Ash Ketchum and Pikachu, as seen in Pokémon XY (Season 17)
|First appearance||Pokémon, I Choose You!|
|First game||Pokémon Puzzle League|
|Created by||Satoshi Tajiri|
|Designed by||Ken Sugimori and Atsuko Nishida (video games), Sayuri Ichishi (Seasons 1–8), Toshiya Yamada (Season 10–present)|
|Voiced by (English)||Veronica Taylor (Seasons 1–8)
Sarah Natochenny (Season 9–present)
Kayzie Rogers (Pokémon: The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon)
|Voiced by (Japanese)||Rica Matsumoto|
Ash Ketchum, known as Satoshi (サトシ?) in Japan, is a fictional character in the Pokémon franchise owned by Nintendo. He is the main protagonist of the Pokémon anime and manga series as well as on various merchandise related to the franchise. In Japanese, the character is voiced by Rica Matsumoto. In the English dub, he was voiced by Veronica Taylor from 1998 to 2006. Since the ninth season of the anime series, he is voiced by Sarah Natochenny for the remainder of the anime. Kayzie Rogers voices Ash in The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon television special. His name is derived from the Japanese name (as the letters 'ash' are included in 'Satoshi') and his English motto, "Gotta Catch 'Em All". Ash's dream is to become a Pokémon Master. He is loosely based on Red, the player character from the Generation I games Pokémon Red, Green, Blue and Yellow as well as the Generation III games Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen versions. The character's first official appearance in a game was in Pokémon Puzzle League.
Concept and creation
Named after creator Satoshi Tajiri, Satoshi, whose name can be taken to mean "wisdom" or "reason", was designed by Ken Sugimori and Atsuko Nishida, and intended to represent how Tajiri was as a child, obsessed with collecting creatures. During localization of both for North American audiences, the character's name was changed in the anime to "Ash Ketchum", the first name taken from one of the possible default names players could select for the player character in Pokémon Red and Blue, and the surname tying into the former tagline (and as of Pokémon XY revived) for the series, "Gotta catch 'em all!"
Tajiri noted in an interview that between Japanese and American reactions to the series, Japanese consumers focused on the character Pikachu, while Americans purchased more items featuring Ash and Pikachu, his Pokémon, together. He stated that he felt the character represented the concept of the franchise, the human aspect, and was a necessity. In both the games and anime, the character was given a rival named Gary (Shigeru in the Japanese version, after Tajiri's idol/mentor, Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto). In an interview Tajiri noted the contrast between the characters' relationship in the games and anime; while in the games they were rivals, in the anime, Shigeru represented Satoshi's master. When asked if either Satoshi would equal or surpass Shigeru, Tajiri replied "No! Never!" Ash's character design was initially overseen by Sayuri Ichishi, replaced by Toshiya Yamada during the Diamond and Pearl storyline arc. Ash will receive a new design for the upcoming Sun and Moon anime series which is set to aired in Japan in November 2016.
In Japan throughout the anime media, Rica Matsumoto has always provided the original Japanese voice of Ash. For the English dubbing, Veronica Taylor provided the voice of Ash in the first eight seasons of the English adaption of the Pokémon anime, which was dubbed by 4Kids Entertainment. After the script was translated from Japanese, the lines were adapted to fit the movements of the character's mouth (called lip flap). All the voices were recorded separately, so Taylor was the only one in the booth when she recorded her lines, which took approximately six to eight hours per episode. Taylor was often the first person to record, so she had to "imagine how the previous line will be said. "Luckily, I work with a great director who helps with the interpretation of the line, matching of the lip flap, and consistency of the voice." Taylor enjoyed playing Ash because of his "low, husky voice" and "energy and excitement".
