Ash and Pikachu have been through a lot together over their 25 years together, but their time together is almost up. The two actors, who have both appeared for a significant amount of time in the anime adaptations of well-known video games, began their journey to reach the pinnacle of their field. In the most recent episode of Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series, which took place in the latter half of 2022, the two players ultimately achieved their objective of winning a global championship. During the winter of that year, The Pokémon Company International announced that Ash and Pikachu's adventure would soon come to an end and that a new group of heroes would take on the mantle.
It is a change that will be missed, but it also marks the beginning of a new chapter in the Pokémon story. To gain some insight into Ash's path and legacy, Polygon interviewed Sarah Natochenny, who has been Ash's English voice actor since 2006. We discussed Ash, his impact on the community, and the emotional toll of parting ways with the two incarnations of one of the most successful brands in the history of the globe.
It is today difficult to think of Pokémon without thinking about Ash Ketchum, yet at the beginning of the series, he was the unlikeliest of heroes. He overslept on his very first day as a trainer, and as a result, he was unable to obtain one of the three original Pokémon who are considered to be starters. Instead, he was stuck with a headstrong Pikachu that wouldn't go into its Poké Ball no matter what he tried. It wasn't his ability that set him apart back then; rather, it was his dogged commitment to the bond he shared with his Pokémon and his passion for going on exciting new adventures. He was a Pokémon Trainer who often risked his life to save his Pokémon friends. In doing so, he earned the respect of his peers.
Natochenny, who was shyer and more introverted in the past but gradually came out of her shell after portraying Ash, was inspired by the exuberant attitude of this character.
"Playing a series of protagonists, starting with Ash, has demonstrated to me that my innermost self is an outgoing, adventurous person who yells a lot — I discovered approximately 200 video clips of me screaming for my 2022 summary video," he said. "It all started with me being Ash. I am very thankful that I decided to become an actress because it allowed me to uncover a part of myself that I would not have otherwise found. I will not, like Ash did not, ever give up on pursuing my primary interest. To be quite clear, the enthusiasm lies in performing, not in yelling."
The character of Ash Ketchum, whose name is a pun on the activity of capturing Pokémon, has been the subject of jokes on the internet for a very long time. He was known for not ageing, and his Pikachu seemed to have its levels reset to a greater or lesser extent when moving from area to region. Even when I was a kid and watching the programme, the concept that Ash's Pikachu would be challenged by a low-level gym leader in a new territory felt ridiculous to me even back then. Natochenny was under the impression that neither Ash nor Pikachu would ever leave the show as long as the game kept restarting. "I couldn't see a series without Ash, Pikachu, or Team Rocket," she stated at one point. "It just didn't seem right."
Naturally, even though he was getting older — or, to tell you the truth, getting closer to his objective — Ash was finally successful. There were a lot of internet followers that celebrated his victory in the anime as if it were a real-life accomplishment when he won the world championship. Fans saw in him a reminder that sometimes reaching your objectives takes a lot longer than you may imagine, and that being positive along the process is possibly the single most essential thing that can be done to ensure success. "Always remember that there's always a way to reach where you're going without purposely harming others along the way," Natochenny recalled that Ash had told her. "Stay hopeful and remember that there's always a way to go where you're going," she said.
Since Ash is not a real person, he does not have to grow older or give up his job. He may continue to exist for several more decades as a child of 10 while being fully preserved in animation. I questioned Natochenny about her beliefs about the significance of significant life changes, especially in imaginary settings.
"During their lives, everyone goes through periods of change and suffering to varying degrees," she remarked. "However, there are times when change is desired, and being unchanged is unsettling. I believe that cartoons are a source of solace for a lot of people, and that means that seeing cartoon characters navigate changes may help us do the same in more positive ways.