FEATURE: The 5 Greatest Ash Ketchum Moments From Over 25 Years of Pokémon

From victories to goodbyes, here are some of his most important moments


With over 25 years’ worth of the Pokémon anime under his belt, Ash Ketchum has racked up quite a few impressive moments. Some of these (especially lately) have been giant wins that put to rest many complaints he’s accrued saying the Prodigal Son of Pallet Town just can’t get the job done. A lot of them are emotional, showing us how, despite all manner of adversity, obstacles and Team Rocket traps, Ash will persevere and strive to work harder and be a better trainer.


So, when it comes to picking out his best moments, I have a lot to choose from. However, I think we can safely whittle it down to five — five moments that represent Ash as a character and embody everything he’s been through. I’d need to start from the beginning, though, when…


Ash Is Willing To Sacrifice Himself For Pikachu


ash in pokemon

Image via Pokèmon TV


The first episode of Pokémon essentially fits in an entire personal arc in 20 minutes. Ash begins as a loud 10-year-old who is so idealistic and carefree he arrives late to pick up his first Pokémon and then believes Pikachu should hang out with him simply because that’s how things are supposed to work. By the end, standing tall in front of a flock of angry Spearow, Ash realizes he has to prove himself to his Pokémon and not just treat them like ubiquitous battle pets. 


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Ash learning that self-sacrifice is crucial to being a trainer occurs several times in the series, most notably again when he leaps between Mew and Mewtwo’s psychic blasts in The First Movie in order to stop all the senseless fighting. But it’s in the first episode, the one that ties him to his eternal best bud Pikachu, that the lesson is at its most significant. Their bond proves its importance.


Ash Says Goodbye To Butterfree



Image via Pokèmon TV


In the tear-jerking episode “Bye Bye Butterfree,” Ash realizes his Butterfree (evolved from Caterpie, the first Pokémon he ever properly caught) wants to strike out on its own with its new mate. It takes a long time for Ash to come around to fully accepting this, that maybe the growth of a friend or a Pokémon doesn’t necessarily exist in the same physical space as you. Sometimes you have to let go and be willing to acknowledge other people’s wishes and journeys.


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Ash says goodbye a lot in the show, from leaving Charizard behind to train to splitting apart from Brock and Misty after the Silver Conference to the myriad of farewells he’s given his friends across multiple regions. It all starts with Butterfree, though. Goodbyes are hard, and Ash always treats them with the proper emotional weight. But even if distance separates you, memory doesn’t. And they’ll always have the time spent together that made them stronger.


Ash Befriends Gary Oak


ash ketchum and gary oak in pokemon

Image via Amazon Prime


This is a big moment for Gary Oak as well. When Ash finally bests Gary in the Silver Conference, Gary has a crisis of faith of sorts. Ash’s brash rival realizes that maybe calling Ash a loser and trying to beat him in Pokémon battles isn’t really what he wants in life. Gary decides to become a Pokémon researcher, kinda like his Grandpa. Ash is a little surprised by this but seeing that Gary has made such a leap allows Ash to bury their grudge once and for all.


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I can’t reasonably count the amount of times Ash has met an antagonistic person and then, over the course of an episode, ended up connecting with them. Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, etc. But here, with the kid that started their Pokémon journey on the same day as him in the same town as him, he makes his greatest judge of character. When Ash heads to Hoenn, he does so knowing Gary is his friend… or at least not a jerk anymore.


Ash Beats Paul


ash in pokemon

Image via Pokèmon TV


There are two physical battle victories on this list and I imagine you can guess one of them. However, the first comes from the Diamond and Pearl anime with the rival I consider to be the best in the series: Paul. Ash beating Paul carries a sense of satisfaction that not even his win against Gary Oak can muster — Paul was everything Ash wasn’t as a trainer. Paul was ruthless, cold and disdainful of any Pokémon he didn’t deem strong enough. 


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Paul, of course, would eventually settle down a bit. By the time he returns in Pokémon Journeys, he’s no longer the hostile kid Ash met in Sinnoh. However, that victory in the Sinnoh League didn’t just humble Paul, it also proved Ash’s approach was the right one all along. Being nice to all Pokemon is better than treating them as replaceable laser critters. Who would’ve thought?


Ash Wins The World Championship


ash ketchum holding a trophy and cheering with pikachu on his shoulder in pokemon

Image via Pokèmon TV


This is the most obvious one but it’s the culmination of lost HP, sweat and tears on an incalculable scale. Ash has had so many losses, so many times when nabbing that trophy was just out of reach. He’s had quite a few wins, too — otherwise he wouldn’t even be allowed to compete in the tournament. But the visual of Ash carrying that World Championship cup, surrounded by his most enviable team of Pokémon yet, is a grand realization of two and a half decades of the hopes of his fans. Finally, our boy did it.


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Where he goes next is almost beside the point. It’s Ash Ketchum. He will always keep adventuring and striving to reach the next level. He will forever be trying to travel to the next region where he can make his next friends, Pokémon or otherwise. But no one can take a win like this away from him. Ash leaves the series at his highest point.


What is your favorite Ash Ketchum moment? Let me know in the comments!



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