palkia who in turn created the Pokemon universe. In generation 3, we found out that it was Groudon and Kyogre who formed the seas and land while Regigigas moved the continents around. These events obviously take place a long, long, long time before the events of the first Pokemon games occur. These events are the dawn of the Pokemon universe. And yet, Arceus, Dialga, Palkia, Groudon, Kyogre, and Regigigas were Pokemon that were released in generations 3 and 4.

In the Pokemon anime, a young Samuel Oak (who grew up to be Professor Oak) hangs out with Celebi, a Pokemon from generation 2. This was in the fourth theatrical release movie; Pokemon 4Ever. Also, in the 8th Pokemon movie, a Lucario with telepathic ability fought in a war with a knight named Sir Aaron. This appeared to take place in the 16th or 17th century. Hundreds of years before Ash was born.

flying-pokemon-wallpaper-800x600Back to the game canon, we have the war that took place in the Kalos region 3,000 years ago which AZ took part in. He built a machine which absorbed the life energy of hundreds of Pokemon (which resulted in their deaths), and the life energy gave “The Ultimate Weapon” enough force to annihilate the other army and end the war. AZ’s Flabebe left him, and AZ, remorseful over his actions and missing his beloved Pokemon, roamed the Earth for 3,000 years searching for it. By the way, a side effect of the weapon was that it made both him and his Flabebe immortal. AZ was fortunately reunited with his Pokemon after the player battled him post-Pokemon League victory, right before Kiseki played. The reunion of AZ and Floette plus the lyrics of Kiseki really hit me hard in the feels. “Lie down. Try not to cry. Cry a lot.”

Anyway, we have good reason to believe that most Pokemon have always existed. Yet, how come in earlier games, you never run into them? How come, for example, you never encounter Pachirisu when traveling through Kanto or Johto? How come one never finds a Pidove in Hoenn or an Espurr in Sinnoh? I submit to you that the reason you don’t see these Pokemon in these regions is the same reason you don’t see polar bears in Africa; it’s just a matter of where the species live! Certain Pokemon live in certain regions of the world, and if you don’t live or move about in that particular region, you’re highly unlikely to encounter that type of Pokemon.

Where I live, I’ve seen deer, frogs, cats, dogs, bunnies, owls, bees, ants, and grasshoppers, but I’ve never, never, never seen a lion or a penguin in my backyard or town. Moreover, if you live in the South Pole, you’ll likely see penguins or seals, but none of the animals common to my neck of the woods. If you’re Santa and live at the North Pole, you’ll see polar bears (probably enjoying Coca Cola) but you won’t see any of those Pepsi drinking penguins. It all depends on where you live. I submit to you that the same is true for Pokemon. It’s not that these Pokemon didn’t exist in these earlier generations; it’s just that you never ran into them on your journey because you weren’t in their habitat.

In the generation 5 games, you could only run into generation 5 Pokemon, but that clearly doesn’t mean that Pokemon like Pikachu and Aipom didn’t exist. It was just that there were no Pikachu or Aipom that lived in the Unova region.


As with all fan theories, this one isn’t without its issues. However, I think the issue isn’t so much with the theory as it is a continuity issue. For example, yes, Ash (and we) never encountered a lot of these Pokemon because he hadn’t visited their native region yet, but wouldn’t Ash have at least known of their existence? I mean, I’ve never seen a polar bear or a lion in person because they don’t live in the United States, but I do know they exist because I’ve seen them on TV, on the internet, and read about them in books. But when Ash enters a new region, he seems genuinely surprised to learn of most of these Pokemons’ existence. He’s basically like “Wow! I’ve never seen that before! Let me get the Pokedex out so it can tell me what it is!” Also, a fat guy in New Bark Town said something to the effect of “3 years ago, there were only 150 Pokemon. We discovered more now.” That’s an extreme paraphrase, but you’ll have to forgive me, it’s been a while since I played the original Johto games, so I can’t remember his dialogue verbatim. Moreover, Professor Oak has a radio show in Goldenrod City every day, and we found in Diamond/Pearl that he occasionally vacations in the Sinnoh region. You’d think he’d know there were more than 150 Pokemon in existence.

Again, these are likely continuity issues (plot holes) created likely by the fact that the creators of Pokemon hadn’t anticipated them making games for 2 whole decades, rather than being strikes against this theory. I did read somewhere that at Pokemon’s conception, they had only planned to release two generations and then end it, but changed their minds when it became such a gigantic success.

pokemon universesThen again, Nintendo confirmed that the Pokemon series has taken place in 3 different universes. The first universe chronicling the story of Red/Blue/Yellow and Gold/Silver/Crystal, the second universe containing the story of Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald and FireRed/LeafGreen followed by the story of Diamond/Pearl/Platinum and HeartGold/SoulSilver 3 years after those games, culminating in Black/White and Black2 and White2. X/Y and ORAS taking place in yet another paralleled universe. This is not a fan theory. Nintendo actually confirmed this. If this is the case, it may be that there were only a couple of hundred Pokemon in existence during the first two generations, but why the “newly discovered” explanation was dropped in gen 3 and beyond. This would also account for apparent plot holes (though this doesn’t help the anime any).

In the other 2 universes (what one YouTuber has labeled “The Dual Slot” timeline and the “Mega Timeline”), pretty much all Pokemon have always existed, and the reason you don’t encounter them in earlier games is simply because you’re not in their neck of the woods.

In conclusion: Despite appearances, hundreds of Pokemon aren’t just popping into existence in The Pokemon World every 3-4 years. They exist, they just haven’t been in the regions you’ve traveled before.