Salutations good PUCLonians and welcome to the second Ash Ketchum edition of the Underground Star Spotlight! Last time we talked about Ash’s personality, namely his undying determination and empathy, and how that has effected his team build. This week we’ll be discussing his relationships with a couple of his rivals and his travelling companions, focusing on how they have affected his journey.

Everybody knows that Ash’s first rival ever was the infamous grandson of Professor Oak, Gary Oak. In the very start of the anime, Gary’s arrogant attitude and superiority complex really got under Ash’s skin. He would always comment on how inept of a trainer Ash was, and even gave him the annoying pet name “Ashy-boy”. Gary knew exactly how to get Ash all riled up, but Ash used it as fuel to push him to his limit. Ash always felt he was several steps behind Gary, and in most cases he was. It wouldn’t be until the end of the Johto League when Ash and Gary’s rivalry comes to a stand still. Throughout the Johto League, Ash’s disdain for Gary becomes a mutual respect for the other trainer. Both Ash and Gary go through a maturity jump, both becoming more respectful towards each other. The unhealthy obsessive rivalry turns into a strong friendship once Gary decides to pursue a life in Pokemon Research.

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While Gary pushed Ash’s inferiority buttons, in Sinnoh, Ash couldn’t stand his rival Paul. Although Paul had a similar determination to Ash’s, but completely lacked his empathy and compassion. While adventuring in Sinnoh, Ash’s compassion for all Pokemon truly shines while raising Paul’s “weak” Chimchar. Paul abandons Chimchar due to his weak nature. Ash and Gary eventually get over their differences but this one act is something Ash just cannot stand. Paul brings out Ash’s strong sense of justice and equality for all Pokemon regardless of how many battles it has won. Ash believes that every Pokemon has the potential to be great, a quality that is unwavering even through Paul’s endless barrage of indifferent insults.

Gary was the rival of a very uncertain insecure Ash. Gary and Ash’s arguments always revolved about Ash’s inexperience as a trainer, creating a bit of an inferiority complex. Luckily through the Johto League and the Hoenn, Ash becomes much more sure of himself and his Pokemon Trainer way. So much so that by the time he makes it over to Sinnoh, Ash’s rivalry with Paul is more complex than just a “I’m a better trainer than you” mentality. It is more about having compassion and love for your Pokemon, something Ash has lots of. Ash refuses to believe that Pokemon are just used for battling for the sake of becoming the strongest. The only way you can be the strongest is by having that bond with your Pokemon, an aspect that is further explored once Ash arrives in the Kalos region and builds a bond with his Greninja.

The end of Johto was also the beginning of a new trend in the Pokemon series, probably in hopes to give the audience something new and fresh with every series: the change in companions. Ash and Pikachu are the only characters that have stretched through all series of Pokemon. Every new region calls upon new companions. I’m not going to go through all of his travel companions, because that would take forever, plus I plan to write entries on each one in the future! Something that is important to mention about the change of companion is the change of focus.

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During his Hoenn adventures, Ash gains new companionship in May and Max. May is a brand new trainer going on her own journey, making Ash the veteran adventurer. The tone of the show shifts from Ash’s story to the group’s story. There is a lot more focus on the other characters and Ash shares that spotlight with May and, in later series, Dawn, and Serena. At this point, Ash’s personal development comes to a slow stand still.

By the time he arrives in Kalos, he no longer struggles with who is he as a trainer. He has discovered his Pokemon Trainer way and is confident in its potential to achieving his dream. He begins to take on a mentor role, helping his companions train their own Pokemon and giving them the cheerleading support they need. When you actually look at the content within the episodes in the X&Y series, there are not a lot of episodes focusing on Ash. Most of the episodes focus on Serena, Clemont, and Bonnie, and on their journeys to become stronger trainers. His role as the star protagonist almost shifts into a supporting role who helps the new trainer find their place in the Pokemon World.

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Now the topic everybody loves talking about it is the best ship… Meaning which female protagonist should Ash end up with? I know there are a lot of different teams on this subject, but unfortunately¬†it seems that Ash shows very little interest in wanting anything more than their current friendship. He has a little bit of tunnel vision, wanting to focus on his dream to becoming a Pokemon Master, and making him a bit more than oblivious to any romantic gestures towards him. His oblivious nature makes it uninteresting to analyze his romantic potential from this end… It would probably be best to analyze that from the perspective of Misty, May, Dawn, Iris, and Serena. Plus I like to believe that his view of romantic gestures is influenced by everything Brock does for those pretty women; so anything less than that, there will be no way Ash would know someone was interested in him. Perhaps our favourite female companions need to make more of a move on our original protagonist?

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Well that is all I have on Mr. Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town! His strength is truly in his determination to never give up on his dreams, on his Pokemon, and on his friends. What do you think of Ash? Do you think I’ve missed anything? Leave a comment below and let me know! If there is something you would love for me to talk about regarding Ash, perhaps I will revisit our future Pokemon Master in a later post!

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you enjoyed it and are enjoying this new series! Any feedback is greatly appreciated as we continue to work on great content for our growing PUCL community!