Ash Ketchum has finally won a Pokémon League. But he has always been a winner (2023)

After a long wait of 25 years, the forever 10-year-old boy from Pallet Town, Ash Ketchum, has finally won his first Pokémon League — the World Championship. It felt like a personal victory to generations of Pokémon fans series who grew up following Ash’s journey from an unorganised, clueless, wannabe Pokémon Master to an actual one.

In his long, arduous journey with friends by his side and the affable Team Rocket at his tail, Ash Ketchum has taught us valuable lessons about honesty, hard work, determination, friendship, love, and most importantly – never taking shortcuts. His victory is as emotional for an average Pokémon fan as it is for any sports nerd watching his favourite team win the world cup.

He's done it! Ash has become a World Champion! 🏆🎉

— Pokémon (@Pokemon) November 11, 2022

The anime series first aired on 1 April 1997 on Tokyo TV in Japan, a year after the original video game was released in the country. The show — an abridged form for the Japanese equivalent of ‘pocket monsters’ — has more than 1,000 episodes spread across seasons and continues to be one of the most popular anime series not only in Japan but the world over. It was dubbed in English and released in the US in 1998 and reached Indian television in 2003.

The story follows Ash’s journey across numerous regions to become the world’s best Pokémon trainer. He trains the mythical animal-like creatures — each with a special ability (eg. power to control water, fire, thunder, electricity, or even sleep among others) — for battles around which the Pokémon Universe revolves.

Like the rest of the world, children in India were obsessed with the Poké world, glued to their televisions as soon as the clock struck 5 in the evening. Those were the golden days, the first taste of Japanese anime was given to us by Cartoon Network (CN) with Pokémon, Digimon, Beyblade, and of course, Dragon Ball Z.

However, the channel abruptly discontinued Pokémon in 2011 and shifted the broadcast to its sister channel, Pogo. Two years later, the show was brought back on CN. The audience struggled with the back and forth, and in 2013, CN stopped airing the series altogether. The Poké mania was running out, with homegrown programmes such as Chhota Bheem and heavily-censored version of Japanese anime, Shin-chan, appealing more to the younger generation.

Pokémon made a comeback in 2014 on Hungama. Even with a changed voiceover and poorer English dubbing as compared to the 2003 version, the adventures of Ash Ketchum won Indian hearts again. In 2015, India’s official rating agency, Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), revealed that one in every 3 children was watching the anime on Hungama in the second run.

Also read: Cartoon Network turns 30 and millennials are nostalgic, feeling older than ever

All good lessons

Some parents discouraged their kids from watching Pokémon because the show is “inherently violent”. For instance, Ash becomes a Pokémon Master by first capturing the mysterious creatures and then making them battle against those of other trainers till they can no longer stand.

However, Ash, from the very beginning treats his Pokémons as friends. He’s gentle, kind and friendly toward them. And as kids who equated Pokémon with animals in the real world, children learnt how to give the same treatment to four-legged creatures they saw around them.

“I badly wanted to be part of a world where there was such a good alliance between humans and Pokémons (whom I equated with animals in the real world). It taught me the value of friends, the importance of exploring different places and meeting new people and how to do the right thing in the face of adversity because Ash Ketchum always did the right thing,” said Radhika Tiwari, a Delhi-based editor.

For young kids watching the series, Ash was nothing less than a role model. He cried, threw tantrums, felt dejected, and he lost. A lot. But he stood by his principles, no matter what.

In the very first episode, Ash proves his worth to Pikachu, his best friend and also one of his most powerful Pokémons, by going to extreme lengths to prove his loyalty to a traumatised character who no longer trusted humans. Ash proved his worth to his Pokémons over and over and over again. With Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Charmander and consequently Charizard — the original Poké gang.

He taught children the value of consent. He never used stones on his Pokémon to evolve them and helped even the smallest one reach its potential. Pikachu didn’t want to evolve, neither did Bulbasaur, and Ash was totally fine with it. He won Charizard’s faith by working alongside him to defeat Magmar in a battle during Orange League.

He taught children ‘it’s okay to let go’ when he freed his strongest Pokémons to fulfil their own purpose. He let Butterfree go. Charizard go. Pidgeotto too. He even let Pikachu go and took care of other vulnerable Pikachus they had found on an adventure. But Pikachu chose to come back.

Although Ash wasn’t the most skilled trainer on the tour, he taught his rivals a thing or two about connecting with their Pokémons. A skill through which, in later seasons, he actually became one with his Pokémon, Greninja

And the most important lesson was friendship. Be it with the much older Brock he learnt from, or Mistee or Tracy or May or Max or Dawn… the list of his partners in crime goes on.

Also read: Chacha Chaudhary — Indian comic book hero who broke masculine archetypes like Superman, Batman

Ash and Pikachu’s bond

Not even the iconic Jay-Veeru duo captures the essence of friendship quite like Ash and Pikachu, the cute yellow thunderball sitting on his trainer’s shoulder.

Pokémon fans will know how close Ash and Pikachu grew with time from what was an absolutely rough start. When you rewatch the first few episodes of the series, you realise there were some good morals in it, and especially how friends stick by you through thick and thin,” said Tom Antony, a 29-year-old marketing professional, who can’t wait for his son to discover the series.

“Among my son’s first plush toys was a Charmander. His first birthday was Pokémon-themed. I’d like him to discover the series at the age we all did,” he said.

The anime has appealed to generation after generation because the beginning of every season is similar. A Pokémon scientist offers new trainers three starters – Pokémon of the Fire, Water or Grass type, and from there begins the journey of going to various gyms to pick up battles, or Pokémon shows to exhibit their skills.

Team Rocket

There’s no Pokémon without the mention of Team Rocket who have been chasing these pocket monsters for 25 years — Jesse, James and Meowth as the ultimate loser villains who we’ve all grown to love. The series shares their backstories and tells kids it’s not all black and white: people exist in the gray too, just like this trio.

Without Team Rocket throwing weird challenges at Ash in their bid to kidnap his Pokémons, especially Pikachu, Ash might not have picked up the skills that have made him win his precious badge – the world championship.

Also read: Office Office — Rajiv Mehra’s 2001 satire on the common Indian that gave everyone a chuckle

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