The character of Gary Oak is a product of marketing genius. Chances are, if you played the original Pokémon games, you named your rival Gary because you wanted your chance to battle him, as he was such a condescending jerk towards Ash in the show. After seeing the first few episodes of the anime, a generation of kids wanted to play Pokémon Red & Blue badly, just to be able to put Gary in his place.
Ash being such a loser at the start of the show made you want to challenge Gary all the more. While Gary could easily beat a dolt like Ash, he wouldn’t stand a chance against a kid like you, with a strategy guide and the knowledge of how to level grind.
With such a memorable character having an almost twenty year history, chances are there is a lot you didn’t know about your old rival Gary. From the peculiarities of his name, to the final destination of his long Pokémon journey, here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Gary Oak.
15. He Was Almost Named Sony
When you start a new game of Pokémon Red & Blue, you are given the option of naming both your character and your rival. You are given the option of choosing your own name or selecting from a default list. In the first generation of games, the default names are Red, Ash and Jack for the protagonist, and Blue, Gary and John for the rival.
There are, however, another set of unused default names hidden within the game’s files. By changing several values in the game’s memory, a new set of names can be unlocked for the two characters.
So what are these names? Ninten for the protagonist, and Sony for the rival.
That’s right, the console war between the Nintendo 64 and the Sony PlayStation almost crossed over into the Pokémon universe. While these names were likely included as a joke, it is interesting to see what was on the minds’ of the creators of Pokémon at the time.
14. He Is An Opponent In Pokémon Black 2 & White 2
Pokémon Black 2 & White 2 for the Nintendo DS has a feature called the Pokémon World Tournament. By travelling south of Driftveil city, the player can find a facility where they can engage in tournaments against some of the most powerful trainers in the Pokémon world.
In order to get a shot at Gary/Blue, you need to complete fifteen other tournaments. First, you need to beat the Unova, Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh Tournaments (where you battle against harder versions of the Gym Leaders from each region), then you need to beat the World Tournament (which uses Gym Leaders from all of the regions) ten times. This unlocks the Champions Tournament, where you battle against the trainers who conquered the Pokemon League in each region, including Blue/Gary.
If you meet him in the tournament, Blue/Gary has Aerodactyl, Machamp, Alakazam, Exeguttor, Arcanine and Gyarados, all at level 50. He has definitely improved as a trainer, because his Exeguttor now has four moves! In Pokémon Red & Blue, it only knew three, a weakness unique to Blue/Gary among all of the Pokémon league champions.
13. He Has Always Kept The Same Voice Actor
Up until 2006, the Pokémon anime was dubbed into English by 4Kids Entertainment. Due to the show’s waning popularity, Pokémon USA were looking for a new production company that could dub the anime for less money. The contract eventually went to TAJ Productions, who would use an entirely new crew to translate and dub the series, with none of the old voice actors being re-hired. This led to controversy among the Pokémon fan community, who supported the original voice actors in their efforts to stay on the show.
One of the few exceptions to this is Gary Oak – he has kept the same voice actor since appearing in the first episode back in 1998. He is voiced by Carter Cathcart (who sometimes operates under the pseudonym Billy Beach). Carter started out voicing some of the sporadic recurring characters in the series, one of whom was Gary.
12. He Has Never Made The Finals Of A Pokémon League
For all of his posturing, Gary is kind of a bad trainer in terms of accomplishments. Even though he somehow managed to acquire ten badges in the Kanto region, his performance during the actual Pokémon league leaves something to be desired.
His first showing was at the Indigo Plateau Conference in Kanto. He made it into the top 32 competitors, but was knocked out by a trainer named Melissa (who was changed into a female by the dub – in the original Japanese version Melissa was a boy named Yoshiki). Ash actually did better than Gary during this tournament – making it into the top 16.
Gary reached his peak during the Johto league, where he made it into the top 16 competitors of the Silver Conference. It was at this point that he faced Ash in the tournament. The two of them battled in the episodes “The Ties That Bind” and “Can’t Beat the Heat”. It came down to Ash’s Charizard and Gary’s Blastoise (which was his starter Pokémon from the beginning of the series) during the final round of their battle. Despite having a type advantage, Gary’s Blastoise lost and Ash won the battle.
11. He Is The Only One To Be A Rival, Champion and Gym Leader
The Pokémon games are a different matter when it comes to the success of Gary (or as he is usually called in the games, Blue). He holds the unique distinction of being the only character that was a rival to the player, the Champion of a league (albeit for about five minutes), and a Gym Leader.
Starting with Pokémon Red & Blue, Gary/Blue is your rival from Pallet Town. He manages to acquire the eight Kanto badges and beat the Elite Four shortly before you do, becoming the new league Champion. In Pokémon Gold & Silver, once you travel to the Kanto region later in the game, you once again have to acquire eight gym badges. The final badge belongs to Blue, who has taken over the Viridian City Gym from Giovanni and his Team Rocket cronies.
