Pokémon Ultimate Journeys spoilers follow.
Well, he finally did it. It’s been a long time coming, but Ash Ketchum is now the very best. Like no one ever was.
Since the very first episode of Pokémon aired back in 1997, Pallet Town’s prodigy has been teaching those cute little pocket monsters to understand the power that’s inside, all in a bid to become the official World Champion. And now, 25 years later, Satoshi (as he’s known in Japan) has actually done it.
It was on November 11, 2022, in episode 132 of Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series, that Ash did the unthinkable, finally achieving his lifelong dream. To win this great honor, Ash fought the current World Champion, Leon, in a 6v6 battle that lasted for four episodes.
This came off the back of his regional tournament victory in 2019’s Pokemon: Sun and Moon where Ash first became a Master, setting him on the path to this new historic win.
The show’s official account celebrated Ash’s achievement online right after the episode aired, writing: “He’s done it! Ash has become a World Champion.”
And then Sarah Natochenny, Ash’s English-language voice-actor tweeted her own celebration: “I can’t wait to share the English dub of this episode of Pokémon with the world. What an absolute honor to be voicing Ash Ketchum as he becomes a world champion. He really is the best, like no one ever was.”
Finer words have never been said.
Now, it’s no exaggeration to say the wait for this moment has been bigger than a greedy Snorlax, and for a while there, it really did feel like Ash would never make his dream come true. We’re talking hundreds, no thousands, of episodes where Ketchum tried and failed to win countless leagues and tournaments across the past two and a half decades.
Seeing Ash win now is hugely nostalgic for fans, especially those who have stuck with him since the beginning. It’s like Mario finally defeating Bowser for good or Luigi admitting he has a thing for Wario. We all knew it was technically supposed to happen eventually, but we never expected it to happen in our lifetime.
The win is even more emotional given how these last few episodes gathered so many of Ash’s long time friends and Poké-buddies together at the end of his journey. But this all begs the question; Is this the end of Ash’s journey? Now that he’s won, will Ketchum retire from battling? And what does this mean for Pokémon as a whole?
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Pokémon Journeys anime still has three more episodes to air before it ends in Japan. Following a one-week break, episode 133, titled ‘Project Mew’, will drop on November 25, 2022, and then the final two episodes of the season will follow on December 2, and December 9.
So we definitely have three more episodes of Pokémon Journeys at least, although the finale’s title has got fans worried about the show’s future beyond that.
‘Pokémon! I’m Glad I Got to Meet You!!’ looks suspiciously similar to the name of the very first episode, which was titled ‘Pokémon – I Choose You!’ – and that definitely seems deliberate in a final, bookend kind of way.
It’s not just this full-circle moment that’s causing concern though. “I’m Glad I Got To Meet You” also sounds like a goodbye of sorts, which does not bode well for hardcore Ash stans. Is he leaving the show for good? Or is he being torn apart from Pikachu in typically dramatic fashion?
There’s no new info on what will actually happen in those last couple of episodes just yet, but some kind of change is definitely on the cards. This season included more gap weeks and recap episodes than usual, which has led some fans to believe Pokémon’s time on TV could soon be coming to an end.
That seems unlikely though. Pokémon remains a pop-culture juggernaut even now, stronger than all the legendary Pokémon combined, so it’s future feels assured still.
That future might not include Ash though. Now that he’s fulfilled his dream, there’s not much left for him to do, narratively speaking. Perhaps someone else will step in and take over as lead, like Goh, for example, who’s played a big role in this recent series. A reboot isn’t completely out of the question either.
Or perhaps we’re just being too pessimistic. Japanese voice actor Rica Matsumoto also celebrated Ash’s big win after the episode aired, and she isn’t convinced that the end is in sight just yet:
“Although Satoshi [Ash] has won the title of Strongest Pokémon Trainer, he has still not become the Pokémon Master of his dreams,” Matsumoto shared in a statement to Oricon.
“It’s been 15 years since I began playing Satoshi, and he’s worked hard during this battle. The children who watched the first broadcast in 1997 have grown up and I think that some people have moved away from the anime. He’s one step away from becoming the strongest in the world of Pokémon. Kids and adults alike, please support Ash!”
Rica might have a point. Ash has always been laser-focused on becoming the world champion, but as the world’s greatest theme tune repeatedly reminds us, he’s “gotta catch em all” because it’s his “destiny”. And given how new Pokémon are introduced all the time, we have a feeling Ash could be kept busy still for another twenty-five years or more.
Pokémon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet released exclusively on Nintendo Switch on November 18.