Ash Ketchum and Pikachu, as seen in Pokémon: Black & White (Season 14)
|First game||Pokémon Puzzle League|
|Created by||Satoshi Tajiri|
|Designed by||Ken Sugimori and Atsuko Nishida (video games), Sayuri Ichishi (anime season 1–8), Toshiya Yamada (anime, season 10-present)|
|Voiced by (English)||Veronica Taylor (anime, season 1–8, 1998–2006)
Sarah Natochenny (anime, season 9, 2006–present)
Kayzie Rogers (The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon)
|Voiced by (Japanese)||Rica Matsumoto|
Ash Ketchum, known as Satoshi (サトシ) for all appearances in Japan, is a fictional character in the Pokémon franchise owned by Nintendo. He was created by, and named after, Satoshi Tajiri as the main protagonist of the Pokémon anime and manga series, as well as on various merchandise related to the franchise. In Japanese, the character is voiced by Rica Matsumoto; in English, he was voiced by Veronica Taylor from 1998 until 2006 and the eighth season of the anime series, replaced by Sarah Natochenny for the remainder of the anime and Kayzie Rogers in The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon television special. His name is derived from the Japanese name and his English motto, Satoshi & "Gotta Catch 'Em All". Ash's dream is to become a Pokémon Master.
Named after creator Satoshi Tajiri, Satoshi was designed by Ken Sugimori and Atsuko Nishida, and intended to represent how Tajiri was as a child, obsessed with collecting creatures. During localization of both for North American audiences, the character's name was changed in the anime to "Ash Ketchum", the first name taken from one of the possible default names players could select for the player character in Pokémon Red and Blue, and the surname tying into 4Kids' former tagline for the series, "Gotta catch 'em all!"
Tajiri noted in an interview that between Japanese and American reactions to the series, Japanese consumers focused on the character Pikachu, while Americans purchased more items featuring Ash and Pikachu, his Pokémon, together. He stated that he felt the character represented the concept of the franchise, the human aspect, and was a necessity. In both the games and anime, the character was given a rival, in the latter this rival was named Gary (named Shigeru in the Japanese version, after Tajiri's idol/mentor, Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto). In an interview Tajiri noted the contrast between the character's relationship in the games and anime; while in the games they were rivals, in the anime, Shigeru represented Satoshi's master. When asked if either Satoshi would equal or surpass Shigeru, Tajiri replied "No! Never!" Ash's character design was initially overseen by Sayuri Ichishi, replaced by Toshiya Yamada during the Diamond and Pearl storyline arc.
Veronica Taylor provided the voice of Ash in the first eight seasons of the English adaption of the Pokémon anime, which was dubbed by 4Kids Entertainment. After the script was translated from Japanese, the lines were adapted to fit the movements of the character's mouth (called lip flap). All the voices were recorded separately so Taylor was the only one in the booth when she recorded her lines, which took approximately six to eight hours. Taylor was often the first person to record so she had to "imagine how the previous line will be said. "Luckily, I work with a great director who helps with the interpretation of the line, matching of the lip flap, and consistency of the voice." Taylor enjoyed playing Ash because of his "low, husky voice" and "energy and excitement".
Taylor commented that Ash and the other characters "loosened up" after the first ten episodes of the anime; she believed the writers were more relaxed and did no longer feel the pressure of making sure everything was done correctly. Taylor commented: "I enjoy playing [Ash] now much more than I did in the very beginning because I can have fun with him more, and we kind of know him and can work out how he really would react. We have the classic Ash responses and things like that." Sarah Natochenny replaced Taylor in season nine when The Pokémon Company International (known at that time as Pokémon USA) took over the dubbing rights. In Japan, Rica Matsumoto provides the voice of Ash.
At the start of the series, ten year old Ash started out as a Pokémon trainer in Pallet Town, his hometown. After receiving Pikachu as a starter Pokémon from Professor Oak, Ash left Pallet Town to start his journey. Since his departure, Ash has traveled the World of Pokémon, competed in many challenges, and caught newer Pokémon. He has met many companions such as Misty, Brock and May. During his travels with Misty and Brock, Ash still had a lot to learn as a trainer. He caught his Pokémon by merely befriending them, knew absolutely nothing about battling, and many of his gym badges were given to him out of gratitude (of the first five gym badges, the only actual victory was over Lt. Surge). Yet, Ash honed his skill as a Pokémon trainer and was able to get all 8 badges, making him capable to compete in the Indigo League. Ash was able to go to the 5th round, and achieve the Top 16 — one round further than his competitive rival Gary, who finished in Top 32. After his defeat, Ash traveled to the Orange Islands, obtained all 4 badges, and competed in the Orange League to battle Drake, the Orange League Champion. Ash was able to win his battle against Drake, giving him his first League Championship as a Pokémon trainer.
