Why Pokémon Can Survive Without Ash Ketchum

Ash has always been a uniquely difficult character to build a story around. At first glance, his character is as simple as can be. He’s a young boy who wants to be the best and is willing to work long and hard in order to achieve that goal. He does this together with his friends, both human and Pokémon. In short, he might as well be a character out of Shonen Jump, the magazine that produced hits like “Naruto” and “One Piece.” But Ash’s story is built with unique limitations. Unlike Naruto, Ash has no defining tragedy that drives him forward, and he never grows older. Unlike Luffy, the hero of “One Piece,” the world of “Pokémon” is not allowed to change in response to Ash’s victories. Despite having traveled across the world and caught countless Pokémon, Ash has scarcely matured since his introduction in 1997.

Nobody was more frustrated by this than the original scriptwriter of the Pokémon anime, Takeshi Shudo. Shudo understood the “Pokémon” franchise as a story of adolescence, taking inspiration from films like “Stand by Me.” He succeeded in introducing darker, weirder elements to the Pokémon mythos in “Pokémon: The First Movie,” but he soon became frustrated with Ash, who was not allowed to change in the way he wanted him to. “I want Ash to show some development as a character,” he said in a blog post translated by Dr. Lava. “I want him to one day look back on those past ‘days of Pokémon’ with nostalgia.” Shudo dreamed of an ending to Pokémon where Ash might one day leave them behind, and die remembering his childhood days of adventure. But at the time, it was not meant to be.

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