Taylor commented that Ash and the other characters "loosened up" after the first ten episodes of the anime; she believed the writers were more relaxed and no longer felt the pressure of making sure everything was done correctly. Taylor commented: "I enjoy playing [Ash] now much more than I did in the very beginning because I can have fun with him more, and we kind of know him and can work out how he really would react. We have the classic Ash responses and things like that." Sarah Natochenny replaced Taylor in season nine when The Pokémon Company International (known at that time as Pokémon USA) took over the licensing, prompting a shift in recording studios. Kayzie Rogers also filled in briefly for The 10th Anniversary Special in between Taylor and Natochenny (Natochenny would later re-record Rogers' dialog for the DVD release).
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At some point in his early life, Ash went on a field trip in a rainy forest and got lost. Scared to the point of tears, he was forced to hide in a hollow tree trunk. Eventually, a group of local Pokémon joined him and cheered him up, which was partially what motivated him to become a Pokémon Trainer.
Ash also enrolled in Professor Oak's Pokémon Summer Camp when he was young. One day, another camper named Serena got lost in the forest and wounded her leg after getting startled by a Poliwag. Ash, who was looking for the Poliwag, came to her rescue and wrapped a handkerchief around the wounded knee to brace it. He then helped her up and guided her out of the forest.
The series starts with Ash's tenth birthday, which according to Pokémon trainer registration bylaws allowed him to become a full-fledged Pokémon trainer and obtain a starter Pokémon. As a ten-year-old hailing from Pallet Town in the Kanto region, Ash was offered a choice between three Pokémon as his starter: Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Charmander. While he was planning to choose Squirtle, he received the electric type Pokémon Pikachu from Professor Oak instead, because he woke up late and all the other starter Pokémon had been taken by other trainers. After receiving Pikachu and a Pokédex, Ash left Pallet Town to start his journey. Since then Ash has traveled the world of Pokémon, competed in many challenges, and caught newer Pokémon. He has met many companions, including Misty and Brock.
Throughout the series, Ash's primary enemies are a Pokémon crime organization called Team Rocket, specifically the two comical and bumbling members, Jessie and James, and their talking Meowth, who's essentially the third member. Ever since being defeated by Ash's Pikachu in the second episode, "Pokémon Emergency!", the three of them have obsessively never stopped chasing after them to steal Ash's Pikachu, maintaining the delusion that Pikachu is abnormally powerful and presenting it to their criminal boss would make them very rich. As the enduring comical villains of the series, the Team Rocket trio occasionally show signs of goodness, such as care and friendship with their Pokémon and each other, and despite their constant antagonism, they occasionally put their differences aside and work together with Ash against a common threat, such as in Pokémon: The Movie 2000, where they aid Ash in retrieving the three treasures in order to save the world.
During his travels, Ash still had a lot to learn as a trainer. He caught his Pokémon by merely befriending them, knew absolutely nothing about battling, and many of his gym badges were earned rather controversially. In fact, the only legit victories were over Lt. Surge, Koga, and Blain, while the others were earned on technical convenience or given to him out of gratitude. Ash also shows a deep love for Pokémon in the series, protecting wild Pokémon or his own from getting injured or trying to help them, despite getting significantly hurt himself. He honed his skill as a Pokémon trainer and was able to get all 8 badges, enabling him to compete in the Indigo League. Ash was able to go to the 5th round, and achieve the Top 16 — one round further than his competitive rival Gary, who finished in the Top 32. However, due to his inexperience in handling his more powerful Pokémon, Ash was eliminated from his first Pokémon League competition in a very unflattering manner, which greatly disappointed him. Fortunately, after becoming more experienced overtime, he successfully never repeats this failure again.
Ash traveled to the Orange Islands with Misty and Tracey Sketchit, a Pokémon watcher, obtained all 4 badges, and competed in the Orange League to battle Drake, the Orange League Champion. Ash was able to win his battle against Drake, giving him his first League Championship as a Pokémon trainer. This particular Pokémon League exists only in the anime series, and not adapted from the video game series.
