Ash Ketchum has always appeared to be a happy, passionate and driven go-getter with great depths of humanity and empathy. But what if I told you that Ash was really a troubled child who never got the guidance he needed to become a well-adjusted member of society? According to animated series creator, Takeshi Shudo, released two books in 1999 that explore the past of the chipper little trainer in the snazzy snapback. And his past is horrifying.
Ash’s father is never around, because he abandoned the family to become a Pokémon trainer, leaving Delia Ketchum, that’s Ash’s mom, to raise a child alone, full of resentment at the father, but unable to explain to Ash why his dream of becoming a Pokémon master fills her with such dread. Indeed, his dream to become a master, might be an avenue by which Ash could finally meet his father and impress him, but this, of course, cannot come to pass.
Delia wasn’t able to provide as well for Ash as she would have liked, which led to his being a rebellious child who ignored his studies in favor of causing mischief. She even used to cry to get him to stop misbehaving and be quiet when he was a baby. He was also bullied, and so mostly played alone. This trauma combo is probably why Ash feels he absolutely must comfort anybody who is upset. So now that I’ve got you all depressed, let’s show you how this tragic past makes Ash do some nasty stuff.
15 Ash Catches Wild Animals And Makes Them Fight
First, the entire concept of Pokémon training is evil. In real life, when people train animals to battle against one another for fame and profit, it’s called dog fighting, cock fighting, monkey knife fighting, and it’s immoral as well as illegal. Ash is a ten-year-old who comes from a legacy of these “trainers” (yes, both Ash’s father and grandfather engaged in this disturbing sport), and dreams of nothing less than being the greatest in the world at capturing myriad monsters and raising them to commit heinous acts of violence against one another.
It’s probably a good thing that Ash is a horrible trainer, because his affection for the creatures overwhelms his ambition, but don’t let that affection fool you. All trainers are scum. Even D-bag At Large Gary Oak eventually gets out of the game and becomes a teacher. Ash is in it for life.
14 Ash Steals Other Trainers' Pokemon
Do you remember how Ash got his Charmander? This idiot Damian left it out in the middle of the woods, because all trainers are scum, and Ash saves it from dying. Then he goes and helps Charmander spit fire in Damian’s face. Then Brock casually tells Ash that Charmander is essentially his for the taking. Charmander seems pretty happy about this to be honest, but remember, its only history was in an abusive partnership. Ash doesn’t consider the ramifications of taking in an emotionally damaged Pokémon, but it would be “a great addition to the team.” He doesn’t even ask what Charmander wants, now that it’s free.
And what do you know? Charmander quickly evolves into Charizard and is a tough, aloof, and defiant dragon. Ash has no idea how to handle its personality, and it frequently attacks him when he asks it to fight. It has no respect for him because now that it is grown up, it realizes what Ash has done: stolen its liberty.
13 Ash Abandons His Own Pokemon All The Time
Metapod, Butterfree, Pidgeot, Lapras, Squirtle, Charmander, Bulbasaur, Primeape, Raticate, Aipom, Beedrill, Kingler, Muk, Snorlax, Heracross, Bayleef, Quilava, Totodile, Noctowl, Donphan, Swellow, Sceptile, Corphish, Torkoal, Glalie, Staraptor, Torterra, Infernape, Buizel, Gliscor, Gible, Unfezant, Oshawott, Pignite, Snivy, Scraggy, Leavanny, Palpitoad, Boldore, Krookodile, and 30 Tauros. That’s the full list of Pokémon that Ash has taken into his care, either by ripping them out of the wild or by other nefarious means, and eventually left behind. That’s 69 (hah) Pokémon that Ash has decided he couldn’t care for. You may recall that he has only caught about 80 different species of Pokémon.
Ash seems to have a complex about this. When he and Pikachu stumble upon a herd (shock? rat-king?) of other Pikachu, Ash sees that Pikachu is excited to see others of its kind. He then immediately twists this as a personal rejection and assumes that, just because Pikachu is having fun, it means he should leave it. That’s sick.
