Ash’s 10 Best Battles in Pokemon Anime, Ranked

Ash’s 10 Best Battles in Pokemon Anime, Ranked

Ash Ketchum from Pokémon anime has traveled all over the country and searched far and wide. Pokémon battling has been Ash’s biggest passion since the beginning, and with 25 years of adventuring under his belt, he’s had some incredibly intense and meaningful battles during his career.

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Whether he wins or loses, his fights are often much more than simple competition. Ash’s greatest battles in the anime tell engaging stories, develop both Ash and his opponents, include unique, creative strategies, and symbolize his relationships with both humans and Pokémon.

10/10 May turned out to be similar to Ash

Ash May Terracotta

Pokémon contests were a popular subplot introduced in the third generation, serving as the goal for several of Ash’s companions. Ash and May compete in an unofficial competition at the end of the Advanced generationwhich eventually ends in a draw.

The fight is already engaging for presenting a starting battle between Sceptile and Blaziken, but most importantly, it represents May and Ash’s student-mentor relationship. May, now equal to Ash, battles her Hoenn ace in a battle that deeply respects both characters’ goals.

9/10 Gladion changed the status quo forever

Ash's Lycanroc uses Counter against Gladion's Lycanroc in the Pokémon anime

Ash’s Alola League match with Gladion marks one of the most iconic turning points in the anime. Ash winning the league and becoming a champion turned the show on its head. It proved that the series was done keeping him in the same cycle over and over again.

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While not a full six-on-six like Ash’s other rival showdowns, this approach ensures that no moment is wasted on one of Ash’s greatest achievements. Showcasing their unique levels of strength using Legendary and Mythical Pokémon, Ash and Gladion share a heartfelt conclusion to their rivalry.

8/10 Gary Oak was Ash’s original rival

Ash faces Gary in the Pokémon anime.

It’s hard to forget the first major rival Ash ever defeated. Gary was two steps ahead of Ash in the original series, but when it mattered most, Ash finally prevailed over him in the Johto League. After this, the two settled their differences and became friends.

While the battle isn’t as visually striking as its many successors, and suffers from the omission of Pikachu, it’s easily the most memorable match-up of the original series. It establishes the template for all rivalries to follow.

7/10 Brandon was the Kanto team’s biggest win

Anime Pokemon Pikachu beats Brandon's Regice

Brandon was the latest challenge for Ash’s Battle Frontier mission, proving to be a threat beyond anything he had faced before. After suffering two previous losses to the mighty Frontier Brain, Ash called upon his longest standing Pokémon, the three Kanto starters, to help in their third battle.

Seeing Ash’s original team members return for one last moment of glory is incredibly rewarding for longtime viewers. Between that and Pikachu’s first victory over a Legendary Pokémon, the battle ensured that Advanced generation went out with a bang.

6/10 Lake Acuity destroyed ash in the best way

Ash vs.  Paul six on six at Lake Acuity postgame

While Ash has had many wonderful victories, he has also had many heartbreaking losses. No other loss crushed Ash as deeply as his Lake Acuity match against Paul, a cruel trainer who tormented Ash all over Sinnoh. Despite his nasty attitude, Paul was also brutally tactical in nature with special counters for Ash’s team, resulting in a 6-2 loss.

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As devastating as it is, the fight serves as one of the most powerful moments in anime. It gives Paul some much needed development and forces Ash to reflect on his own methods. Ultimately, it sets up their next match in the Sinnoh League to be that much more satisfying.

5/10 Misty grew next to ash

Misty shows off the Mega Evolution Key Stone

Misty is the very first companion to ever join Ash on his travels, staying with him throughout the original anime. Their long history has formed a special bond between the two, and nowhere is this better shown than their unofficial practice match from Sun moon.

Although the match is only one-on-one, it captures the deep respect Ash and Misty share as they show how far they’ve come from their rookie days. It’s also as exciting as it is meaningful, with superb animation, excellent strategies and a clash between Mega Evolution and Z-Moves.

4/10 Clemont was Ash’s most built up training match

Ash is Goodra

Ash and Clemont prepared especially hard for the match against the Lumiose Gym. In a unique twist, Clemont left Ash’s group to train for their match, while Ash had been preparing to fight him since the first day they met.

The battle serves as the climax of Clemont’s arc. It has beautiful action, parallels to the first episode of XY, and a heartwarming ending for Ash and his Kalos comrades. It’s very rare that a practice match is built up as thoroughly as this, but it works just the same to ensure how impactful it was.

3/10 Professor Kukui celebrates Ash’s championship

Ash vs.  Kukui Pokémon

Professor Kukui became the father figure Ash never had Sun moon. Despite their close relationship, Ash and Kukui’s mutual love of battle built up a battle between them from the very beginning. As a reward for winning the Alola League, Kukui has a four-way, six-on-six match with Ash.

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Although there are technically no stakes due to it being an exhibition match, that doesn’t stop the two trainers from going all out, especially after Tapu Koko joins in. The battle resolves multiple rivalries for Ash’s Pokémon, and simply maintains an infectious level of fun. It is extremely difficult not to get wrapped up in both characters having the time of their lives.

2/10 Leon is Ash’s most powerful challenge

A recap episode covers Ash and Leon's battle in the Pokemon Journeys anime

Ash’s Masters Eight match against Leon is the anime’s biggest match by a wide margin. It’s one of only two matches in the series to span four episodes straight, and its scale is unlike anything seen in the series before, with Ash vying for the ultimate spot as the world’s greatest trainer.

Above all else, the final battle between Pikachu and Charizard is the ultimate showdown between two lifelong partner Pokémon. All of Ash’s friends and Pokemon seem to support him for his feat, and it more than earns the status of Ash’s final challenge.

1/10 Paul ends Anime’s best story

Paul vs. Ash, Pokemon

Paul is the ultimate rival and foil to Ash Ketchum. Cold, calculating, arrogant and rude, he challenges the very core of Ash’s belief in raising Pokémon through love and respect. Their biggest battle in the Sinnoh League puts everything they’ve learned, both about battle and about each other, on the line.

No other character was built up for a final showdown like Paul was. Their Sinnoh League match builds on all of their many previous matches, draws countless parallels to previous episodes, and ends with Paul’s grand karmic defeat at the hands of his former Pokémon, Infernape. To this day, Ash vs Paul has set the gold standard for every story arc in the anime.

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