Pokemon the Series: Ranking Ash Ketchum’s travel companions

1999 Pikachu And Ash In The Animated Movie "Pokemon:The First Movie." (Photo By Getty Images)
1999 Pikachu And Ash In The Animated Movie "Pokemon:The First Movie." (Photo By Getty Images) /
Pokemon 3 distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. (Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures) /

With Pokemon Ultra Legends wrapping up, we’re ranking all 16 of Ash Ketchum’s traveling companions from Pokemon the Series!

Pokemon – Ultra Legends will be wrapping up its North American run this week, bringing another generation of the anime to a close. This was a big generation for Ash and friends as Ash finally became a champion, winning the inaugural Kalos League.

Plenty of the focus has been on Ash Ketchum and Pikachu over the years and this victory put a perfect bow on that arc. Be that as it may, our champion would not have gotten through plenty of situations without the friends he travels with. As another region is left behind by Ash, there is no time like the present to look back at those he has traveled with and see how they stack up.

Whether it be from being actually useful or from an entertainment standpoint the supporting character can make or break any season of Pokemon. All of this is subjective, but honestly two character will be high on most Pokemon fans lists without a doubt.

Throughout this list we will discuss every core travel companion, non-Pokemon category, who has joined Ash on his journey. This will serve as a good refresher leading up to when Pocket Monsters comes to the United States, presumably later this year. As you will see with this list and will already know as an avid fan of the show, there is a lot of competition for any new character introduced.  As annoying as Ash tends to be he has a knack for having some pretty great friends.

Pokemon: The First Movie. (Photo By Getty Images) /

16.  Bonnie

Bonnie is simply annoying. She finds a way to make many of the scenes just about her and whines a lot. Often a lot of the issues that our heroes in the XY series have to deal with are because of Bonnie. Dedenne, her lone Pokemon for most of the series, is similarly in the way more often than not.

I will fully admit that this is likely bias because of how her character affected the time that Zygarde spent in the series. Turning such a cool Legendary Pokemon with so much potential into something called Squishy is a pretty tough look. He had potential to rank higher on many fans Pokemon lists if not for a mostly forgettable anime run.

While Zygarde does become integral in saving the world from Team Flare and Lysandre, Bonnie led to so many more issues than she did help.  In fairness, while her presence held Zygarde back in many ways it really benefited her brother, Clemont.  We will get to Clement later on this list, but Bonnie brought some truly great moments out of her brother. The way he prioritized family added touching elements to the XY era. Pokemon has a tendency of making the younger children come off as annoying on purpose, which did not do Bonnie any favors in this ranking.

Pokemon: The First Movie. (Photo By Getty Images) /

15.  Max

Similar to Bonnie, Max is often there to be the member of the group that tends to get them in trouble more often than not. He has not Pokemon of his own and is the brother of May, another one of Ash’s travel companions. Reaffirming the acknowledged bias from before, the only reason Max ranks above Bonnie is because he did not have a negative impact on a Legendary Pokemon’s run on the show.

If you are one of the rare people who tend to approve of Ash overall, Max will grate on your nerves. He tends to correct Ash at every turn, whether it be his initial introduction at the Petalburg Gym or how he often corrects how Ash trains his Pokemon with no real basis other than his book reading.

On the positive sides of Max he does have great relationships with Brock and May, making both of those characters better.  Brock, one of the more beloved characters as is, took Max under his wing and taught him a lot about Pokemon. May grew a lot as a trainer and part of that is being a big sister and learning a lot from Max and by extension Brock and Ash. So while Max will not necessarily be fondly remembered he played a role in a number of characters’ growth.

Pokemon: The First Movie. (Photo By Getty Images) /

14. Tracey

For the longest time, Tracey Sketchit was far and away my least favorite character. Watching more of the Generation 3 anime and finally getting around to XYZ is the only thing that changed that. Tracey was likely dealt an unfair hand, taking over for Brock when he took a brief hiatus. No character was going to be able to fill the void that Brock left, least of all Mr. Sketchit.