12 Ash Trades Away His Friends
That’s right, if he isn’t straight up leaving Pokémon behind, he’s bartering them for others he likes more. The whole idea of trading Pokémon should disgust Ash, who claims that his personal bond with his beast-slaves are what make him an incredible trainer. But basically the minute he hears about trading, he’s down. Not only is he down, he is down to trade his Butterfree, which evolved from the first Pokémon he ever caught, for a Raticate. This is like trading an heirloom ruby-encrusted bracelet for one of those Livestrong bracelets.
Ash realizes he made a bad deal and eventually manages to trade back. You’d think he’d learned his lesson, but not only does he go on to trade several Pokémon in future episodes, he ends up releasing Butterfree not long after, because it has a crush on a pink Butterfree and Ash, even if he is evil, isn’t a heartless monster. Butterfree love, man.
11 Ash Is Mean To Pokémon
As if the cruelty of fighting wasn’t enough on its own, Ash also happens to be a bratty kid who often makes frankly rude comments about Pokémon. Sure he doesn’t know it, but not meaning harm is never an excuse for causing it. When Ash first comes across a Gloom, he loudly comments on its odor and covers his nose. This isn’t even some wild Gloom that might not know to be offended though; this is a Gloom that is part of a parfumerie, a very high class perfume business in a metropolitan city.
Ash’s big mouth gets him in all sorts of trouble, but only other humans get to explain to him how he’s being offensive. Pokémon just have to hear this mindless abuse and let it sink in, or spray Ash in the face with some foul smelling spores.
10 Ash Is Mean To Women
In the same episode that Ash demoralizes that Gloom, he tells a group of women, at their place of work, that perfume is for suckers and women only use it to turn men into zombies. Even after Brock and Misty try to explain how much of a jerk he’s being, Ash goes on to say the same thing at the gym where he intends to get his next badge. He discounts the idea that a woman can be a good trainer if she is also good at maintaining her appearance, and really hurts Misty’s feelings in the process.
You’d think Ash would have learned his lesson, but only TWO EPISODES LATER, he’s at it again. Misty is excited about the newest fashion makeovers for Pokémon, but Ash can’t with that nonsense. He passive-aggressively comments on Misty’s taste in fashion through the episode. “You think that’s cute?”
9 Ash Is Obsessed With Power
Remember when Ash enrolled his mouse Pokémon in a police training program for dog Pokémon? As if mice and dogs were capable of the same things. Officer Jenny advises him against it, but Ash can’t hear her. He sees the strength and obedience that Growlithe has, and he wants it under his control. He enrolls Pikachu in the academy. Pikachu is super not into it, and neither are Ash’s friends, not even the erstwhile enabler Brock.
Officer Jenny presumably only goes along with the idea to teach Ash a lesson about understanding limits, a lesson she’s been trying to teach Brock every time they meet. Indeed, she puts Ash through the training, saying only a poor trainer will ask a Pokémon to do something he isn’t willing to do. Yet hundreds of episodes later, Ash is still asking Pokémon to engage in recreational physical combat. Lesson missed.
8 Ash Is An Emotional Manipulator
Ash talks his way into and out of anything. He knows he’s a horrible trainer, and so he goes about getting what he wants by making his superiors either owe him something, or simply pity him. In Kanto, Ash only earned three of his badges by actually battling the gym leader and winning. Brock just gave him a badge for pretty much doing nothing but being young and clueless. Misty’s sisters give him the badge to piss off Misty, who totally beat him. He tricks a ghost into making a little girl laugh and her daddy gives him the badge. Erika gives him a badge for presenting as a girl and saving the gloom he insulted. Team Rocket drops the Viridian City gym badge as they run away. Two of the others he only won in rematches he talked the gym leaders into offering him. Ash is the Frank Underwood of Pokémon.
7 Ash Lashes Out At His Friends
Part of Ash’s paradox is that he is often quite nice. He’s often yelling at his companions, sure, but that’s what friends do. However, Ash has a particular habit of not sharing when something is bothering him or making him nervous. This is perhaps born out of Ash’s martyrdom complex, and complicated by the fact that he has, in fact, been a martyr on more than one occasion. It causes him to bottle all his emotions and withdraw from his friends. Several times he has lashed out and been unfairly cruel with people who depend on him.
While none of this is quite “evil,” it is really annoying, given that most of the time Ash is running around asking people he barely knows to emotionally confide in him, but can’t ask for help when he needs it.
