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The End of an Era! I Can’t Believe I Have to Say Goodbye to Ash Ketchum, Pokémon Master

Ash Ketchum with Pikachu on his shoulder in the Pokémon anime

The moment has come. Ash Ketchum is finally leaving the Pokémon anime. Having accomplished his goal of becoming a Pokémon Master—and becoming the WORLD champion—Ash is ready to say goodbye to his journey and the audience that has watched him travel the Pokémon world with Pikachu since 1997 (Japan) and 1998 (North America).

It’s undeniably the end of an era. Ash and Pikachu have been the Pokémon anime’s mascots for almost as long as I’ve been alive, which is both impressive and slightly terrifying. And I’ve been watching them that entire time too. We used to own some of the original episodes on VHS (hopefully someone reading this will know what those are). The first trip to the cinema that I properly remember was when we went to see Pokémon 3: The Movie. Ash and Pikachu have been an intrinsic part of my life, from childhood to adulthood, and I will genuinely miss watching their adventures together.

It’s strange, isn’t it? How something you discovered when you were young can shape your life so completely? I know for a fact that without my early obsession with Pokémon and my childhood wish to live in that world, I never would have fallen in love with other story worlds like Star Wars, Marvel, and Middle-earth as intensely as I did. That sense of wonder changed me. And that might not have happened if Ash and Pikachu weren’t so likable. If their friendship wasn’t so enviable, if Ash’s ability to pick himself back up after failing wasn’t so admirable. I owe them, and the Pokémon franchise as a whole, a lot.

What happens next in the Pokémon anime?

For those of you wondering when you can watch Ash and Pikachu’s final goodbye, the episode aired in Japan on March 24, 2023. The English dub will likely be available in May, at the earliest, for anyone who wants to avoid the inevitable for as long as possible.

In April, the all-new Pokémon anime will debut in Japan, though an English dub premiere date is currently unknown. The new Pokémon series, based in the Paldea region from the Pokémon: Scarlet and Violet games, will feature two fresh protagonists: Liko and Roy. These characters will give a new generation of Pokémon fans the chance to connect with the franchise the way I did when I was young. I’ll happily admit I’m excited to meet them, even if I’ll feel a little wistful, at first.

The Paldea region will provide plenty of fodder for new and interesting anime storylines. Not only do the Pokémon Scarlet and Violet games feature the all-important Gym Challenge, but there are two other plots to engage with as well: defeating the bases of a school-related “gang,” and tracking and subduing massive Pokémon that are hiding some secret magical herbs. More than enough adventure on the way.

Will Ash Ketchum ever return to the Pokémon anime?

Ash and Pikachu riding on Lugia's back in Pokémon the Movie 2000
(The Pokémon Company)

Never say never, right? Ash and Pikachu’s popularity is undeniable. Remember how excited the internet was when he finally won his first Pokémon League in Pokémon: Sun and Moon–Ultra Legends? Perhaps Ash and Pikachu will return for an anniversary special, or otherwise in a new Pokémon movie. The Pokémon movies have been sparse for a while now. There hasn’t been a new one that fits the canon timeline since the sixth generation of the Pokémon anime, Pokémon X & Y—and I would love to see Ash and Pikachu having adventures in Paldea. Even if only for one episode.

The biggest question then, I guess, is how old he will be if/when he returns. Will his leaving the Pokémon anime give him the chance to finally grow up? Technically speaking, he’d be in his thirties by now. I think I’d like to see Ash living a different kind of life someday, one that feels more relatable to my own current experiences. Reunited with Misty and Brock, spending time with the dozens of Pokémon he’s caught over the years. Will Ash stay in one place for long? Unlikely. But it would be nice to see a whole new side of him.

And yet, Gaming Intel reports that while one of the the Pokémon anime directors, Kunihiko Yuyama, does want Ash and Pikachu to return to the anime someday, Ash will be “forever 10 years old”—an understandable decision for what is, at heart, a children’s show. We might never get to see Ash Ketchum grow up, but that’s okay. He’s provided entertainment for us for well over 20 years. A legend, if there ever was one.

(featured image: The Pokémon Company)

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El (she/her) has been working as a freelance writer for various entertainment websites for over a year, ever since she successfully completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including franchises like Marvel and Pokémon, but she is happy to pitch in with gaming content once in a while if it concerns one of the few video games she actually knows anything about. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.