After Brock left to work for Professor Ivy Misty and Ash soon welcomed Tracey to the squad. Tracey identified as a Pokemon watcher, which is exactly what it sounds like. He joined the group with his Venonant and Marill. This was the introduction of the Aqua Mouse Pokemon to the Pokemon World, which made it seem much less cool than it really is. He would go on to catch a Scyther, completing his Pokemon team.

Ultimately, Tracey achieved his goal and went on to become Professor Oak’s assistant. This is the perfect role for Tracey, allowing him to continue to observe Pokemon in their natural habitat and contribute to the famed professor’s research. This also led to Brock rejoining the group, so everyone was a winner when Tracey achieved his goals.

Poke Ball chargers (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images) /

13.  Sophocles

Moving into characters who are not objectively negative, Sophocles only issue is generally being boring. Sophocles is part of the class in Alola. He like Clemont before him is into science and technology and builds plenty of devices that assist with the collection of Ultra Beasts.

Although he was a little clumsy, Sophocles was a great friend during Ash’s time in Alola. He brought the joy of racing with Charjabug and later Vikavolt after it evolved. This was one of the many cultural joys Ash got to enjoy during his time in Alola. Watching Sophocles grow as a trainer as Vikavolt got stronger was one of the more heartwarming stories in the Sun Moon era, culminating in him being able to use Z-Moves and clashing with another friend, Kiawe, in the second round of the inaugural Alola Pokemon League.

Sophocles became a dependable friend and Pokemon trainer throughout the series. Other than Vikavolt, Sophocles was rarely separated from Togedemaru, who developed a great friendship with Ash’s Pikachu. While he was never the fiercest trainer or most involved, Sophocles grew to be a dependable member of the Ultra Guardians, eventually helping to save the world from the invading Guzzlord’s following the culmination of the Pokemon League. Sophocles grew more than almost every other character in the series, only surpassed by…..

New York Comic Con (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images) /

12. Lillie

Lillie, of course! At the beginning of the Sun Moon era, Lillie was afraid to even be around Pokemon. By the end, she had accomplished much as a trainer, helped the return of multiple legendary Pokemon and reunited her family.

Initially, Lillie began to come out of her comfort zone because two friends helped her along the way more than any. Ash and the mysterious Pokemon Cosmog. She had already adopted Snowy, the Vulpix who had hatched out of the egg she had been watching over but was still struggling to face her fears. Seeing Lillie grow into someone, like Sophocles, who could use Z-moves alongside Snowy and face off against her brother in the Pokemon League.

Neither Lillie nor Sophocles are members of the group because of their elite skills as a trainer. They are part of the group because they are elite friends. She helped save the world multiple times as a member of the Ultra Guardians. She joined forces with Lunala, Solgaleo, and Ash to save her mother after she had been possessed by an Ultra Beast. As the series was coming to an end, she awakened the mythical Magearna and will be traveling with her brother Gladion to find her long-lost father.

Pokemon Direct
Pokemon Schild of Nitendo. (Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images) /

11. Cilan

Going back further in time, Cilan is the final travel partner to not make the top 10 historically. Cilan is a Pokemon Connoisseur, something exclusive to the Unova region. He prides himself on his ability to assess the relationship between a Pokemon and their trainer. Then he would help the trainer build that bond.

Furthermore, Cilan is one of three Gym Leaders for the first stop in Unova, Striaton City. The green-haired Cilan is partnered by Pansage. His brother Chili has red hair and is partnered with Pansear and Cress, with blue hair, battles alongside Panpour.  We are introduced to Cilan when he is the judge for Ash’s gym battle and his eventual final opponent. Following his defeat, Cilan decides to join Ash and Iris as they travel around Unova.

Cilan had a goofy personality and excelled as a cook and fisherman for the group throughout their adventures. He eventually added a Dwebble and a Stunfisk to his team, the former later evolving into Crustle. Cilan and Crustle would prove to be a strong team, battling many strong trainers and going up against members of Team Plasma throughout the Black White era. Cilan would go on to travel the world to participate in fishing competitions and learn more about the relationships between Pokemon and trainers.