In comparison, the only people to come close to Gary/Blue’s achievements are Charon (from the fifth generation of games), who was a rival in Pokémon Black & White and, later, a Gym Leader in Pokémon Black 2 & White 2. Iris (also from the fifth generation) was a Gym Leader in Pokémon White, but would go on to become the Champion in Pokémon Black 2 & White 2.
10. He Used To Be Friends With Ash
During the original series of Pokémon, Ash and Gary had an intense rivalry that didn’t end until their battle in the Silver Conference. It was revealed during the episode “The Ties That Bind” that Ash and Gary were friends as children.
Due to the two of them growing up as neighbours and sharing a love of Pokémon, Ash & Gary were close friends before they reached their tenth birthday (the age at which one is legally allowed to become a Pokémon trainer, and gain ownership of fire breathing monsters/murderous ghosts/gods).
It was revealed during the episode “The Ties That Bind” that Ash & Gary fell out only a few days before starting their journey as Pokémon trainers. The two of them were fishing at a lake when both of them caught a bite at the same time. They pull it out of the water, only to discover that they have both caught their lines on an empty Pokéball. After fighting over the ownership of the ball, it rips in half. Each boy kept one half of the Pokéball each as a good luck charm, and as a symbol of their rivalry.
9. He Gave Up Being A Trainer
It was after being defeated by Ash during the Silver Conference that Gary decided to call it quits as a Pokémon trainer.
During the episode “Johto Photo Finish”, Ash is preparing to leave for the Hoenn region (from the Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire games) when he is visited by Gary. They travel to Vermilion City, where Gary reveals that he intends to quit being a Pokémon trainer and instead, become a Pokémon Researcher so he can follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.
Despite Gary retiring from battle, he has made many other appearances in the series since. He eventually moved to Sinnoh (the region from Pokémon Diamond & Pearl) and became the assistant of Professor Rowan, where he would continue to research Fossil Pokémon. He would eventually become involved in the story of the three Lake Guardian Pokémon – Azlef, Mesprit and Uxie, and do battle against members of Team Galactic.
8. He Was Once A Popular Meme
While Pokémon is undeniably going through a major resurgence through Pokémon GO hitting the nostalgia button of an entire generation, the series has not always maintained its popularity. While it has never totally faded away (mainly due to the dedicated fans online), Pokémon has had several periods where it struggled to maintain its mainstream status.
In 2007, Gary Oak became the focus of a popular Internet meme. The way Gary was used was as a character who beats you to the punch whilst mocking you, often accompanied with a picture of Gary being awesome overlaid with text calling him “Gary Motherf******g Oak”. This was a reference to a scene from an episode of the anime where Gary leaves a note on a sign saying “Gary was here! Ash is a loser!”
7. The Cheerleaders Are Also His Girlfriends
Even though Gary is only ten years old at the start of the series (and, due to the recycling nature of the show that keeps Ash at the same age now as he was when he started, is still ten years old), Gary had a cadre of women that always followed him in a convertible.
Gary’s Cheerleaders are a group of six girls who followed him around on his Pokémon journey around Kanto. They would do synchronised cheers whenever Gary was victorious during a single round or full battle. They actually disappeared for most of the Johto series (perhaps as a sign that Gary was taking his journey more seriously) but reappeared for Gary’s battle against Ash during the Silver Conference. They haven’t appeared in the show since.
In the Japanese version of the anime, things were a little different between Gary and his cheerleaders. According to the original series, Gary’s described his cheerleaders as his girlfriends. While the whole arrangement was likely totally innocent (due to him still being a kid and all), you have to hand it to Gary. Having six girlfriends who follow you around and cheer your victories is a pretty awesome thing for a ten year old to have.
6. He Had An Episode Of The Anime Dedicated To Him
In 2006, the Pokémon anime ran a series called Pokémon Chronicles. These episodes focused on characters other than Ash (who only made a few brief cameos) and were edited versions of various anime specials that ran in Japan. Pokémon Chronicles allowed characters like Brock, Misty and Team Rocket to have entire episodes dedicated to them.
One character who got his own episode was Gary. In “Putting the Air back in Aerodactyl”, Gary got to show how much he had improved in his new role as a Pokémon professor. Whilst researching fossils, Gary uses a piece of Amber to resurrect an Aerodactyl, which quickly flees and goes into hiding.
The Aerodactyl is discovered by Butch & Cassidy (two recurring Team Rocket members who were rivals of Jessie & James). Gary is able to use his Pokémon to thwart their plan to capture Aerodactyl and send them blasting off (again). Gary befriends the Aerodactyl, proving that he has grown into his role as a researcher, and is no longer the arrogant trainer he used to be.
