Pokémon may have started as a single RPG on the Gameboy, but it has become one of the biggest franchises in the world. It has become a true multimedia behemoth with an animated show, movies, spin-off games, a trading card game, and tons of other merchandise. There are few other franchises which exist that can compare themselves to the popularity of Pokémon. Just when you think people are starting to forget, they come up with something new like Pokémon Go or the new games on the Nintendo Switch. Then everyone’s lining up for the latest product.
The Pokémon games focus mainly on your journey through the fictional world. There are some side characters, but you don’t interact with them very often. And when you do, it’s very simple and of little consequence. Which is why the animated show is so important. It breathes life into these static characters and makes them engaging. We get to see them with the backdrop of an actual storyline. The Pokémon animated show has been running for over two decades and is still going. The show follows the main protagonist, Ash Ketchum, as he journeys through all of the regions to become a master trainer. Along the way, he meets plenty of other people.
Today’s list is about those people. We’re going to rank twenty of the main characters from the Pokémon animated series. We’ll be considering their personality, story arc and even their team of Pokémon. Naturally, some iconic characters will miss out but that’s okay. With so many characters to choose, narrowing it down to a select group was always going to result in some rejection.
20 Jesse, James, And Meowth
This trio is pretty much always together and essentially make up one whole when they are on-screen. At first, they brought some humor and fun moments into the show. James and Meowth also have some nicely done back stories which were interesting to watch.
But after a while, you start to lose your patience.
Team Rocket are constantly interrupting the flow of every episode. They will show during the middle of a gym battle or some other exciting event. There’s only so much of their antics the viewers can handle. They would’ve been much better had they shown up occasionally instead of every episode.
19 Professor Oak
None of the Professors are interesting and are only there to give a starter Pokémon to the new trainers. Professor Oak is a recurring character but he’s not very interesting. But he’s the best Professor in the show, mainly because the other barely get any screen time
As a supposed expert on Pokémon, Oak is decent. He seems to have a lot of knowledge and even helps Ash by storing his extra Pokémon. We don’t see much of him except for the occasional reminder of his existence. Gary seems to have surpassed his grandfather in the job of Pokémon Professor.
May’s younger brother and one of Ash’s companions in the Hoenn region. Max is an annoying little brat who always acted much smarter than he actually is. His worst moment was the way he reacted after his father, the gym leader of Petalburg City, lost to Ash.
Max stole all of the badges and refused to give them to Ash. It took a lot of convincing from everyone to finally get Max to behave rationally. This is only the surface of his irritating behavior. It’s a good thing we haven’t seen more of him after the end of the Hoenn arc.
She’s Clemont’s younger sister and always has a Dedenne by her side. Bonnie is okay. She's meant to be the cute little sister who adds some charm to the main cast. There’s really nothing unique or special about her though. She’s just there most of the time and there are only a few episodes focusing on her.
Still, they could’ve done much worse than this.
At this point, the characters in the Pokémon animated show amount to nothing more than cobbled up cliches and tropes. It’s not ideal but seems to be working for the show.
Clemont is a gym leader from the Kalos region who joins Ash on his adventure. He’s also a very boring trope. Clemont is able to make a lot of ridiculous inventions and machines. However, these works of art end up failing or making the situation worse than it was before. This happens all the time.
After Brock’s departure, the Pokémon animated series really struggled to create a character who has the same charm and memorable dialogue. We also get these half-baked and mostly boring characters who don’t contribute much to the show. Clemont isn’t a horrible character, but he’s not that good either.
Tracey pretty much falls into the same boat as Cilan. He doesn’t really bring anything unique to the show that Brock didn’t already do better. It’s cool that he’s a great artist and has a lot of knowledge about Pokémon. However, Brock was also very informative and had plenty of advice to give about battling.
Tracey is given less time to prove himself than Cilan. After one season of adventuring with Ash through the Orange Islands, Tracey is hardly seen again, aside from cameos. He continues to work as Professor Oak’s assistant while the fans continue to forget about him.
The Brock replacement from the Unova arc. He’s a chef and a gym leader, letting him easily fulfill the role of Brock. Except for one thing, the comedy. Cilan doesn’t have the same charm as Brock which leads to unfunny jokes and moments. He’s probably a great cook and trainer, but it’s just not the same without Brock.
What made Brock likable was the comedic relief he brought to the table. He did have his epic moments and was a source of comfort for others. But it was that contrast of funny and serious that made him work so well. Cilan doesn’t quite capture that.
With Iris, they decided to change things up a bit. She doesn’t participate in contests like the other female companions. She is more interested in Pokémon battling. She also battles Ash a few times, so why is she below the others? Her battling Ash should be some sort of sign of a good companion.
The problem is that Iris is not a very memorable character. It’s not entirely her fault, the Unova arc was also a little on the boring side. It just felt stale when compared to the other seasons. Good thing that the Pokémon XYZ season revitalized the show. Pokémon Sun and Moon also seems to be keeping up that momentum.
Dawn ends up being quite similar to May as she also takes part in contests. In fact, the dynamic between her and Ash is exactly the same. They take turns participating in a gym or contest, pushing each other to do their best. Well, if it ain’t broke, then why fix it? It worked the first time, so no harm in trying again.
The problems is that too much of the show feels like repetitive content.
You might get a sense of deja vu as you watch Ash and Dawn take part in gyms and contests respectively. Dawn is still an okay character, but she just happens to also be more of the same.