Pokemon Detective Pikachu activation (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images) /

10. May

May is the first person on this list to develop a bond with Ash nearly as strong as his core group from the beginning.  May excelled as a Pokemon Coordinator and found her niche participating in Contests. Her initial starting Pokemon was Torchic, which would eventually evolve into Combusken and finally Blaziken. She would expand her team along the way.  She caught a Wurmple that would evolve into Silcoon and later Beautifly, as well as Skitty and Munchlax.

After traveling to the Battle Frontier she added an egg that would hatch into Eevee and was given a Squirtle that would finally evolve into Blastoise along the way. She caught a Bulbasaur in Johto that would evolve twice to become a Venasaur and Squirtle would evolve into a Wartortle during her time in this region. Finally, her Eevee evolved into a Glaceon during her time in Sinnoh.

As stated above, May was an accomplished Contest participant where she earned 13 ribbons. Ultimately she attained the title of Top Coordinator. She grew alongside Ash and basically mirrored his progression as a character in the original series, down to the similarities in their Pokemon. She also had great relationships were her younger brother Max and Brock, the consummate travel companion. May started off the journey as a whiny child who did not much care for Pokemon but grew alongside her friends to become an elite Pokemon Coordinator and a fan-favorite character.

Pokemon European International Championships (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images) /

9. Kiawe

During the Sun and Moon era, few trainers brought the fire out of Ash in battle more than Kiawe. Of all the other students at the Pokemon School, Kiawe’s goals aligned most with Ash. They both wanted to be the strongest trainer they could be and trained hard alongside each other to perform the Island Challenge.

While Kiawe was not an active participant in the challenge, by the end of the Sun Moon era he had decided to pursue it fully with the hopes of one day following in his grandfather’s footsteps as an Island Kahuna. Kiawe was the first student in the classroom able to use Z-moves and showed the ability to do so with all of his partner Pokemon. He was introduced to the fans with Charizard, his main ride Pokemon, and Turtonator. Eventually, he added an Alolan Marowak to his team and grew into a formidable trainer in battle.

Kiawe had an outstanding run during the Alola Pokemon League, only losing to Gladion in the final four. Obviously watching Kiawe battle Ash after having to battle Sophocles would have been fun to watch as the rivals clashed, but it was not meant to be. Kiawe may have been the most Ash-like of any character in the series other than the fact that he loved his little sister even more than he loved the idea of being a Pokemon Master.

Pokemon GO Fest (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images) /

8. Serena

While it is popular to ‘ship Misty with Ash and Brock with any new female character, Serena is the character that introduced love to the story. Ending her adventure with a kiss to Ash’s cheek Serena grew a lot alongside Ash, who was clueless most of the time.

Serena’s mom was a famous Rhyhorn racer and for much of the series, Serena is struggling to live up to her mother’s status. She chose to pursue fame and success through Pokemon Contests, which added a fun spin to the series. Whenever the trainers would come upon a new city it was either for Ash to pursue a Gym Challenge or Serena to participate in a Contest.

She did not start off strong in contests as her partner, Fennekin, tripped over her bow and caused them to lose to her rival Shauna. Fennekin and her other Pokemon, Pancham, practiced together to make the next Contest a success and Fennekin eventually evolved into a Braixen. She also eventually added an Eevee to her party.  Braixen and Pancham helped her win her first Princess Key and choreography based on Eevee’s dancing allowed her to win a second.

She lost in her next performance and went to a dance that led to a battle alongside Ash where her Eevee evolved into Sylveon. Not long after this she earned her third and final Princess Key, qualifying her for the Master Class. She would eventually go on to win the Gloire Showcase Master Class earning a battle with the Kalos Queen Aria.  Even though she came up short in this battle she would set the path for her career traveling the world to participate in contests.

Serena was able to comfort Ash following difficult battles and helped him grow into the trainer that would eventually win the Alola League in the next region. She had met him in Kanto when they were children and getting to join her long-lost friend on this journey made this pairing special. Ash is typically clueless so watching him grow alongside Serena was a nice change of pace for our hero.