5. He Survived A Lavender Town Creepypasta
In the 13th chapter of the Pokémon Adventures manga series, Red travels to Lavender Town. He meets Mr. Fuji (the guy who gives you the flute in Pokémon Red & Blue), who tells him that Gary (referred to either as Blue or Green depending on what version of the manga you are reading) went into the haunted Pokémon tower two weeks ago and hasn’t come out.
Lavender Town has become known in recent years as a breeding ground for “creepypasta” (essentially Internet ghost stories). All of this is because of Lavender Town’s haunting music, the presence of ghost type Pokémon and the abundance of references to death (especially for a kids game). In the minds of some fans, Lavender Town has taken on the qualities of the VHS tape from The Ring.
It seems the Pokémon Adventures manga was onto how scary Lavender Town was back in the nineties, as when Red discovers his rival, both he and his Charmeleon have been possessed by a Gastly. Their eyes have turned a creepy bright white, their faces covered in a murderous grin… it’s up to Red to save his own rival from a fate worse than death.
4. The Fate Of His Parents…
The Pokémon series has always been odd about parents. It has been almost twenty years and we still don’t have a clue who Ash Ketchum’s father is. In the games, only the protagonist of Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire has a father – every other main character in the series has only a mother, with no explanation as to the fate of your dad.
This treatment extends to many of the rivals in the game as well. While we know that Gary has a sister (Daisy) and a grandfather (Professor Oak), we know nothing of his parents. In both the video game and anime canon, no mention is ever given to where Gary’s mother or father are.
In at least one series canon, we know what happened to Gary’s parents. There exists a manga series called Pokémon Zensho, which is a very faithful adaptation of the games. In this comic, it is revealed that Gary’s parents died in a car accident.
Gary’s parents must have had some terrible luck, especially when you consider that there exists only one vehicle in all of Kanto.
3. He’s Named After A Tree (And Not The One You Think)
Each of the main games in the Pokémon series starts out with a professor giving you your first Pokémon. Each of these professors is named after a kind of tree – there is Professor Oak in Kanto, Elm in Johto, Birch in Hoenn, Rowan in Sinnoh, Juniper in Unova and Sycamore in Kalos (not to mention Willow in Pokemon Go). Considering Gary Oak is the grandson of Professor Oak, it is only natural that this naming scheme also applies to him.
Gary actually has a double reference in his name however, as there exists a kind of tree in the real world called a Garry Oak, also known as the Quercas Garryana.
The Garry Oak is a species of white oak tree which belongs in areas such as British Columbia and California. It is named after Nicholas Garry, the deputy governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company – a business that has been operating for nearly 350 years. Why the localization team of the anime gave Gary such an obscure reference for a name is anyone’s guess.
2. He Traded A (Supposedly) Dirty Picture Of His Sister For A Slowpoke
There was once a Pokémon manga series called The Electric Tale of Pikachu, which closely followed the anime (even to the point of adapting the Orange Islands season). One manner in which it was different was it’s more risque interpretations of certain characters. This became a problem when the series was localised for release in the west, as characters such as Misty and Gary’s sister Daisy had their chest size lowered to avoid controversy.
These more titillating elements showed up several times throughout the series. In the 19th chapter of The Electric Tale of Pikachu, Ash and Gary encounter a giant Slowpoke that is captured by Team Rocket. After beating the villains and freeing the Slowpoke from captivity, Ash captures it before Gary can.
Gary doesn’t give up on the Slowpoke however, as he offers to trade Ash a picture of his sister Daisy for the Slowpoke. Ash being the idiot that he is, assumes it is a dirty one and accepts without seeing it. When Ash gets the picture, it’s just Daisy pigging out on food. It seems Gary wasn’t quite willing to pimp out his sister, even for a giant Slowpoke.
1. His Japanese Name Is A Tribute
While he may be named after a tree in the English dub, in Japan, Gary is known by a very different name. In the original version of the anime, he is called Shigeru. This is a tribute to the great Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo – the creator of some of the most iconic video games of all time, from Mario to Zelda.
So why was the character originally named after Shigeru Miyamoto? He is one of the main reasons the Pokémon franchise even exists. The Pokémon games had a very troubled development, as creating a game of such depth had never been accomplished on the Game Boy before. Miyamoto personally mentored Satoshi Tajiri (the creator of Pokémon) throughout the development of the games, ensuring they were finished and released. Naming the rival Shigeru was intended as a tribute to the man who helped the series come to fruition. In Japan, Ash also has a different name – Satoshi, after Satoshi Tajiri.
The naming of both Gary/Shigeru and Ash/Satoshi are intended as tributes to the gaming geniuses who helped the Pokémon world exist as we know it today.