For many of us, Pokémon is more than just a zany franchise created by adults for the ultimate purpose of acquiring currency and recognition. For many of us, Pokémon has played a crucial part in forming our very identities. Some of our most beloved memories as children were spent panting in front of a TV screen after running home from school to catch every second of the new episode, or riding in the backseat of the car with our necks craned downward and our eyes glued to the gorgeously simple pixels of our Game Boy screens, drooling a little as we watched the rapidly alternating frames of Wartortle evolving into Blastoise. Sure, Pokémon is a business venture like any other, devised by adults so they can disregard females and acquire currency, but to many of us, Pokémon is life itself.
For those reasons, it does us a heap of good to think back on the story of Pokémon as it first unfurled. As you read through the entries, many of Ash’s adventures and the friends he made along the way will flood your cranium. You may sweat, you may drool. Do not panic, for that is sweet nostalgia enveloping you in its syrupy embrace. Let it melt you away.
15. When Charizard Seismic Tosses Magmar
Nevermind the fact that Charizard doesn’t even learn Seismic Toss in the Pokémon games (his stats and typing scream hyper offense anyway; no room for a fixed-damage attack like Seismic Toss in his move set). We all cheered a gleeful cheer and pumped our fists up at our TV screens when we saw Charizard lift Magmar up to the sky, fly him around the globe a couple times, then slam him down into the ground. Everyone knew what Charizard was capable of before this point but he would never listen to Ash, so it was only during this battle that we got to see the monster in action. Magmar’s swirled eyes at the end of it said it all: K.O., bro; you’re done, son… train harder next time. To add to the achievement, Charizard defeated Magmar on Blaine’s own turf, atop a Cinabbar Island volcano. This battle marked the beginning of Ash’s true partnership with the lovely monster, and many poor Pokémon would soon follow Magmar’s swirley-eyed lead after facing the mighty ‘Zard.
14. Aim For The Horn
This is another one that wouldn’t make any sense at all in the original Pokémon games. Pikachu is an Electric type Pokémon, Rhydon is Rock/Ground. Ground Pokémon are completely immune to Electric attacks, and that’s pretty much most of what Pikachu has in his arsenal. Still, once again we will let this one slide, since it made for such a glorious scene in the anime, generating the most golden of phrases that is still used to this day: “Pikachu! Aim for the horn!” The words have such a beautiful ring to it. Pikachu certainly did aim for that Rhydon’s horn, and the thunderbolt struck it down good. Even as children watching this scene for the first time, the Pokémon logician in us wanted to fold our arms snobbishly and give our little friends a breakdown on why this segment is technically wrong, wrong, wrong, but the glory in the scene was so strong that we had to keep our mouths shut and raise our hands to the sky.
13. Bye Bye Butterfree
This one was a tough Flintstone pill to swallow. As little Pokémaniacs watching this on TV for the very first time, we knew what the gist of the episode would be, and it instantly made us very sad. We had to suffer through the duration of the episode until the very end, when Ash finally said bye bye to his beloved Butterfree. We lamented and lamented, but nothing can change the occurrences within an episode of a TV show once it’s aired. But why did it have to be Butterfree?! That beautiful monstrosity of a butterfly was Ash’s very first catch as a Caterpie. It spent some useless time as a Metapod, essentially loitering around, doing nothing whether inside of the Pokéball or out, but then it became Butterfree! Butterfree seemed totally broken for a while, as it would just spray Sleep Powder in the air and render all of its enemies useless. This was a sad Pokémon to see leave the squad, and we will always keep dear Butterfree in our hearts.
12. When Pikachu Destroys The Spearow
What a way to kick off the televised world of Pokémon! Ash had just picked up his fresh Pikachu from Oak’s lab, and the magical little mouse didn’t seem to be taking a liking to young Mr. Ketchum. Certainly not the way he had imagined his Pokémon journey to begin, Ash was starting to lose hope, and he suddenly stumbled upon the risk of losing much more than that when a huge flock of Spearow fell upon him and Pikachu. Things began to take a turn for the grim really quickly, and Ash showed his true, admirable colours right there at the beginning when he put himself at risk to shield Pikachu from the ferocious Spearow. They would’ve both been pecked to certain death had Pikachu not leapt into the sky and zapped them all to smithereens with his crazy thunder powers. It kicked the show off with a real bang, and we never forgot about it.
