When it comes to the Pokemon anime protagonist Ash Ketchum, the opinion on the Pallet Town trainer seems to be mixed.
There are countless reasons folks in the Pokemon community criticize Ash. In the 20 plus years of the anime, Ash has only caught over 40 different types of Pokemon over the various regions he has traveled, and his trophy case includes one league championship – though it may feature one more piece of hardware if he wins the Alola tournament.
Numerous fans have told me how they hate Ash because of his willingness to let go of certain Pokemon, despite the anime providing a storyline reason for him to do so.
Yet there are some folks out there who would say Ash is a great trainer.
Reddit user Thunderbrine posted an image detailing how Ash’s personality contributes to his effective Pokemon training and strong bond with the various teammates he has caught and trained over the years.
In the post, Thunderbrine explains how Ash loves his teammates, even with their flaws. He also gives them his consent when it comes to evolving. Thunderbrine’s post notes that he gave Pikachu a choice to evolve because “he wouldn’t want his best friend to live the rest of his life as something he wouldn’t consistently enjoy being.” Even after Pikachu made the choice not to evolve, Ash still loved him.
Pikachu isn’t the only one of Ash’s team who have refused to evolve. Bulbasaur refused to evolve and Ash didn’t care. Even when his Pokemon refused to listen to him – like Charizard or Lycanroc – Ash maintained his dedication to them.
This is a contrast to the video game where players catch Pokemon, evolve them, train them or trade them when they find something better, and I think that’s part of the reason why some folks resent Ash as a character. The video game requires players to catch, evolve and battle – and it’s a simple formula that people follow.
Sure, Ash made that declaration in episode one where he vowed to be a Pokemon master and catch them all, but that was over 20 years ago and the show has changed. I don’t think the writers realized that you can’t write a TV show exactly the way you write the games, nor should you.
If writers had stuck to that formula, Ash and the gang would have spent over 500 episodes in the Kanto region with no story arcs for his teammates, and people would have complained about the show just being about catching and collecting Pokemon.
Going back to Ash and his tendency to release his Pokemon, he doesn’t just abandon them like other trainers on the show. There was a reason for each occasion, going back to Butterfree.
Butterfree fell in love with a pink Butterfree and Ash knew that preventing it to leave with his love would likely make it unhappy. Ash left Greninja to allow it to protect Kalos with Squishy.
Is Ash a perfect trainer? Of course not, especially if what constitutes a great trainer is the number of Pokemon in their PC storage. He, like many trainers, have made mistakes when it comes to helping their Pokemon.
However, Ash is a good, compassionate person and if you are writing a television show for children, that’s the type of character you want them to gravitate towards and the way he treats his Pokemon is the same type of love we should show our loved ones. To Ash, Pokemon aren’t just pets or tools to make money, they are his lifelong friends.