He then traveled on to the Johto region with Brock and Misty, hoping to meet with Gary and finally defeat him in the Johto League. He won 8 badges and competed in the Johto Conference. Ash beat Gary again, in the 1st round of the conference, and was able to make it to the quarter-finals, and achieve Top 8. However he lost against his new rival Harrison, in the 2nd round. Ash then moved on and traveled through the Hoenn region, along with Brock and two new characters, May, an aspiring Pokémon coordinator, and her younger brother Max. He was able to get all 8 badges, and then competed in the Hoenn Conference. Ash was able to defeat his 1st new rival Morrison, in the 2nd round, also entering in the quarter-finals, and achieving Top 8 again. However he lost in the 3rd round against his 2nd new rival Tyson.
Having gone through several leagues and gotten a lot stronger, Ash decides to challenge the Kanto "Battle Frontier" and its 7 Brains (leaders). Ash defeats all of the Brains and acquires all the 7 Battle Frontier symbols, becoming a "Strong Battle Frontier champion" and qualifies for becoming a Frontier Brain himself. However Ash wanting to learn more about Pokémon and get even stronger, decides to continue his journey, not as a Frontier Brain, but as a trainer. However, having acquired all 7 symbols, he leaves with the privilege of becoming a Frontier Brain if and when he wants in the future.
Ash, along with Brock, travel to Sinnoh, befriends a new traveling companion, Dawn, and also finds a brutal new rival in Paul. Ash wins all 8 Sinnoh gym badges, and competes in the Sinnoh conference at the Lily of the Valley Island. He eventually faces Paul in the quarter-finals of the Sinnoh League Festival and finally defeats him, marking the first time Ash has ever ranked as high as Top 4 in a Pokémon League. Afterwards, however, in the semi-finals, Ash is matched against Tobias, a trainer who famously swept all eight Sinnoh League gyms and all other opponents with only his legendary Pokémon Darkrai. Ash is eventually defeated by Tobias, but not without having defeated his Darkrai, as well as his Latios, also a legendary Pokémon, whom Ash also defeated in a draw with his final Pokémon, making Ash the only known trainer to have defeated two of Tobias' legendary Pokémon, something that not even Tobias' opponent in the finals could achieve. Ash concludes his participation in the Sinnoh League with an impressive new ranking. He bids farewell with Dawn in Twinleaf Town, and parts ways with Brock for the last time.
Once again, Ash continues his journey to the Unova region, with only his Pikachu. Here, he meets and travels with two new companions: a female trainer named Iris, and a new male trainer named Cilan, who, like Brock before him, is a gym leader. Throughout Unova, Ash meets and competes against more rivals than before, including Trip, Bianca, Stephan, Cameron, and Virgil, most of whom he befriends. Unlike previous seasons, Ash notoriously displays a drop in skill and competence, and instead regresses back to a beginner, showing little of his previous expertise and relearns many of the basics of catching Pokémon. However, Ash still manages to win all eight gym badges in Unova and then entered the Unova League, where he defeats his arrogant rival, Trip, in the first match, but gets defeated by Cameron in the quarter-finals, one match below his previous Pokémon League ranking. Cameron is then defeated by Virgil, who went on to win the League with his team of Eevee evolutions.
Also unlike previous seasons, Ash must battle against a much more malevolent Team Rocket, as well as the evil Team Plasma. After his latest attempt to compete in the Unova League, and foiling both Team Rocket and Team Plasma's attempts to enslave Pokémon to conquer the world, Ash's friends travel with him back to Kanto, where they parted to go own their ways and bid each other farewell.