This episode stuck with us for a long time. After watching it for the first time, we really didn’t understand what went on. It all just happened so quickly. As a farce presumably meant show off the extent of its powers, Ghastly merged a Blastoise and a Venusaur into one Pokémon, making Venustoise! What the Shuckle is a Venustoise?! First of all we had no idea that two Pokémon can fuse together to make one, and second of all we never had a clue that Ghastly had such god-like powers. We scoured through our in-game Pokédexes and saw no Venustoise; we tried to find something out on the beta playground that was the world wide web back then; we asked all our friends about it, but no one knew exactly what was going on. As adults looking back on it, we realize that writers of a fictional show have the liberty of including pretty much any scene they want, even if it defies the foundation previously set by the story’s rules. Still, we want that broken Ghastly, and we want a Venustoise!
10. Ash’s Battle With Sabrina
As children, this Pokémon episode taught us that laughter trumps all, even the most powerful Psychic Pokémon and their psychotic, telekinetic trainers. Sabrina had Ash beat by a large margin. Her Kadabra was way too powerful for any of Ash’s Pokémon to even put a scratch on it. All at once, his chances of becoming a Pokémon master seemed quite glum indeed. Then came Haunter, and with it came sweet hope. Ash finally had an advantage over Sabrina, an advantage that came from the eternal power of laughter. The problem was that Haunter was totally crazy and unreliable, so he ditched the battle as soon as it started. Thankfully, after Pikachu got a good mental whopping from Kadabra, Haunter showed up again and gave Sabrina and her Pokémon a case of the ole giggles. (How cute.) Again, this would not work one bit in the Pokémon games, but it made for a great and memorable episode.
9. When Ash Met Charmander
Now, how cute was that little Charmander! We saw his sleek sprite in Pokémon Blue and thought he looked pretty cool (obviously we picked him over Bulbasaur and Squirtle right away), but who would have thought he’d be so adorable and equally sleek when fleshed out in the anime! Just like everyone else on the planet, we love Charmander, which is why it broke our little hearts when we saw the poor thing in danger of actual death. Yeah, apparently a Charmander just ceases to be when his tail’s flame goes out, which is pretty grim in the Pokémon world. Thankfully though, Ash managed to save him right in the nick of time. Charmander recovered fully and joined Ash on his Pokémon journey. Too bad that Charmander seemed to forget all about how his trainer totally saved his life when he evolved into Charizard, but that’s all water under the bridge now.
8. Pikachu’s Goodbye
Again, this episode title almost ended our childhood bodies via an extremely premature heart attack. ‘Bye Bye Butterfree’ was hard enough already, but now they’re alluding to Pikachu leaving the party, too? How could they even dare? Pikachu was with Ash from the very beginning, and the bond they built together was strong enough to move nations. But no, the writers of the Pokémon series decided to play with our young healths with this sick little trick. When Ash’s Pikachu runs into a huge group of other Pikachu, Ash sees how happy he is and decides to let him go and be with his own kind. As the world shouted a collective “No!” at their TV screens, Ash walked away solemnly as could be. But Pikachu came after him, thank the gods. They embraced and decided never to leave each other again. The world sighed collectively in relief, and the health of our young bodies was safe once more. Still, the suspense almost got us for good.
7. The Squirtle Squad
Oh yeah, here comes the Squirtle Squad! Kings of cool, gods of mortals, the Squirtles in this squad do what they want, playing by no one’s rules but theirs. Team Rocket and even Ash Ketchum thought they had the Squirtle Squad figured out, but what they didn’t know is that the Squirtle Squad is always thinking 10 to 20 steps ahead of everyone else. After a nasty fire breaks out (caused by Team Rocket, of course), the Squirtle Squad teams up and puts it right out in a jiffy, inspiring the town to adopt them as their official firefighters. Our theory is that the squad wanted to become firefighters all along, but due to Kanto not having equal occupational rights for Pokémon, they let all the occurrences of the episode play through, knowing it would end with them getting the job. Ash can’t complain, since he managed to nab one of these legends for himself. The Squirtle Squad: f*** yeah!
6. Pikachu Defeats Raichu
This episode is proof positive that intention, will, and a little bit of strategy can trump unfavourable odds every time, no matter how low the chances of success are. Pikachu and Ash may not be the most powerful duo of all time, but dammit are they ever tenacious. Their tenacity is what win them most of their fights, and it’s definitely what won them the fight against Lieutenant Surge. In the Pokémon world, an unevolved Pokémon fighting against its evolved form is a losing matchup every single time, unless of course the battle involves the wonder boy named Ash Ketchum and his faithful Pikachu. Using sheer perseverance and a winning strategy, Ash and Pikachu managed to reduce Lietuenant Surge’s Raichu to an exhausted state, leaving it vulnerable for Pikachu’s deadly Quick Attack. The average trainer would never question evolving their Pokémon, but this episode proved that evolved forms are not necessarily better forms.
