Want to know a secret? When I was in second grade, and Pokemon originally came out…I thought it was stupid. But once I gave it a try, I was hooked. Then I got Pokemon Blue for Christmas, and my life changed forever. Fast forward 25 years later, and I still play Pokemon, and I’ve watched the adventures of Ash Ketchum and Pikachu from pretty much start to finish (there are some “lost episodes” if you didn’t know.” So when I heard Ash’s adventures were finally ending, I was sad. And as my Pokemon To Be A Pokemon Master Review will tell you, watching his final steps has left me seriously…unfulfilled.
Let me explain this thought before I explain my review. For 25 years, we’ve all watched Ash Ketchum’s journey throughout the Pokemon world, catching new partners, making lots of friends, and showcasing what it means to never give up. The last two series via the Sun & Moon and Pokemon Journeys helped cap off Ash’s journey in spectacular ways. He FINALLY got to be Pokemon League Champion in Alola, a feat the world literally came together to celebrate. Seriously, freaking Sportscenter cheered when it happened. Then Ash became world champion in a way that I still tear up thinking about. So, going into these last eleven episodes (yes, there are actually twelve; I’ll get into that later), I was expecting a grand sendoff to a character I honestly consider a friend. But I didn’t get it.
But at least we got this great intro!
Instead, for ten episodes, we got…filler. Yes, there was a two-episode arc featuring Latias and Latios, but it lacked the punch of grander arcs with legendary Pokemon. And even if you were to take those out as “meaningful,” the other eight are literally “adventure of the day” episodes. For example, one episode is about getting a Wailmer/Wailord out of a hole that it got stuck in. Another is about a Beartic that can’t control its powers, and Ash comes in to help. One is about helping a Banette find its original trainer, and more along that line.
While that’s not a bad thing per se, this would’ve fit better in series like Pokemon Journeys, which was about Ash going around the world and doing whatever came about via his job as a research fellow. But here, in Ash’s FINAL EPISODES…they just felt like treading old ground. One could argue that this was about “Ash showing who he is one last time,” but for longtime fans like me, or even casual fans, we already know Ash’s character. His style, his personality, and his beliefs are ingrained in pop culture. That’s why he’s so famous! So, for him to have these one-off adventures was honestly…frustrating.
Adding to that frustration was that several episodes featured Ash making bonds with Pokemon and then…nothing. Beartic, a Rattata and Spearow and more bonded with Ash in a deep way, and then they weren’t caught. The Rattata and Spearow even saved Ash at one point, and then just…nothing happened after. It might be selfish of me to ask for Ash to capture some last Pokemon before his “ending,” but at this point…why not have that?
Sadly, the return of Brock and Misty was nothing more than window dressing. I know that’s mean to say, but when you look at what happened in these episodes, they very rarely, if ever, did anything meaningful. At times, it seemed like they were just there to talk about Ash or react to certain events. In Misty’s debut, she and Ash battled for the right to capture a Pokemon…and then that Pokemon bonded more with Ash’s Corphish than Misty! Which even she admitted was wrong! As for Brock…they really just wanted to ham up his “I love every woman I see” and literally have him falling under the trance of a Pokemon for much of an episode.
Remember, these two are arguably Ash’s greatest companions (I still think Serena > Misty for the record), and yet here…they just…didn’t really do much. Then, they were gone with a simple goodbye. It was a stark contrast from the tearful endings the three had at the end of the Johto Journeys.
The other kinds of reunions we had were with Ash’s Pokemon. And while they were nice…they too lacked substance and came off as “way too convenient.” Such as, when Ash remet his Lapras from the Orange Islands…but it just so happened to have migrated to the area they were in (and we’re never EVER told where they are region-wise in these episodes) and just so HAPPENED to stumble across Ash in its time of need. Same with Pidgeot, who comes to Ash’s rescue and rejoins Ash…only to never be seen again. And I don’t even want to talk about the Squirtle episode, which was frustrating on numerous levels, given how the tale was told.
So, what COULD the show have done to make this feel more meaningful? Well, to be blunt, we should’ve had an 11-episode story arc that focused on Ash, and by extension, Misty and Brock, to help him understand what it means to be a Pokemon Master. Remember, this is an official Pokemon To Be A Pokemon Master Review, and yet I can tell you that the “answer” we got was literally figured out in a five-minute episode span. Here’s how it literally went. Ash saved a Pokemon. Met back up with Gary, where his former rival asked if he was closer to being a Pokemon Master. Gary leaves immediately after. Ash thinks about this and then decides he’s not yet because he wants to be friends with all Pokemon.
To be clear, that is a TOTAL ASH ANSWER and a meaningful one at that. Ash’s goal was never to be a Pokemon League champ or a world champion, but he did those because he loves to battle, and he felt battling was a great way to connect with Pokemon. But throughout his adventures, he’s bonded with Pokemon from every region, and he wants to keep doing that. Even the final scene, where Ash and Pikachu throw a stick to determine their next path highlights how things will always be in motion for them and that their journey will never truly end.
While that is beautiful and a nice, if simple, way to end the series, that could’ve been stretched out to make it a meaningful arc. Not to mention, it would’ve given Ash a reason to travel around “one last time” and reconnect with old friends further to highlight “one last time” how much he’s done and how much he still wants to do. Yes, that was technically the job of Pokemon Journeys, but many fans were left unfulfilled by some of what was shown.
For example, the episode with Serena didn’t provide a meaningful epilogue to their legendary kiss at the end of XYZ. And many wondered if Ash would think about going back to Alola more to spend time with his “other family.” Imagine Kukui and Burnett giving Ash very parental advice about finding his “true meaning” of being a Pokemon Master. Or Serena showing off her feelings to Ash again and talking about how he inspired her to push even further for her own dreams after watching him become World Champion. These moments would’ve guided Ash further, and then we could’ve had that rainy reveal before he journeyed off into the sunset. Ash is one of the greatest characters in animation history. He deserved a sendoff that was more than one episode strong.
I do want to make it known in my Pokemon To Be A Pokemon Master Review that I did like elements of the series. For example, Ash having a “rotating catalog” of his Pokemon across the various regions was fun. And I did like how the Latias/Latios episodes inferred that the movie featuring them was technically canon (even though that makes things very tricky with how Ash interacted with both.) Plus, it was fun to see certain reunions. But it just felt like we deserved more.
Heck, Team Rocket deserved more, and they’re Team Rocket! They had a “fakeout break-up” that was total cringe, and it counteracted the rather touching reunion they had on their own.
Another highlight was simply Ash and Pikachu, whose bond was shown to be as strong as ever, and that the two will never stop being the best of friends. And if that’s the highlight of the entire series? Then you know what? I guess I can live with that.
One more thing, that “12th episode” you’ll find in the batch? It was a special episode that aired in Japan during Pokemon Journeys and is technically non-canon. So, if you want to stop at Episode 11, you won’t miss anything.
In the end, Ash’s final episodes are what you make of them. They will feel like “classic style Pokemon episodes,” and for some of you, that will be enough. But for those who wanted a “grand anime sendoff,” you’re honestly going to get it outside of that final episode.
Thanks for everything, Ash. I’m going to miss you.
Pokemon To Be A Pokemon Master Review
Pokemon To Be A Pokemon Master fails to be the true ending that Ash Ketchum and Pikachu deserved, but there are likely enough good and heartwarming moments to keep fans entertained as they watch.