Ash then ventured to the Kalos region to challenge the Kalos League, as well as learn more about Mega Evolution, a transformation that can take certain fully evolved Pokémon to a more powerful temporary form. While there, he began traveling with the siblings, Clemont and Bonnie, along with Serena, whom he had met during a summer camp in Pallet Town when they were much younger. They meet new rivals like Sawyer, Shauna, Tierno, Trevor, and Alain. While in Kalos, Ash befriends and acquires new Pokémon, including Froakie, which later evolves into a powerful Greninja. Although Ash does not yet have a Pokémon that can mega-evolve, the group discovers that his Greninja is capable of "Bond Phenomenon", a transformation where Ash and Greninja connect mentally and Greninja's body changes to a color scheme resembling Ash. Like Mega Evolution, the transformation is temporary and makes "Ash-Greninja" much more powerful and well capable of defeating mega-evolved Pokémon. Currently, no other known Pokémon in existence is capable of Bond Phenomenon, and several rivals have taken great interest in competing with it in the Kalos League with their own mega-evolving Pokémon.
Like before, Ash earns all eight gym badges qualifying him to compete in the Kalos League, and with his newest Pokémon, Ash defeats many opponents and their mega-evolved Pokémon in the League. So far, Ash has defeated the majority of his competitors and reaches the finals, breaking his previous highest ranking, and finally just one more match away from finally winning a regional Pokémon League tournament, which he has never managed to achieve throughout the entire series run. However, Ash is once again defeated.
Ash has considerably improved his abilities as a trainer over the course of the series. However, his earnestness and determination remain the same. During the first season of the series, Ash trained to catch more Pokémon than his childhood rival, Gary Oak, although Gary was always shown to be the stronger trainer. He soon began to focus more on each of his Pokémon's abilities.
In the video games
The only video game Ash has truly appeared in to date is Pokémon Puzzle League, where he tries to become a Pokémon Master. This game was never produced in Japan.
In Pokémon Red, Blue, Yellow, and the remakes of Red and Blue, a character very similar to Ash (named Red) appears as a playable character as well as in cameos in Pokémon Black 2, White 2, Gold, Silver, and their remakes. The anime re-imagined Red as Ash Ketchum, the same way it re-imagined Red's rival Blue as Gary Oak and Ethan (the protagonist of the second generation Pokémon games as well as their remakes) as Jimmy. Although they are counterparts, they are not the same characters because they originate from different canons and thus developed from different experiences. Though Pokémon Yellow has certain plot aspects that were inspired by the anime series, the player character is still named Red rather than Ash.
The portrayals of Ash in the manga The Electric Tale of Pikachu, and Ash & Pikachu, are very similar to the one in the anime. There are key differences in the manga, though. The Electric Tale of Pikachu is based on Ash's journey up until the end of the Orange Islands travel. Ash is usually seen traveling by himself during the course of this manga although he is joined by Misty and Brock in Indigo sometimes. Misty is the only one to join Ash in the Orange Islands. The Ash & Pikachu manga is similar, although it has the episodes from the anime like "The Fortune Hunters" and "A Goldenrod Opportunity" combined, but with a couple of changes. Manga author Toshihiro Ono cited Ash as one of his favorite characters to draw for the series, stating, "I want to go on a trip with Misty just like him! (And forget about job, rent, etc.)". In Pokémon Adventures, Red depicts his appearance from what he wore in the games.
The book The Japanification of Children's Popular Culture cited Ash as an example of cultural identification, with the character going through similar motions players of the games had to in order to progress through them. It additionally emphasized the character's growth and development as the anime series progressed. UGO.com listed Ash fifteenth on their list of "The Coolest Helmets and Headgear in Video Games", stating "Love him or hate him, y’all know Ash Ketchum for his red and white cap". The Guinness Book of World Records 2011 Game Edition lists Ash as coming 37th out of 50 in a readers' poll of their favorite video game characters. Jian DeLeon of Complex magazine named him seventeenth on a list of "The 25 Most Stylish Anime Characters," and stated, "The first Ash outfit was hands down the best-and most memorable." However, he has been criticized by IGN for perpetuating floating timeline (i.e. not growing up), never succeeding, and for the ambiguity about his father, noting that the consistency could be seen having nothing as frustrating or comforting for fans.
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