Pokemon GO Fest (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images) /

Tie – 6. Mallow and Lana

These two are essentially inseparable as characters and make sense to make the list together. Mallow and Lana are introduced to us together and while they have unique personalities the pair of them bring so much positivity to the collection of characters in Sun and Moon.

Mallow is a cook who helps at her family’s restaurant and brings menu versatility to them so that they can better serve Pokemon. She started off the show with Bounsweet which eventually evolved all the way up to Tsareena and eventually added the Mythical Pokemon Shaymin. Her mentor for cooking for Pokemon was Oranguru, which earns her a lot of points with this author.

Lana was more of a competitive trainer than her friend and brought much levity to the story. She had a seemingly dark sense of humor as well as a strong relationship with Mallow and her younger twin sisters. Watching her Popplio grow into a strong and confident Primarina mirrored Lana’s growth alongside Ash and the rest of the class. Adding Eevee to her team later in the show helped her grow even more.

Watching Mallow and Lana compete against each other in the Pokemon League was a testament to how inseparable they really were. Both were achieving their dreams alongside the rest of their friends and truly centered the group. Naturally, they are inseparable.

Pokemon Go (Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images) /

5. Clemont

While I have heard he is somewhat polarizing, Clemont was a great character for me and really made the XYZ era enjoyable. Hearing him exclaim “The future is now thanks to science” immediately puts a smile on your face and watching Ash get his mind blown every time was truly amusing.

Clemont revealed himself at the Lumiose Gym Leader in the middle of their adventure, something he had left behind because it took away from his time working on his inventions. He entrusted the gym to Clembot, a robot version of himself that he had invented, but took over to battle Ash when the time was right.

Including the Pokemon that he left behind at the gym, Clemont has a rather eclectic group. He leaves his Magnemite, Magneton, and Helioptile with Clembot, and the latter has evolved into Heliolisk. He gives his Dedenne to his younger sister Bonnie. He caught a Bunnelby while traveling and he becomes a valuable member of the group. He adopts Luxio at the Power Plant after reuniting with him from his childhood and helps it grow strong and evolve into Luxray. Finally, his most mischievous partner is the Chespin he is given by Professor Sycamore. Chespin regularly argues with Serena’s Pancham as the two develop a rivalry but overall is very playful and mainly is interested in snacks.

While Bonnie ranked very low on this list, Clemont’s relationship with his sister makes him that much better of a character.  He is loyal and caring to all, but especially Bonnie. He goes out of his way to look out for her and they work on his inventions together.

Clemont is part of what is great about Pokemon. He is more than just a trainer, a gym leader or an inventor. He brings love and humor to the series every time he is on the screen.

Pokemon (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images) /

4. Dawn

In terms of strongest trainer in the series, Dawn comes as close to Ash as her friend Iris from the Unova era. Impressively, she is also a diverse competitor, as showcased by her Coordinator career. While her career in contests started off slowly due to overconfidence, by the end of the series she had grown into her own and was a truly splendid trainer.

Dawn is most known for her Piplup, a character in itself that likes to fight with Ash’s Oshawott. Piplup is proud and independent but learns to love Dawn dearly. It also specifically resists evolving, making it similar to Ash and his Pikachu.

Even though this is Dawn’s most well-known Pokemon it is far from her only one. She caught a Buizel that she eventually traded to Ash for Aipom. Aipom grew alongside her and evolved into Ambipom. She also caught a Buneary, a Pachirisu and a Swinub. Swinub, in particular, had an interesting adventure, eventually evolving into a Mamoswine that was not ready to listen to Dawn for some of her contests. Eventually, Dawn earns its trust and they became a stellar team.

The final two members of her team were part of some of her most stellar competitive pairings. Cyndaquil and its Flame Wheel became a staple of her performances and Togekiss was one of her strongest battlers. Dawn and Ash became great friends throughout their journey, sharing many a high-five. At the end of the day, very few trainers accomplished as much in the series as Dawn.

