Like a lot of you Poké-fans, I’ve been here since the very start of the phenomenon. I remember my copy of Pokémon Blue arriving, and playing it to death on my chunky-ass yellow house brick of an original Game Boy. I remember cursing like a sailor at Kangaskhan in the Safari Zone, when the damn thing refused to be caught. Not even when I repeatedly hammered up on the d-pad and B, which my buddy Paul assured me worked. Damn it, Paul.
I remember my high school trying to ban Pokémon cards, which only resulted in a clandestine black market for them like nothing you’ve ever seen. The planning for the Great Train Robbery had nothing on that dude from your math class, trying to give his friend his lunch money for a Hitmonchan card without the teachers seeing. My favourite memory of these times, though, was watching the Pokémon cartoon after school. Ash was, interestingly, exactly who I wanted to be when I grew up, even if he was only ten-years-old.
My young heart wanted what it wanted, and what it wanted most was this little guy’s life. Who wasn’t desperate for Pokémon to exist in real life?
As a discerning adult, though, I look back at Ash’s adventures the same way I would a terrible hairstyle from back in the day. Hindsight sees all, knows all, and says "Ash was a dumbass, wasn’t he?" Let’s take a look at 15 reasons why.
As the old meme goes, when Ash turns his hat backwards, the brownest of the brown stuff is about to hit the fan. But why? Why does it mean that?
Granted, when Pokémon became a thing, and the game/show was released, this was a socially acceptable thing to do. I’ve looked through far too many old family photos of myself with my baseball cap backward — so I’m part of the problem for sure.
Nearly one thousand episodes later, though, Ash is still doing this. He may live in a bizarre Peter Pan-esque world where it’s constantly the mid-to-late nineties, but there’s a limit to this sort of thing. We’ve got to have some kind of standards, here. We all have friends with annoying little mannerisms, and Ash’s is the hat thing.
In the main series Pokémon games, I never quite understood the logistics of the PC box. Sure, they’re a safe storage space for your excess Pokémon beyond the six you can carry at a time, but what does that entail? Are they happy in that odd little cyberspace? Is it like a tiny utopian Matrix world where everyone’s weird Poké-dreams come true?
I’d like to think it is. My question then, Ash: why not just leave them there if you’re not going to use them for battle? I get that you set Butterfree… free for its own good (the poor guy really needed to get laid), but what of the others? All that weirdly-weird ghost stuff you went through to get Haunter, only to just give it to Sabrina?
Again, I can kinda sorta see where the writers are going with this. After all, Ash is the lead character and a hero to many. Pokémon is about overcoming adversity and growing as a person with your ‘mon by your side. You can’t do that if you’re just steamrolling through all opponents like you’re a veteran Pokémon player on a speedrun or something. You’ve got to get your sorry butt beaten on occasion.
You’ve also, being the protagonist and all, got to move the darn story along. So, with a combination of those two factors, there’ll be BS moments where you find yourself awarded gym badges in less-than-legit ways (like they’re just participation prizes or something). Brock and Misty, for instance, took pity on the poor guy when it came to their badges.
Well, damn. You see why you shouldn’t coddle your little buddy, Brock and Misty? You see now? No good can come of it. This is what can come of it.
Ash was having a bit of a free ride through Kanto up to this point. At the Rock and Water gyms, he got his sparkly trinkets free of charge, like it was just a couple of friends having a bit of a laugh (which is exactly the case, really). As a result of this, when you come up against an enemy who is not playing games, who gives zero effs, you’re going to have a problem.
Lt. Surge’s Raichu is, undoubtedly, in the top 90% of Raichu. That was quite a beating, whichever way you slice it, and one of the worst moments of Ash’s early Poké-career.
Now, we’ve all seen the memes, and pretty damn painful they are too. “We look like a couple!” “Yeah, a couple of best friends!” Ouch. If you’ve been in a similar situation, you know that this sort of feeling is among the toughest a man can experience.
A boy, meanwhile, can be entirely oblivious to it all. Let’s take a look at Ash Ketchum, for instance. Across the series’ many, many damn episodes, he’s had all kinds of ladies to choose from. Misty, May, and everyone in between. Take your pick. Sadly, being ten and all, he can’t quite pick up on how this all works, leaving him to always be the BFF and never the BF.
Now, if you’ve ever played competitive Pokémon, you’ll know that official rules are darn strict with their use of legendaries. Whether we’re talking straight-up legendary Pokémon or mythical ‘mon (a separate term generally used for special events like Meloetta and Keldeo), there’s a very strict limit and banlist governing their use.
In the anime, Tobias isn’t fazed by any of this. Throughout Sinnoh, he effortlessly collected all eight badges by using a Darkrai, which presumably left the gym leaders’ Pokémon crushed into sad, tear-sodden flecks of spam. In the semi-finals of the Lily of the Valley Conference, Ash barely managed to defeat the Darkrai, only for Tobias to pull a Latios out of his butt as well (which just defeated the rest of Ash’s team, fainting itself in the process). Coming so close and losing to this sort of thing really is the worst — as all Pokémon players know.
Now, we could be going one of two ways here. The first option, with our glass half full, is that Ash has a super powerful Light Ball strategy in mind. In the games, this Pikachu-exclusive item doubles Pikachu’s offenses, making it a real glass cannon in terms of its power and as-effective-as-a-one-legged-kitten-in-a-coma defence stats. That kind of tactic, sadly, seems a little beyond our hero, making it somewhat unlikely.
