After over 20 years, Pokémon still remains a cultural icon. Following six generations of successful video games, upcoming titles Pokémon Sun & Moon are setting pre-sale records for Nintendo as the franchise appears to be as healthy as ever. The craze of viral augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go might be far past its peak, but it still remains one of the most successful apps on both android as well as ios.
A lot has changed for the franchise over the decades, but one constant has remained: the cartoon’s main protagonist Ash Ketchum. This beloved character has starred in over 900 episodes and more than a dozen films. He has been the lead in Hollywood blockbusters and holiday specials, teaching each of us a bit about friendship along the way. And despite his inability to clinch the ever elusive title of Pokémon Master, we still adore him.
Even after nearly 1000 episodes, however, there are still a lot of mysteries surrounding this beloved figure, and with a new generation of Pokémon headed our way in the coming weeks, this countdown celebrates the cartoon’s main character, all while exploring a handful of lesser-known factoids.
Here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Ash Ketchum.
15. Gotta Catch ‘Em All – Or Maybe Just 80
Anyone even slightly familiar with the Pokémon franchise probably knows the series’ catchy mantra. “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” is not only part the cartoon’s original theme song, but it is also the central mechanic to the uber-successful video game franchise. Despite that fact, the anime’s main protagonist himself does not seem too concerned with obtaining as many different types of creatures as possible or is perhaps incapable of doing so. Regardless, to this point in the anime’s impressively long run, Ash has only captured 80 of the now 721 total Pokémon.
To put that number into context, this lovable yet dimwitted hero has only managed to complete just over 11% of the Pokédex thus far, and with even more creatures coming in highly anticipated, all-new generation of the series entitled Pokémon Sun & Moon, the number of total Pokémon will only increase.
14. His Birthday
Among some rather hardcore fans, there have been discrepancies regarding Ash Ketchum’s actual birth date. For a while, it was believed that the series’ protagonist was an April Fool’s baby, but as it turns out, Ash was actually born on May 22, 1986. That’s right, little “Ashy-boy” actually celebrated the big “three-o” earlier this year. Happy belated birthday, buddy.
If the fact that one of your favorite childhood protagonists is now inching closer to a mid-life crisis doesn’t freak you out a little bit, then try this on for size: According to the Pokémon anime, Ash met Pikachu in April after his tenth birthday. Additionally, in the anime series Pokémon: Black & White, it was confirmed that the young trainer was, in fact, still 10-years-old, and to the best of anyone’s knowledge, he has not celebrated a birthday since. That would mean that the events of the Pokémon cartoon up to this point (after over 900 episodes) has actually taken place in, at most, about a month and a half time span.
13. No Mega Evolutions
Mega Evolutions, which were introduced to fans in the most recent generation of main series Pokémon handheld titles, have been met with both criticism and praise. However, it appears as though gamers have mostly come around to this new mechanic, especially seeing as how one consistent criticism of this beloved franchise is its hesitance to alter its core gameplay. Regardless, with the Pokémon faithful appearing to have welcomed Mega Evolutions with open arms, it quickly transitioned to becoming part of the anime series as well.
It would stand to reason, that with Mega Evolutions being deemed the next big thing from the franchise, Mr. Pokémon, aka Ash Ketchum, would sport at least one mega evolution-capable Pokémon in his party. With Charizard and a number of other fan-favorite mega-capable creatures just a call away, it would be all too easy for this trainer to break out some ultra powerful beasts in a gym battle or even in the Pokémon League, but alas, fans have yet to see Ash perform even one Mega Evolution.
It should be noted that there is some speculation as to whether or not “Ash-Greninja,” a water type Pokémon strengthened through its bond with its respective trainer Ash, is actually a Mega Evolution – albeit a Mega Evolution without an evolution stone. Without confirmation from The Pokémon Company, however, these theories stand as mere conjecture.
12. 11 Different Travel Companions
One of the main recurring themes in the Pokémon anime is the importance of friendship. This has played out not only between Ash and his respective Pokémon partners but also with the numerous travel companions that the likable protagonist has befriended along the way. Starting with a stolen bike in the series’ very first episode, Ash has acquired more than a handful of friends over the course of his countless journeys.
Butting heads with the main character is the fan-favorite female lead, Misty. In addition to Misty, Ash also teams up with Pewter City gym leader, the level-headed but, at times, girl crazy Brock. While these two were his original pals, Ash has also been seen alongside the likes of Pokémon watcher Tracey, first-time trainer May and her younger brother Max, Pokémon coordinator Dawn, aspiring dragon-type master Iris, Striaton City gym leader Cilan, talented inventor Clermont and his younger sister Bonnie, and, of course, life-long friend/romantic interest Serena.