6 Ash Can Hold A Grudge
Pallet Town is itty bitty. It’s barely a village, and there are very few people who live there. It’s so remote that we know that they haven’t ever produced a Pokémon trainer to crack the top 1000 on the continent. It is therefore no surprise that Ash finds a worthy rival in Gary, a boy his age who, as before, is a major jerk. Gary manages to be a much more efficient trainer than Ash and frequently offers him tips and tricks, like “Hey maybe you should read a book.” Could Gary be kinder to his struggling neighbor? Sure, but Ash sets his blind confidence against Gary’s educated swagger and keeps expecting to win on heart alone. Maybe Ash is the real reason Gary became a teacher, to make sure no more Ash Ketchums happen.
5 Ash Has A Hot Temper
Though not easily stirred to dangerous anger, Ash is very quick to take offense and even has a few triggers. Things that set Ash off are varied, but some of the key ones are: being faced with “know-it-alls,” who probably remind him of Gary and how few books he’s read; having his food stolen or not having food available causes extreme hanger; when Pikachu has gone missing for any reason whatsoever, which is part of a codependent relationship so toxic and messy it would take a whole other article to properly explore.
When May is a few minutes late to join the gang as they head off to the next city, Ash combines his temper with his disrespect for women by yelling at her for being slow, telling her she’s holding them up, and reiterating that he believes caring at all about your appearance is shallow.
4 Ash Is Dangerously Ignorant
Let’s go way back. Ash has wanted for his whole life to be a Pokémon master. When he finally comes of age and gets his first Pokémon, he gets into a scrape that immediately puts its life in severe danger, and doesn’t even know that there are Pokémon centers to help. He doesn’t even understand the basic mechanism of how fighting works: one Pokémon loses when it gets hurt. Meanwhile Pikachu is basically in a coma for the majority of their early time together.
Even after being taught about type advantages and how to battle (something he surely should have studied), Ash continues to make the absolute wrong choice in most of his matches. He leaves his strongest Pokémon out of his lineup in his first tournament. He constantly overestimates his abilities and discounts any strategy whatsoever, which is probably why he’s never won a tournament. It’s a marvel none of his Pokémon have died, honestly.
3 Ash Is A Thief
Oh he just borrowed the bike, you'll say, but Ash is an opportunistic thief who loves nothing more than a quick, destructive joyride. The very first encounter between him and Misty he “borrowed” her bike without her permission and got it completely ruined in an explosion. Misty started following him only because he owes her a new bike. He never paid it back.
Need something bigger? Okay, how about in the banned episode from Indigo League in which Ash steals a speedboat and crashes it into a submarine, sending it out of control and smashing into a dock. Misty asks whose boat it is and Ash blithely says he has no clue. As always, his face looks innocent and naive, but this criminal knows exactly where he gets his kicks.
2 Ash Is Undead
I’m not saying all undead are evil. All I’m saying is, you know, watch yourself. Ash has passed beyond this veil of tears many times, and each time has been more violent than the last, and yet he always manages to come back. Haunter and Ghastly pull his soul out of his body for a night after he’s been crushed by a chandelier. He jumps in the crossfire of Mew and Mewtwo and gets super zapped. He gets eaten by a blob in the Tree of Beginning. He also gets hurled into open space while unconscious, which would cause him to freeze and choke to death.
After all these
near death experiences, Ash has started to show abilities not heard of in human memory, such as the bond phenomenon with Greninja. Who knows what happened to him on the other side. It’s entirely possible that Ash is no longer completely human.
1 Ash's Real Name Is Ashton
Pokémon Black and White: Rival Destinies Episode 4 - Ash Versus the Champion. Alder, the league champion, calls Ash, Ashton and Ashley. While Ash quickly corrects the champion, he looks nervous, sweaty. When Ash dressed as a girl, he said his name was Ashley. Maybe Alder has really struck on something: Ash isn’t a name. Ash is a substance left behind after burning something. What has Ash burned that he is so eager to take on a name that makes more sense in the Dark Souls franchise? Could it be… his past?
This just opens the can of worms. Ketchum’s facade of a naive ten-year-old has been lying to us for years. Why, I saw my first episode of Pokémon almost 20 years ago, and that kid’s still ten? After taking a hard look at the dark side of Ash Ketchum, I only have more questions, and more concerns.