5. Ash’s Battle Against Drake
In the Pokémon world, Dragon type Pokémon are considered legendary beasts, and coming up against one in battle is a daunting obstacle for any trainer. In Ash’s Orange League battle against Drake, Ash had to face Dragonite, one of the most powerful Dragon type Pokémon there is. If we were Pokémon trainers, we would probably be shaking in our boots if we had to battle a Dragonite, but this 10-year-old Pokémon wonder named Ash Ketchum faced his opponent with admirable bravery. Ash had to run through Drake’s formidable Pokémon team, which included Ditto, Onix, Gengar, Venusaur, and Electabuzz before he could even get to Dragonite. The Dragon proved to be a relentless foe with an extremely versatile move set. The match came down to the very last hit between Pikachu and Dragonite, and Pikachu was the last Pokémon standing. It was Ash’s most glorious victory yet, and he and his Pokémon truly earned it.
4. Pikachu Versus Eevee
Ash and Pikachu are a truly formidable team, but they aren’t invincible and they’re definitely not undefeated. The duo have lost plenty of matches throughout their travels. Each loss was of course beneficial, as it illuminated the areas in which they needed to improve. Still, nothing stings like losing a Pokémon battle that you really want to win, and there aren’t many Pokémon battles Ash wants to win more than a Pokémon battle versus his old rival, Gary. After becoming Orange League champion, Ash faced off against Gary in their native Pallet Town, where their Pokémon journey began. In a one on one battle where Ash’s Pikachu faced off against Gary’s Eevee, Pikachu got completely decimated, being unable to fight after being hit with just one move by Eevee. Gary’s Pokémon was simply of a much higher level than Pikachu, which is why the battle wasn’t even close. It was a tough loss to take, but it taught Ash that, despite his accomplishments, his Pokémon had a long way to go before he could truly call himself a Pokémon master.
3. Ash’s Battle Against Richie
This is definitely one of the most infuriating events in the entire Pokémon series. One of Ash’s biggest dreams was to one day become the Pokémon League champion. This is of course a huge mountain for any Pokémon trainer to climb, but we would like to think that Ash had a strong shot at it. He had a solid Pokémon team, and the experience he accrued from obtaining all the gym badges and fighting a myriad of other trainers along the way gave him the knowledge and skills that could’ve taken him all the way. But then, Charizard happened. In the top 16 divisions of the Pokémon League championship, Ash faced off against Richie, who is somewhat of a bizarro Ash himself with a very similar Pokémon party. It pained the two to face each other in bracket since they recently formed a strong bond together, but it was a necessary thing to do for glory. The two were essentially evenly matched until it came to their last Pokémon: Richie’s Sparky (Pikachu) versus Ash’s Charizard. Charizard flapped his wings and directed a gust of wind at Sparky that almost knocked him over. This proved to Charizard that he was clearly the stronger of the two. So, not seeing the necessity of going through the motions of the battle, ‘Zard fell asleep right on the Pokémon League stage, effectively eliminating Ash. It was a lame way for Ash to get eliminated, and we’d totally hold it against Charizard if he wasn’t so damn classically cool.
2. Every Time Team Rocket Blast Off (Again)
Jesse, James, and Meowth arguably form one of the greatest antagonist trident in any story, ever. The tension is super high whenever they show up, since their success would mean that Ash would lose Pikachu indefinitely, but at the same time we can never really take them seriously. Despite the years of life experience and the obvious financial means they have over Ash, they never seem to stand a chance. As kids watching the show we were trained to know that, inevitably, whenever Team Rocket would show up out of the blue, we would see them depart via a very explosive blast-off, which they would briefly narrate themselves every single time: “We’re blasting off again!” We never quite understood how the three of them could survive a fall from what clearly looks like several hundred feet in the air, but Team Rocket came back for more, every single time. They are evil but they are just as tenacious as Ash, and we’ll always love them for it.
1. Ditto Shenanigans
This entire episode was just plain fun, and it featured a few things we’d never seen on the Pokémon show. Seeking shelter from the rain, Ash and his crew stumble upon an apparently deserted mansion, except there is a trainer living there with her wonder Pokémon, the amazing Ditto. Ditto transforms into Ash’s Pikachu as well as his Bulbasaur (even knocking Bulbasaur out in a one on one match), albeit its face still looks a bit funky after transforming. Of course, Team Rocket show up, and this time they actually succeed in their venture and ended up stealing poor Ditto. Shenanigans ensue with the evil trio as they have a ton of fun making Ditto transform into various Pokémon and objects, even a strange blue-haired man that is apparently Jessie’s crush. Ash and his friends bust into their hideout, reciting their version of Team Rocket’s motto before they steal Ditto right back from them. A filler episode at the end of the day, but it’s definitely enjoyable filler.