11. 52 Gym Badges
One of the main goals of not only the video game franchise, but the anime and manga as well, is the collection of Pokémon badges through battles against Pokémon gym leaders. Nearly every new region has eight Pokémon gyms, and each trainer hoping to compete in the Pokémon league needs to earn all eight badges before they can register. At this point in the cartoon, Ash has traveled to six different regions of the Pokémon world, not including the Orange Islands where he earned additional four badges. All in all, that put’s his badge total up to 52, and perhaps, that is where it will likely stay for – at least for the foreseeable future.
Aforementioned upcoming video game titles Pokémon Sun & Moon have been making all sorts of waves recently with news of retooled gameplay. One of the biggest changes that fans are looking forward to is the absence of gym battles. Rather, this objective has been replaced by island challenges or trials. If these changes are also reflected in the franchise’s television program, then it would appear as though Ash will not be collecting any more badges in the Alola region.
10. Defeated Legendary Pokémon
Believe it or not, Ash is actually one of the most polarizing protagonists in anime. There are a number of Ash apologists and defenders out there, but there are also a great number of fans who simply dislike the series’ main character. Generally speaking, one of the leading reasons cited for all of the hate is the fact that Ash is seen by many as somewhat of a bad Pokémon trainer. As stated earlier, the character, despite the franchise’s mantra, has only caught 80 Pokémon, and a number of his 52 badges are viewed by fans as “unearned.”
Even with all that being said, there is sufficient evidence to support the claim that Ash is, in fact, a successful Pokémon trainer. Perhaps the biggest exclamation point on Ketchum’s resume is the fact that he has defeated four legendary Pokémon over the course of the anime. Many trainers go their entire lives without ever even seeing a legendary Pokémon, but Ash has had the pleasure of meeting four in battle and defeating each of them. Take that, Gary.
9. Goodra: Ash’s Best Pokémon?
If you were to ask a random fan who Ash’s all-time best Pokémon is, you would likely receive a wide variety of responses. A common answer would probably be Pikachu, along with a healthy number of Charizards and Greninjas. Objectively, all of these answers arguably appear to be as good as any other. Speaking purely statistically, however, there is only one correct answer, and that is Goodra.
For those of you who jumped off of the Pokémon anime bandwagon sometime before Ash arrived in the Kalos region, Goodra might not necessarily be a recognizable name, but for those keeping up with the cartoon, you may have noticed this loveable dragon-type has yet to lose a match. Sure, Goodra might not have been on Ash’s team as long as some other names, but nevertheless, it cannot be denied that this Pokémon batting 1000 is an impressive feat, to say the least.
8. Live Action Movie Debut?
With the craze that was Pokémon Go becoming the viral sensation of this last summer, it came to no one’s surprise that numerous Hollywood studios were bidding for the rights to a brand new Pokémon movie. What was surprising, however, was the fact that this movie was announced as a live-action picture rather than an animated endeavor.
Almost immediately, the internet was ablaze with ideas and pitches for what exactly this live-action Pokémon movie could be. Many cited recent Jon Favreau-directed film The Jungle Book as a possible template for what this picture could look like, but to nearly everyone’s surprise, it was announced that the film would center around the idea of a Pikachu detective – not unlike the Detective Pikachu video game which debuted earlier this year in Japan. For this reason, it is unfortunately believed that Ash will likely not appear in the live-action film, however, nothing has been confirmed one way or another, so it is anyone’s guess at the moment.
7. Star of Only One Video Game
Despite the Pokémon franchise sporting the massively successful video game series that it does, Ash has only appeared in one title thus far, and it may not be the one that you think. To this point, the anime’s long time protagonist has only appeared in Pokémon Puzzle League for the Nintendo 64 console back in 2000. However, this fact has not stopped the character from reaching acclaim in the gaming community as Guinness ranked Ash as the 37th best all-time video game character.
It is widely rumored, however, that this fan-favorite protagonist could be making his way back to the video game scene in the upcoming 3DS titles Pokémon Sun & Moon. With the recent announcement that both Red and Blue – the characters from the original series of games – are slated to make an appearance at some point during the campaign, many fans have speculated that perhaps Ash might pop up as well. Additionally, Ash-Greninja is an unlockable character in the game’s demo, available now on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, a fact that has also been the fuel to more than a handful of rumors surrounding the appearance of this beloved trainer.
6. No, Ash Is Not Red
A common belief among many casual fans is that the main series of Pokémon video games follows the adventures of Ash. This, however, is simply not true. Pokémon Yellow Version for the Gameboy Color came out in the late 1990’s and more than slightly hinted at the adventures of the television program’s protagonist as it was designed to capitalize off of the cartoon’s popularity.