He then travelled on to the Johto region, with Brock and Misty. He won 8 badges and competed in the Johto Conference. Ash beat Gary again, in the 1st round of the conference, and was able to make it to the quarter-finals, and achieve Top 8. However he lost against his new rival Harrison, in the 2nd round. Ash then moved on and travelled through the Hoenn region, along with Brock and two new characters, May and her little brother Max. He was able to get all 8 badges, and then competed in the Hoenn Conference. Ash was able to defeat his 1st new rival Morrison, in the 2nd round, also entering in the quarter-finals, and achieving Top 8 again. However he lost in the 3rd round against his 2nd new rival Tyson.
Having gone through several leagues and gotten a lot stronger, Ash decides to challenge the Kanto "Battle Frontier" and its 7 Brains (leaders). Ash lost to all of them and doesn't acquire all the 7 Battle Frontier symbols, becoming a "Weak Battle Frontier champion" and qualifies for becoming a Frontier Brain himself. However Ash wanting to learn more about Pokémon and get even stronger, decides to continue his journey, not as a Frontier Brain, but as a trainer. However, having acquired all 7 symbols, he leaves with the privilege of becoming a Frontier Brain if and when he wants in the future.
He recently traveled with Dawn and Brock in Sinnoh, before parting ways with them in Twinleaf Town. Ash gets all 8 badges, and competes in the Sinnoh conference at the Lily of the Valley Island. He eventually faced his Sinnoh rival Paul in the quarter-finals of the Sinnoh League Festival and finally defeated him, also achieving Top 4, which is currently the farthest that Ash ever gotten in the Pokémon League. But he lost in the semi-finals to Tobias, a trainer with the legendary Pokémon Darkrai and Latios. Despite Ash losing to Tobias in the semi-finals, he was the only trainer to defeat Tobias' Darkrai, and he also became the only trainer to battle his second Pokémon, Latios, and beat it too, but at the "Point of Defeat" —as Tobias obtained all 8 gym badges and swept all of his opponents' Pokémon using just his Darkrai and in the end, he win the tournament by defeating his final opponent.
Ash continues his journeys in the new anime arc Pokémon: Best Wishes!, which debuted on September 23, 2010 in Japan. In the Unova region, where the Pokémon Black and White video games and this new series are based, he travels with two new companions: a female trainer named Iris who replaces Dawn, and a new male trainer named Cilan, a gym leader who replaces Brock. He currently has 7 Unova region gym badges.
Ash has considerably improved his abilities as a trainer over the course of the series. However, his earnestness and determination remain the same. During the first season of the series, Ash trained to catch more Pokémon than his childhood rival, Gary Oak, although Gary was always shown to be the stronger trainer. He soon began to focus more on each of his Pokémon's abilities. Ash's primary nemesis is a group of antagonists named Team Rocket. Ever since the second episode, "Pokémon Emergency!", two Team Rocket operatives named Jessie and James, along with a talking Meowth, have tried to steal his first Pokémon, Pikachu as well as many others, but have always failed. Despite their constant antagonism, they occasionally put their differences aside and work together against a common adversary, such as in Pokémon: The Movie 2000, where they aid Ash in retrieving the three treasures in order to save the world.
The only video game Ash has truly appeared in to date is Pokémon Puzzle League, where he tries to become a Pokémon Master. This game was never produced in Japan.
The portrayals of Ash in the manga The Electric Tale of Pikachu, and Ash & Pikachu, are very similar to the one in the anime. There are key differences in the manga, though. The Electric Tale of Pikachu is based on Ash's journey up until the end of the Orange Islands travel. Ash is usually seen traveling by himself during the course of this manga although he is joined by Misty and Brock in Indigo sometimes. Misty is the only one to join Ash in the Orange Islands. The Ash & Pikachu manga is similar, although it has the episodes from the anime like "The Fortune Hunters" and "A Goldenrod Opportunity" combined, but with a couple of changes. Manga author Toshihiro Ono cited Ash as one of his favorite characters to draw for the series, stating, "I want to go on a trip with Misty just like him! (And forget about job, rent, etc.)".
The book The Japanification of Children's Popular Culture cited Ash as an example of cultural identification, with the character going through similar motions players of the games had to in order to progress through them. It additionally emphasized the character's growth and development as the anime series progressed. UGO.com listed Ash fifteenth on their list of "The Coolest Helmets and Headgear in Video Games", stating "Love him or hate him, y’all know Ash Ketchum for his red and white cap". The Guinness Book of World Records 2011 Game Edition lists Ash as coming 37th out of 50 in a readers poll of favorite video game character, despite never appearing in a Pokémon video game. He has also been criticized by IGN for not growing up, never succeeding, and for the ambiguity about his father, noting that the consistency could be seen as frustrating or comforting for fans.
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