Ash and his Pikachu partner have starred in the “Pokémon” anime series since it debuted in 1997, spanning over 1,000 TV episodes and 20 movies.
Now that he has officially become the very best, like no one ever was, Ash Ketchum is heading for retirement. The long-running and perennial 10-year-old star of the beloved “Pokémon” anime will leave the series with an upcoming 11-episode run in Japan in January, the Pokémon Company announced Friday.
In his place, two new main characters, Liko and Roy, will be introduced in a new series set in the Paldea region, introduced in this year’s Generation IX “Pokémon” game “Scarlet and Violet.” The series will premiere sometime later in 2023, and features the starters from the game: Sprigatito (a grass cat), Fuecoco (a fire-breathing baby crocodile) and Quaxly (a water duck).
The news of Ash’s retirement from the anime comes a month after the Japanese broadcast of the 132nd episode of the “Pokémon Journeys” series, and the 1217th episode of the anime overall, which saw Ash (voiced in Japanese by Rika Matsumoto and in English by Sarah Natochenny) and his first Pokémon Pikachu (Ikue Ōtani) defeat reigning champion Leon (Daisuke Ono/Alejandro Saab) in the World Coronation Series tournament, officially claiming the title of number one Pokémon trainer in the world. The episode will air in English on Netflix as the 42nd episode of the “Pokémon Ultimate Journeys” series at a date yet to be announced.
The “Pokémon Journeys” series will conclude in Japan with a special set airing on December 23. Afterwards, Ash and Pikachu’s story on the anime series will conclude with an 11-episode arc set to begin airing in Japan on January 13, which will see them reunite with many fan-favorite characters from the show’s 25-plus years. Ash and Pikachu have served as the main characters in the anime, a spinoff of Nintendo’s extremely popular RPG series, since it premiered in Japan in 1997, appearing in every episode as well as the 23 films that have been released theatrically in Japan.
About Team Rocket members Jesse (Megumi Hayashibara/Michele Knotz), James (Shin-ichiro Miki/Jimmy Zoppi), Meowth (Inuko Inuyama/Zoppi) and Wobbuffet (Yūji Ueda/Erica Schroeder), who have been the other permanent fixtures of series by chasing Ash and Pikachu across eight different regions throughout their trainer career will also be withdrawn from the series has not been announced.
The “Pokémon” video game series was created by Satoshi Tajiri and began in 1996 with the Japanese release of “Pokémon Red and Green.” The immediate success of the game launched one of the highest-grossing franchises of all time, with an estimated revenue of $71 billion in 2019. In addition to the consistent success of the main video games – “Scarlet and Violet” sold 10 million copies in its first three days of availability – the franchise also spawned the best-selling card game of all time, several spin-off games, and the live-action movie “Detective Pikachu.” The anime adaptation was one of the first Japanese series to achieve mainstream popularity in the United States, and is credited with helping to introduce the medium to the English-speaking world.
Watch the trailer released by the Pokémon Company for Ash’s final arc in the show below.