Pokemon The anime debuted in Japan in 1997, so 2022 will mark 25 years of Ash’s ambition to be the best. Most fans found out this weekend that Ash finally took home the top prize in Japan’s latest episodes, but why did it take more than two decades to win?
Anime can be created for a variety of reasons; some of them are adaptations of the popular manga series, for example Dragon Ball, and simply retell the story in animated form, adding music, color and movement. Some are created like anime first, how Cowboy Bebop, and is designed to tell one story from start to finish. But there is another type of anime that is not usually held in high esteem, and that is promotional anime. TV series like Pokemon not created because it’s an adaptation of a popular manga, or because there’s some searing story that needs to be told; in Pokemon the anime, like so many others, exists to expand the reach of the entire Pokemon franchise by educating kids about what Pokemon are and encouraging sales of toys, plush toys, and yes, original video games.
While a series made primarily for promotion is usually looked down upon, it is by no means less artistic at its core, and such series can be just as good. After all, Cowboy Bebop was created to sell spaceship toys; it’s not that different after all. Pokémon, however, was such a phenomenon at the time of its release that everything associated with that early era became instantly iconic – Pikachu, Charizard, and even Ash himself. Ash and Pokemon anime generally enjoyed wild popularity wherever the series debuted. It was originally planned that the series would have about 80 episodes, which would take about a year and a half, and would culminate in the Indigo League tournament. However, due to the Porygon takeover incident, the airing schedule was delayed by 4 months and the first Pokémon movie, Mewtwo strikes back, has also been significantly pushed back. The incident made Ash and the anime a touchstone of pop culture parodied in the show from SimpsonWith to South Park.
Ash got too big to win
Now that Ash has become as iconic among anime heroes as Dragon BallGoku or Sailor Moon, it suddenly made no sense to end the anime with the Indigo League. The delay pushed back the end of the League arc to 1999, close enough to the scheduled releases of Gold and Silver (November 1999 in Japan), so it made sense to just…keep Ash in the lead. It was popular but still didn’t technically hit its mark, and the anime had to have 10 months between Ash’s League battle and the release of the Johto games, so pokemon The Orange Islands arc was born to fill time and tease Johto. They even gave Ash a GS Ball, a mysterious plot item that could theoretically be connected to Johto’s Celebi story arc. From that point on, Ash’s status as a cult and now world-traveling hero meant that he was the only main character; if he succeeded, the show would end, so Ash couldn’t win even though he always got close.
After 25 years, the powers that be may feel it’s time for a change, and the easiest way to spice up the series is to let Ash achieve his goal and focus on someone else. With anime like the Mega Evolution special, Pokemon proved that other main characters can take the reins, so it’s finally time to let Ash win and retire as champion.
Next: How Weezing and Arbok became villains in the early days of Pokémon