The end of an era is upon us. The Pokémon Company has announced that January will see the beginning of the end for its long-running Pokémon anime as we know it, with the legendary hero and perpetual 10-year-old Satoshi, better known across the world as Ash Ketchum, bowing out as the protagonist of the series.
Many fans expected this in the wake of the recent development in the latest iteration of the long-running series saw Ash finally become a World Champion Pokémon Trainer, defeating Pokémon Sword and Shield’s Leon in the Pokémon World Coronation Series, earning his first international title win in the entire 25-year run of the series. Where else could Ash go from here in his long quest to become the very best, like no one ever was?
The answer is home. Beginning on January 13 in Japan, an 11-episode epilogue series to the current run of the anime—simply titled Pocket Monsters in Japan but known as Pokémon Journeys in the West—will tell the final chapter in Ash and Pikachu’s story, as the young hero contemplates what his quest to become a Pokémon Master means in the wake of his victory. In April, a brand new Pokémon series will begin, introducing two new protagonists for the franchise.
Accompanied by the three starter Pokémon of the Paldea region, introduced in the recent Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet games—grass type Sprigatito, fire type Fuecoco, and water type Quaxly—the two new protagonists of the as-yet-untitled series will be a young girl named Liko and a boy named Roy in Japan. The fact that it’s explicitly stated that these will be their names in the anime seems to suggest that, just like Ash, they could potentially receive new names when the series is dubbed.
“It’s been an extraordinary privilege to have been the English voice of Ash Ketchum for what will be 17 years,” Sarah Natochenny, the current English voice actress for Ash, said in a statement released on social media. “No matter what lies beyond his final chapter, he’ll live forever in the hearts of many generations to come.”
It’s a major sea change for a franchise that has, for nearly two-and-a-half decades, been defined by its reluctance to embrace change across all of its iterations, whether it’s the video and card games or indeed the fact that Ash has been the face of Pokémon’s animated adventures since its inception. The card game has evolved in fits and starts over the years, adding layers of mechanical complexion, and Scarlet, Violet, and this year’s spinoff Legends: Arceus all represented big steps forward for Pokémon’s approach to its traditional game structures. Now it’s time for the anime branch of the series to join them in trying something new—but not before we bid farewell to a young hero from Pallet Town.
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