6 Stupid Reasons Ash Loses the Pokemon League Tournaments
Ash's Status with Fans
As popular as Pokemon is, many take issue with protagonist Ash Ketchum and his differences from the typical anime hero: the poor guy loses almost as often as he wins, and he's never conquered an official league tournament. You could argue this makes his journey more realistic, but it also disappoints audiences who want Ash to finally become a Master and complete his 1000+ episode journey.
I'm with you, guys—Ash makes many mistakes and questionable choices—but to be fair, he often loses for absurd reasons, especially in the championships. To see what I mean, let's take a look at Ash's ridiculous Pokemon League losses!
Vs Richie (Indigo League)
Back in his debut adventure, Ash finally attained eight Kanto Gym badges (some without having to battle) and Pokemon Trainers around the world were eager for him to triumph in the Indigo League. After all, in the video games (Red and Blue), your character, who Ash is based on, wins the final tournament. Several battles into the League, Ash faces his friend Richie, basically an Ash-reskin using Pikachu and other similar Pokemon. Here are several reasons why this fight was absurd:
- Ash had fewer Pokemon to choose from; his Pidgeotto was tired from having to carry him to the match (after an encounter with Team Rocket).
- Ash's Squirtle is put to sleep by Sleep Powder from Butterfree, which counted as an immediate disqualfication.
- Ash's Pikachu faints early due to fatigue from Team Rocket.
- Because of his Pokemon's exhaustion, Ash takes a risk by sending out then-disobedient Charizard. This backfires when Charizard refuses to battle, costing Ash the match.
Ash (who at least advanced farther into the tournament than rival Gary) essentially lost because of a dumb status effect-disqualifier, a tired Pokemon, and a disobedient one he was forced to take a chance on due to desperation.
Vs Harrison (Johto League)
After his Johto journeys, Ash assembled a dream team by mixing the strongest of his Kanto and Johto creatures, and fans rejoiced when he triumphed against rival Gary in a grueling match within the League (using a now-obedient Charizard).
Then Ash encounters Harrison, a skilled Trainer brandishing Pokemon from Generation 3 (the Hoenn region), which at the time were the newest games. This battle wasn't terribly skewed, with the only quirks being Ash's Totodile's Leer having no effect on Hypno (which it should) and Harrison's Steelix's Dig working on Noctowl (which it shouldn't).
Still, I'm aware the anime's battles function differently than the game's. Harrison ends up winning the clash when it comes down to Charizard vs Blaziken, and while it wasn't the wonkiest of matches, it still came across as Nintendo saying "look at how strong the new Hoenn Pokemon are."
Vs Tyson (Hoenn League)
The Pokemon Advanced series alienated fans by replacing Misty with May and having Ash stop using all previous Pokemon except Pikachu. Nonetheless, he eventually obtains the eight required Gym Badges to enter the championship. In my pick for the least memorable League defeat, Ash faces his friend Tyson with his Pikachu ultimately losing to Tyson's Meowth in the climax of the contest.
Meowth was able to match Pikachu's Thunder with Thunderbolt (a weaker move), especially shocking considering Pikachu's higher Special Attack and same-typeattack bonus, but again, anime vs game logic.
All-in-all, not too biased a match, although I have to wonder if things would have ended differently had Ash's Grovyle been fully evolved (it laters becomes a Sceptile) and Team Rocket's Meowth not warned Tyson's about Pikachu.
Vs Tobias (Sinnoh League)
Here we are—the pinnacle of insulting League skirmishes. Having ventured through Sinnoh with new companion Dawn, Ash performs well in the League, besting rival Paul and making it to the quarter-finals. He faces Tobias in the usual 6 vs 6 match.
Tobias beats Ash using only two Pokemon. You can imagine how this infuriated fans, especially since Tobias used exclusively Legendary Pokemon (Darkrai and Latios), which very few Trainers in the anime have.
Most fans, myself included, believe Ash would have won this League had Tobias not provided a cheap defeat; Ash was the only Trainer in the tournament to vanquish a single creature on Tobias's team. Truly a disappointing end for the Sinnoh quest.
Vs Cameron (Unova League)
In his Black and White experiences, Ash again resets his team to only Pikachu and travels with his most annoying companions yet: Cilan and Iris. One lackluster adventure later, he collects the eight needed badges, enters the League, beats rival Trip, and faces his friend Cameron. By the way, Cameron's an idiot, accidentally bringing five Pokemon to a 6 on 6 match and repeatedly smacking himself with his headband to decide which Pokemon to use.
The fight proceeds with things going a little too conveniently for Cameron. Here's the rundown:
- His Hydreigon takes out two of Ash's Pokemon before falling and damages a third. At least Hydreigon is a third-stage and powerful Pokemon...
- Cameron's first-stage Riolu defeats Ash's third-stage Unfezant, even with a type disadvantage.
- Next, Riolu beats Snivy (and evolves into Lucario).
- Finally, Lucario defeats a previously-damaged Pikachu, winning the match..
Yes, Riolu's evolution increased its power, but the entire encounter felt stilted. This emotion magnifies when we see Cameron lose his next match against Virgil with Lucario performing far more poorly.
By this point, many fans had abandoned the anime after a string of poor English dubs, new voice actors, and ridiculous League losses; this match didn't help matters. Some had hope that Ash would mix his old team with his new for the tournament (after all, Charizard returned for a bit earlier in the season) but no such luck. Could the next season chronicling the X and Y games redeem the show?
Vs Alain (Kalos League)
Credit where it's due: this season put effort into showcasing Alain's power prior to the League, and we finally saw Ash make it to the finals. In his latest League match (as of this writing) at the Lumiose Conference, Ash narrowly loses to Alain, ironically to a Charizard.
The battle is better-scripted than prior encounters; no single Pokemon demonstrates too much power. Eventually, Ash's Greninja loses to Alain's Mega Charizard. No doubt about it, Alain is a skilled Trainer, but it still hurt seeing Ash so close only to lose to a Mega Pokemon. Yes, Ash's Greninja has a strange Ash-Greninja form that may increase its power, but not to the degree Mega Evolution does, costing Ash the match and the title.
Though we were once again subjected to a League loss after having Ash edge painfully close to victory, X and Y threw him some bones and was superior to Black and White. Trust me, Serena, Clement, and Bonnie are much less annoying than the two previous buffoons.
Do you want to see Ash win a League Tournament (and be replaced with a new protagonist)?
Future of Pokemon
As frustrating as it is to watch Ash lose time after time to justify his further adventures, we can at least find some diamonds in the rough. While they're not official championships, Ash won both the Orange Islands League and the Battle Frontier, and he's even beaten Legendary Pokemon (Articuno, Regice, etc.) with non-Legendaries.
Ash may be often be down, but he's never out, and we can always hope that maybe, just maybe, next time he'll prevail.
Questions & Answers
Will Ash win the next Pokemon League tournament?
The Sun and Moon series have definitely departed from the traditional formula, so it's possible this could be the last Ash Ketchum journey.
Can Ash beat Lance?
Pokemon seems reluctant to have Ash beat an Elite Four member because it would signal the end of his journey and they'd have to find a new protagonist. So no, Ash couldn't beat Lance, at least until the anime is ready for someone new.
That said, people underestimate Ash, who has defeated several powerful opponents and been invited to join the prestigious Battle Frontier as a Frontier Brain. Plus, his Charizard against Lance's Dragonite could make for an amazing battle.
© 2017 Jeremy Gill