May was a good attempt at re-creating what Misty brought to the show. She was made more interesting by the fact that she also participated in something, Pokémon contests. This gave viewers something exciting to look forward to other than Ash’s gym battles all the time.
Having May participate in the contests adds more depth to the story. Now, we also have another character with a defined goal who is trying her best to achieve it. It also adds some friendly competition between her and Ash to see who can reach their destination first. It all ends with contest battle between May and Ash, which ends in a draw.
It has become customary to have a female support character in every new region. Serena is Ash’s companion during the Kalos arc. She also happens to be one of Ash’s childhood friends from Kanto which is a nice bit of world building.
While she isn’t as memorable as Misty, Serena does add more personality to the role of the female companion. The other in between her and Misty felt a little flat and weren’t very interesting. Serena takes part in Pokémon contests just like May and Dawn did during their adventures. Hopefully, Serena makes a cameo sooner or later.
The main character of the Pokémon animated series. He’s a solid protagonist but can get very boring after a while. There isn’t much growth in his character which seems to reset every time he ventures out to a new region. He also doesn’t seem to get any better at Pokémon battling.
Still, Ash is very iconic among fans and easily recognizable. He did somewhat redeem himself during the Kalos arc where he performed admirably at the final tournament. While he didn’t win, second place in such a huge event is still awesome. But maybe it’s time to end Ash’s story and make a new character to keep things fresh.
The other original companion and also a very important character. She started following Ash since he stole his bike. But after a while, they became good friends and she no longer held a grudge about the bike. Or at least, that’s what we’re led to believe.
Misty is also a gym leader like Brock and has been with Ash since the beginning. She also had to leave and ended up taking over the gym permanently. Misty walking with her Togepi has become such an iconic scene in Pokémon. It’s hard not to like the character, which is why we have her here at number eight.
One of the original supporting characters and still a fan favorite. Brock brought plenty of comedic relief to the team. At the same time, he acted as the big brother character among his group. He was always there to cook a meal, take care of the Pokémon, or give his friends a push in the right direction.
Watching Brock and Misty leave was one of the most emotional moments of the show.
Which is why bringing him back in the most recent episodes was such a great idea. Fans love it when their old favorites return for a cameo. And Brock was no different. Oh yeah, he’s also a gym leader who takes care of his many siblings. What an awesome dude!
The ultimate rival for Ash and the many people who played Pokémon Red/Blue. Gary is a total jerk who has no respect for anyone other than himself. At first, he is constantly taunting Ash and seems to be one step ahead at all times. The ten-year-old also had his own cheering squad for some reason.
Anyway, Gary is high on the list because he actually grows over time. Something not commonly seen among the characters from the show. He pursues his dreams of becoming a Pokémon professor like his grandfather. It’s great that Gary amounted to more than just remaining the bully character.
We aren’t talking about the one from the games, rather the Red who featured in the animated shorts, Pokémon: The Origins. This was a re-telling of the original video games and follows Red as attempts to capture all 151 Pokémon while fighting Team Rocket. It’s a great mini-series and is a must-watch for fans.
Here, Red is portrayed as a more competent version of Ash. You still get the rashness, like when Red tried to catch his Charizard. However, Red actually grows as a trainer and seems to get better with time. Also, Red actually tried to catch every Pokémon, which was the whole idea behind the franchise in the first place!
4 Sir Aaron
We’re taking a small departure from the animated show and heading into movie territory. Specifically, we’re talking about Lucario and the Mystery of Mew. This is a great movie and from a time when Pokémon movies were still awesome. Sir Aaron is a character from the past during the times of war.
That’s right, people and Pokémon fought against each other in battle.
Sir Aaron is a brave hero who wanted to put an end to the war. He cared deeply about his friend, Lucario, and did his best to keep him away from the fight. Eventually, Sir Aaron sacrificed himself to save Mew. A feat that Lucario would replicate in the distance future.
Lance is unique in that he was both an Elite Four member and a champion. The dragon master is a great character who oozes coolness. He has a cape and flaming red hair just to make sure everyone gets the message. Lance plays a decent role in the story, both in the games and animated show.
His Pokémon team consists of all dragon-types. As awesome as that sounds, dragons have been nerfed due to the introduction of the fairy-type. These pixies are super-effective against dragons and immune to them as well. Lance’s army of dragons was once an amazing feat, but now is an invitation to Moonblast.
Another champion, this time from the Hoenn region. The champions tend to be pretty awesome people, but that’s not always the case. Anyway, Steven just barely misses out on the top spot here. He’s just as cool as Cynthia and is even a formidable foe in the video games.
The main difference between the two is their choice of Pokémon. Steven’s team consists of all Rock-types (with some dual types). His team lacks the same balance and variety which Cynthia has. So, because of that, Steven is relegated to the second spot. Which is still a great position to be in.
The champion of Sinnoh and one of the best Pokémon trainers in the show. She displayed her skill when she demolished Paul, one of Ash’s rivals, with only a Garchomp. Even in the video games, Cynthia is one of the hardest in-game battles in the series’ history. Her team consists of powerhouses like Garchomp, Lucario, Togekiss, and Spiritomb.
It’s too bad she doesn’t play a major role in the show. She does get some other appearances after the end of the Sinnoh arc. Despite never playing a major role, she is still the coolest character from the show. She fits all of our criteria perfectly, making her the best choice for number one.