That said, Ash Ketchum is loosely based on the character of Red from the first generation of video games, but there are more than a few stark differences. Most notably, Red is widely known as a prodigy; one of, if not the greatest Pokémon trainers who ever lived. Ash is simply a boy with aspirations of winning the Pokémon league. As a protagonist in a popular children’s show, Ash is designed not to be the greatest of all time, but rather to inspire kids to persevere through struggles, remind fans to never give up, and above all, teach children how to be a good friend.
5. Ash Died… Three Times
So, not only has Ash apparently been taking frequent drinks from the fountain of youth, he also has proven time and time again that he is immortal. In fact, Ash has died three times throughout both the television series as well as the film franchise, but the persistent trainer keeps coming back.
Perhaps most famously, Ash Ketchum – a young bright eyed trainer from Pallet Town – was called upon by the (at the time) somewhat nefarious Pokémon Mewtwo in order to witness its master plan during the events of Pokémon: The First Movie. When Mew, a Pokémon whose DNA was taken in order to create Mewtwo, shows up to put an end to the fighting, but an even bigger battle between the two legendaries ensues. In an attempt to stop this brawl, the young trainer steps in front of opposing blasts and dies. Yup. He dies right there in front of millions of little children. It was all for naught, however, as apparently Pikachu tears cure death, rendering this catastrophically tragic event a mere close call.
4. Ash’s Father and Grandfather Were Trainers
Perhaps at the top of the list of unexplained Pokémon mysteries is the identity of Ash’s father. There have been numerous theories and rumors surrounding the subject, but the anime itself, in addition to its creators, have been inconspicuously silent concerning the matter. Therefore, fans have been left to come up with their own explanations and there are a few notable theories out there. Pretty much any and all male Pokémon characters from Red to Professor Oak have been speculated to be Ash’s father, but to this day, fans have yet to see the man on screen.
Mr. Ketchum has been referenced, however. While we do not know the identity of Ash’s father, or really have any inclination as to what he even looks like, we do know that he is, in fact, a Pokémon trainer. According to Ash’s mother, apparently, her husband (Ash’s father) and his father are on a journey somewhere, also with hopes of becoming Pokémon masters.
3. Over 900 Episodes, Only Two Voice Actors
Pokémon has enjoyed incredible longevity. In fact, its success is unmatched by nearly all of its competitors. It is incredible to think that, in the Alola region, the series will likely celebrate its 1000th episode, truly an amazing feat. Despite that fact, the long running anime series has only ever had two voice actors portraying Ash Ketchum – at least in the American English Dub – both of which are women.
That’s right, Ash Ketchum joins the long list of male cartoon characters – Bart Simpson, Bobby Hill, Tommy Pickles, Jimmy Neutron, Goku, Naruto, Dexter McPherson, Timmy Turner – that were actually portrayed by women voice actors. Veronica Taylor most famously voiced the role of Ash Ketchum (among other characters such as Ash’s Mom and May most notably) until the end of the eighth season. From there Sarah Natochenny signed on to replace Taylor and has been voicing the character ever since.
Over the years, Veronica Taylor has stated that she loved being part of such a successful franchise that has meant so much to a great number of people, and has even stated that she would love to voice the character again someday.
2. Named After Pokémon Creator
One little-known fact, especially to fans in the west, is that Ash’s name in Japan is actually Satoshi; Satoshi also being the name of Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri. That said, their names are not the only thing that these two have in common.
Satoshi Tajiri famously created the Pokémon franchise being inspired by his childhood. As a young boy, Satoshi Tajiri was fond of exploration and the outdoors. One of his favorite pastimes was collecting and studying insects. As he grew older, his interests turned to video games but the Tajiri never forgot his pleasant memories of bug catching in his neighborhood.
Tajiri later went on to create the Japanese video game development company known as Game Freak Inc. and the rest, as they say, is history. The beloved video game designer, as well as the name of another famous developer among Nintendo faithful, Shigeru Miyamoto (the creator behind properties such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Pikmin), both had their names used as a tribute to the series main protagonist as well as his rival.
1. Clefairy, I Choose You!
Pikachu has, of course, become the lovable mascot of the Pokémon franchise, even more so than its leading human character, but that was not always the case. After over twenty years, it might be hard to imagine, but the creative team behind the Pokémon anime almost named Clefairy as Ash’s first Pokémon and reliable partner.
The series’ creators (obviously) decided against this move stating that that yellow is a much more noticeable color. Yellow is one of the primary colors and can be spotted by children even at far distances. Additionally, the fact that Pikachu more resembled a family pet was thought to be more appealing to kids. Due to these facts, Pikachu, and not Clefairy has become one of the world’s most recognizable anime characters.
Whether or not Clefairy would be as successful a mascot as Pikachu is impossible to say, but it is interesting to imagine a world filled with Clefairy dolls, backpacks, and costumes rather than Pikachu-centric merchandise.
What are some of your favorite lesser-known Ash Ketchum facts? Make sure to let us know in the comments section.