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‘Pokémon’ Anime Says Goodbye to Ash Ketchum, Introduces Two New Protagonists for ‘Scarlet and Violet’ Adaptation

Ash and his Pikachu partner have served as the leads of the "Pokémon" anime series since its debut in 1997, across over 1,000 TV episodes and 20 movies.

Pokémon Ultimate Journays: the Series

Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series

Now that he’s officially become the very best, like no one ever was, Ash Ketchum is heading into retirement. The long-running and perpetually 10 year-old star of the beloved “Pokémon” anime will exit the series with an upcoming 11-episode run airing in Japan this January, the Pokémon Company announced Friday.

In his place, two new protagonists, Liko and Roy, will be introduced in a new series set in the Paldea region, first seen in this year’s Generation IX “Pokémon” games “Scarlet and Violet.” The series will premiere sometime later in 2023, and feature the starters from the game: Sprigatito (a grass cat), Fuecoco (a fire-breathing crocodile baby), and Quaxly (a water duck).

The news of Ash’s retirement from the anime comes a month after the Japanese airing of the 132nd episode of the “Pokémon Journeys” series, and the 1,217th episode of the anime overall, which saw Ash (voiced in Japanese by Rika Matsumoto and in English by Sarah Natochenny) and his first Pokémon Pikachu (Ikue Ōtani) defeat reigning champion Leon (Daisuke Ono/Alejandro Saab) in the World Coronation Series tournament, officially taking the title as the number one Pokémon trainer in the world. The episode will air in English on Netflix as the 42nd episode of the “Pokémon Ultimate Journeys” series at a currently unannounced date.

The “Pokémon Journeys” series will conclude in Japan with a special set to air December 23. Afterwards, Ash and Pikachu’s storyline on the anime series will wrap up with an 11-episode arc set to begin airing in Japan on January 13, which will see them reunite with many fan favorite characters from the 25-year history of the program. Ash and Pikachu have served as the main leads of the anime, a spinoff from Nintendo’s extremely popular RPG franchise, since it premiered in Japan in 1997, appearing in every episode as well as the 23 movies that have been released theatrically in Japan.

Whether Team Rocket members Jesse (Megumi Hayashibara/Michele Knotz), James (Shin-ichiro Miki/Jimmy Zoppi), Meowth (Inuko Inuyama/Zoppi), and Wobbuffet (Yūji Ueda/Erica Schroeder), who have remained the other constant fixtures of the series by chasing Ash and Pikachu across eight different regions throughout his trainer career, will also be retired from the series has not been announced.

Created by Satoshi Tajiri, the “Pokémon” video game series began in 1996 with the Japanese release of “Pokémon Red and Green.” The immediate success of the game launched one of the highest-grossing franchises of all time, with an estimated $71 billion revenue as of 2019. In addition to the consistent success of the mainline video games — “Scarlet and Violet” sold 10 million copies in their first three days of availability — the franchise also spawned the highest-selling trading card game of all time, several spin-off games, and the live-action film “Detective Pikachu.” The anime adaptation was one of the first Japanese series to attain mainstream popularity in the United States, and is credited with helping to introduce the medium to the English-language world.

Watch the trailer released by the Pokémon Company for Ash’s final arc on the show below.

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