Pokemon GO Fest (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images) /

3. Misty

Simply said, the Cerulean City Gym Leader is an icon. She is one of the main people that fans think of when they think of the anime. Going back to when her bike was ruined by Pikachu and Ash, Misty has been around since the very beginning.

Misty is one of the trainers in the series who actually was friends with Ash that had earned victories against him and had a variety of Pokemon through the life of the series. She joined Ash with Goldeen, Staryu, and Starmie and shortly after caught Horsea and Psyduck.  Psyduck was one of the first pure comic relief additions to the show after Brock and made Misty’s life much harder. Misty caught Poliwag in the Orange Islands and would later see it evolve into Poliwhirl and then Politoed, my personal favorite Pokemon. She caught a Corsola in Johto and a Luvdisc in Hoenn.

Two other important developments happened in Hoenn. Misty caught a Gyarados who was unruly and made her face her fears. With the help of her other Pokemon and her own perseverance, she proved herself worthy of Gyarados and cemented herself as the Cerulean Gym Leader. She would go on to Mega Evolve the Gyarados when she visited Ash in Alola.

Finally, Misty hatched two Pokemon. The second one was Azurill, which is quite cute but will not measure up to her first, and the shows first, baby Pokemon. Misty introduced the world to Togepi and immediately fell in love with her new partner. Togepi would eventually evolve into Togetic in Hoenn and stayed with a collection of Togepi in a bittersweet moment.

Misty is a true Water Pokemon master and while she is not the top Gym Leader on this list she is the most accomplished.  The next two left their post for other things while Misty owned this role after her adventure and made Cerulean City, and her friends, proud.

Pokemon Go (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images) /

2. Iris

Another trainer who decided to master a type while begin capable of taking down Ash, Iris was a great travel partner for Ash and Cilan. Things may have been rocky at times, as the two kids argued often but they became fantastic friends.

While trying to become a Dragon-type Master Iris did not limit herself just to Dragons. She often battled with her Excadrill, famously defeating Ash. Emolga, who liked to avoid battles and be lazy, also claimed quite a few victories. That being said she did have three Dragon-types. We were introduced to Iris with her Axew at the beginning of the Black White era. She eventually caught a Dragonite. Once it began respecting her they became a powerful duo.

She overcame her childhood failure alongside this team and narrowly lost to Drayden, the Dragon-type Gym Leader from her home town. While she was not victorious she proved herself worth and attained her destined title of Opelucid City Gym Leader.

After this, she traveled to Johto to battle other Dragon Masters and caught her final Dragon, Gible. Iris may have grown more than any character throughout her time in the series. She went from a green trainer at the beginning of the series to an accomplished gym leader and successful traveler. This growth alone puts her close to the top of the list.

Pikachu character (Photo by Daniel Sims/Getty Images) /

1. Brock

It had to be Brock. It was always going to be Brock. There was really never a consideration for anyone else. Brock traveled with Ash in Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh and visited him in Alola. He is a strong trainer, a great cook, a breeder and a lover of all women.

Brock is hopeless in the world of love and watching him fall over and over again is funny every time. He is loyal to his many siblings, as seen when he comes back and reclaims the Pewter City Gym from his mother.

Few trainers have more partners throughout the series. We are introduced to him with an Onix and Geodude and soon after he adds Zubat and Vulpix to the travel team. In Johto, he catches Pineco and later evolves it into a Forretress. While in Johto he also evolves Zubat twice into Golbat and finally Crobat. The time in Hoenn sees him catches a Mudkip and Lotad, the latter of which evolves all the way up to Ludicolo while in this country.

While visiting the Battle Frontier both his Mudkip and Onix evolve into Marshtomp and Steelix respectively. Brock also catches a Bonsly in this area. In Sinnoh, his Bonsly evolves into Sudowoodo and the Happiny he hatches evolves into Chansey. He catches a Croagunk here and is given a Comfey in Alola.

Also in Alola Brock shows that he has learned Mega Evolution showing off his Mega Steelix. Brock is the true definition of a friend and I can safely say the series would not be nearly as good without him. But this is subjective (theoretically).  We would love to hear your rankings!