Salutations good PUCLonians and welcome to the very first edition of The Underground Star Spotlight! In case you missed it two weeks ago, we are going to be starting a brand new series here on PUCL. We are going to be doing a little profile and character analysis on our favourite characters in the Pokemon anime. We’re going to be looking at their personality, their relationships, and of course their teams. We’re going to kick off this new series with the original protagonist, Mr. Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town! Because he is the only protagonist (with Pikachu) to stretch across all of the Pokemon seasons/series, I think it is appropriate to spend several articles on him. We can call April the month of Ash!
For those long time anime watchers like myself, you will recognize Ash and his signature red and white cap from the very beginning. Right from the get-go Ash has shown a determination to be the very best like no one ever was. To catch them was his real test, and to train him was his cause! He travelled across the land (all of the regions!) searching far and wide, for each Pokemon to understand the power that’s inside.
Now with Pokemon theme jokes aside, this determination is the defining feature that Ash maintains in his forever 10-year old state. He never backs down from a challenge and takes every battle as an opportunity to become a better trainer. After every loss, Ash picks himself back up determined to work hard to train and try again. He refuses to give up on his dream. The only time his spirit broke was when he lost to Richie in the Indigo League, but his friends and Pokemon were able to remind him of his goal and a loss here and there isn’t the end of his journey. In fact it is only the beginning of a new chapter.
At the start of the anime, we meet a young boy with a dream to be a Pokemon Master. He is willing to work very hard to achieve this dream. He begs Professor Oak to give him a Pokemon, ANY Pokemon, because without one, how can he fulfill his dream?
This is how he ends up with a stuck-up stubborn Pikachu. That’s right folks, Pikachu wasn’t always the loyal buddy always at Ash’s side. In fact, at the beginning of their journey Pikachu was the exact opposite. It didn’t want anything to do with Ash.
Breaking down this barrier between Ash and Pikachu is not only one of the defining event of their relationship, but it is an event that greatly exemplifies Ash’s determination to never give up and do whatever it takes to achieve his dream to meet every Pokemon and become the best. On the road to Viridian City, Ash tries every tactic he could think of to convince Pikachu to trust and work with him. Granted his view of the trainer-Pokemon relationship is a little skewed in the beginning, but he never gives up on Pikachu. He could have easily just left Pikachu in the grass and try his own way to become a trainer without it. He becomes frustrated enough to threaten it, but he never follows through. Now why is that?
Paired with his determination is his undying nature to empathize with Pokemon. Whenever Ash sees a Pokemon in need, he has to help them. He tries his best to try and meet halfway with Pikachu, almost prove himself to it that it is worthy of being the trainer Pikachu would want. Everybody remembers the iconic Spearow flock flying down toward Ash and the wounded Pikachu. Ash’s empathy and determination to understand all Pokemon saves that very stubborn Pikachu that constantly Thundershocks him just moments earlier. He refuses to allow Pikachu to “faint” at the hands (wings?) of all of these Spearow. He refuses to back down. That is the moment that Pikachu sees Ash’s true strength as a trainer and finally accepts Ash as its partner.
Pikachu is not the only Pokemon that Ash has proven himself to. That poor Charmander abandoned by its trainer joins Ash’s team, but evolves into a stubborn hot-headed arrogant Charmeleon and again into a mighty Charizard. Charizard is known as the Pokemon that disobeyed Ash the most, but again, Ash was determined to get Charizard to become a trusted partner. He insists on keeping the fire lizard on his team in hopes that it will come around. Through a lot of arguments and a lot of losses due to its indifference, Ash never gives up. While on the Orange Islands, after a brutal battle against a Poliwrath, Ash proves his worthiness again by doing everything he can to defrost Charizard from the ice (short from just using an Ice Heal).
It is clearly a theme here that Ash never gives up on his Pokemon. His determination emanates from him onto his Pokemon and becomes infectious through his empathetic nature. If you take a look at his team, Ash fills his roster with not only fair type coverage, but with personalities who share or admire his personality. All of the grass starter Pokemon on his teams (except Turtwig) start off cold and distant and require Ash to prove himself. They are also all determined to become the strongest they possibly can, so they need a trainer to match that drive.
On the other hand, Ash has a considerable amount of empathy towards all Pokemon, including the weak ones. This quality attracts the smaller Pokemon who have very big dreams. Let’s take a look at everybody’s favourite slime dragon Goomy. Goomy starts as the weakest member of Ash’s team, but Goomy finds Ash’s determination attractive and admirable. It sees Ash’s strength in his “never-give-up” attitude. Ash empathizes with Goomy’s desire to be strong and is more than happy to accept Goomy on his team. He constantly encourages Goomy to keep trying and never give up the hope of becoming strong for its friends.
Ash never goes down the route we see other trainers take. The poor fire starters suffer from a sad case of abandonment (except for Cyndaquil). Previous trainers have seen them as weak and abandon them in favour of catching stronger more capable Pokemon. Ash has never done that. Actually, he ends up adopting these abandoned Pokemon and denies that turning their backs on these Pokemon is the path to become stronger.
Now that’s all for the first half of our profile on Ash Ketchum! Next time we’ll be looking at how his friends and rivals have helped him become the Ash we know and love today. And of course we’ll be taking a small look at our favourite Ash ships through the ages.
Until next time PUCLonians, see you all on the flippity flops!