Why are Pokémon fans concerned for the fate of Ash Ketchum? For many, Ash is the eternally-youthful face of the entire Pokémon franchise. Since first bursting onto TV screens in 1997 as the kid who was late for, quite literally, the biggest day of his life, Ash has continued to lead the Pokémon anime series for over two decades, with his trusty sidekick Pikachu always close by. Though the series titles, companions, regions and Pokémon have changed continuously, Ash and Pikachu have been mainstays, but a big victory on the grandest stage has continued to elude the world's most famous cap-swooshing trainer.
Now it appears that Ash's dream of becoming a Pokémon Master is destined to go unfulfilled...forever. In anticipation of the upcoming Pokémon Sword & Shield video games, a brand new anime adventure has been announced and while this in itself isn't out of the ordinary, the new series appears to be a reboot, rather than a continuation. For the past 22 years, each Pokémon anime iteration has taken Ash to a new region and set him up against new challenges, trainers and creatures, however, that story may be about to come to an abrupt end.
The new anime series will simply be titled Pokémon, for the first time since the 1997 original. Furthermore, the action will not be contained to the newly-added region of Galar, but will explore every continent in the Pokémon canon. Many fans online are taking this as a sign the new series is actually a reboot, and will not continue on from the current series, Pokémon Sun & Moon. Certainly, it's easy to see the logic behind their thinking, with the new anime series eschewing the standard naming pattern. The Pokémon TV show is usually titled to promote the latest game release, so Pokémon Sword & Shield would've been the expected name, rather than simply Pokémon. Furthermore, moving between regions seems to suggest an anthology style format that will feature multiple characters, rather than focus on a single protagonist. This theme of separate stories coming together was somewhat explored in recent movie release, Pokemon: The Power of Us.
Nevertheless, there is no official confirmation that Ash Ketchum won't feature in the new Pokémon series, and no word of a potential replacement. Even with the format change, it's entirely possible that Ash will travel around the Pokémon world visiting old friends and trying to finally get that big win in a greatest hits-style series.
However, there is precedent for replacing Ash within the Pokémon franchise. Starting in 2017, the Pokémon movie series was rebooted after nearly 20 years of adventures featuring Ash Ketchum. The new continuity stars a trainer also called Ash Ketchum, but this is a completely different iteration from the one most fans will be familiar with. These new movies have proven highly successful, and some fans are concerned that the new anime series will follow suit, especially since the official logo features a similar design to that of the movies.
Considering Ash's story has been playing out for 22 years, it's understandable that some fans remain attached to the character and don't want his story to end, especially without a proper conclusion. However, Pokémon has been making a return to the mainstream in recent years with Pokémon Go and Detective Pikachu and a reboot to the anime series could entice new fans to the TV part of the franchise. With that said, there's only one Ash Ketchum, and even if the Pokémon anime is given the reboot treatment, it'd be a shame if his story didn't continue in some format.
Pokémon is currently without a release date. More news will arrive on September 29th.