The other possibility is that he’s going full scrub mode, and pandering to Pikachu’s status as the ‘mascot’ of the series. After all, its little rat face is much cuter than Raichu's. Damn it, Ash, did you not witness the power of Lt. Surge’s Raichu? Get with the program, dude, and remove that Everstone already.
Now, over the years, there have been a lot of things we’ve watched Pokémon for. The far-too-melodramatic battles, for one; bringing the universe to life in a way that the simple presentation of the Pokémon games couldn’t hold a candle to. James in drag. Cameos from huge and terrifying legendary Pokémon (which, again, weren’t quite the same on a tiny Game Boy screen). Team Rocket blasting off again. All of these things defined so many childhoods.
On the other hand, if you come to the anime expecting Grade A character development, you’re in the wrong place buddy boy. Ash Ketchum seems to exist in a bizarre parallel world Neverland with Ratatta everywhere. Like real-world child stars being forced into corsets and such, this is all in the name of milking a little more money from more seasons and merchandise.
Once again, I’m trying to understand here, Ash. I’m trying to empathize. I totally get that, with new fans joining the Pokéverse and starting to watch the show with each new region, they’ve got to have a jumping off point. They’ve got to be able to follow just what in the name of hell is going on. So, like the guy who teaches us how to catch a Pokémon with every new generation of the games, you’ve got to go back to basics repeatedly as well.
It’s super frustrating, though, to watch you magically become an amateur again each time. In the Kanto/Johto era, you can be forgiven for your noobishness, but this long into the run, there are certain things you should be able to take for granted.
Case in point: Ash’s first battle in the Unova region. By this point, you’d expect our main man to have some kind of rudimentary Pokémon knowledge, wouldn’t you? Sadly, at the time of the battle with that Snivy, he was again subject to that strange amnesia he seems to develop on a regular basis.
As fans will remember, Pikachu was ‘shorted out’ at this point, having been hit by Zekrom’s lightning. This rendered its electrical attacks useless, though Ash repeatedly tried to make ‘chu use them anyway. How did this end? He took a beating, that’s how. At this point, his veteran Pikachu should have stomped the Snivy with no issues, but hopeless trainers will screw you over like that. Don’t worry, Pikachu, it wasn’t your fault.
Now, I know. I totally get it. The show is entirely different from the games; the same mechanics don’t apply, all kinds of poetic license-taking screwery was going on. When it comes to movies and shows, this is usually the case. You’ve got to accept that some utterly dumbass-looking flashy things are going to happen, just for the sake of being more cinematic and dramatic.
While I’m definitely on board with that sort of thing, let’s not forget that Ash Ketchum doesn’t usually come out of it looking very good. What in the name of Satan’s scrote was ‘aim for the horn’ about? I’ve no idea where that business came from. We’re talking Captain Jack Sparrow levels of genius/madness here, and I’m not quite sure how to feel about that.
The fault, as I say, is Ash’s. With the arrival of generation seven, Pokémon’s type chart has become super complex. Regardless, lesson one at trainer school should be mastering it. How can you expect to become the very best (like no one ever was) if you haven’t memorized the weaknesses of Poison/Dark types (there’s only one) and all those other intricate combinations?
Ash, meanwhile, happily throws the Electric-type Pikachu into battle against Rhydon, which would by all accounts flatten him. Still, plot shenanigans bailed him out with a little casual horn-aiming. There’s nothing quite like being rewarded for your dumbassery.
Now, granted, the anime doesn’t adhere to these rules as strictly as the game (remember that Pokémon Generations episode where a Grass move took out the four times resistant Crobat?), but this sort of thing really rankles with me.
As we’ve seen so far, Ash Ketchum is no almighty perfect trainer. OP, nerf plz? I think not. The little guy is a naïve, enthusiastic rookie, much like the player characters of the games. He has some notable achievements as a trainer, certainly, but a heaping helping of luck and/or charity helped him along the path every step of the way.
As we’ve seen, all of the knowledge and experience he achieves in one region seems to disappear when he arrives at the next. So, sadly, do most of the Pokémon he’s painstakingly trained, leaving him with just his stalwart companion Pikachu. Professor Oak could raise himself a private army with all of the ‘mon Ash has left behind with him, which seems a little short-sighted given his track record of winging it.
Any anime enthusiast knows that there’s no more melodramatic form of entertainment anywhere. Depending on the show, there’ll be more bullets flying around than in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s entire filmography, epilepsy-inducing light shows everywhere and brutally ridiculous slow-mo hand-to-hand combat scenes. Anime is big, brash and unapologetically over the top, which is just the way we like it.
Anime enthusiasts will also be familiar with the debate surrounding the Pokémon series, and whether it qualifies as such. Whatever the case, in terms of drama, it sure does fit right in. This is a series where a single battle can stretch across multiple episodes, drawing out every moment. Our protagonist Ash is a huge drama queen to boot, befitting his cute-little-dude personality, but starting to grate when we want to get a move on and actually progress the story.
That’s right, friends. We’re looking at the dark side of Ash, the consummate charming ladies’ man he wishes he could be.
As rule #1 of the Internet states, if it exists, there will be memes about it. From Overly-Attached Girlfriend to Shia LaBeouf’s motivational speeches (Just DO IT!) and Everything’s Fine Dog, the whole range of human experience and emotion is thoroughly covered by the meme-makers of the web.
When it comes to Pokémon, the most prominent Ash Ketchum-related meme would probably be the sleezy Ay Gurl. The setup is simple: A remarkably Ash-y looking dude in his trademark hat makes cheap smutty jokes about Onixes, Poké balls and using Harden. Throw in a few uses of Pound, a couple of Great Balls and you’re looking at Ash in a whole different light.