Ash Ketchum and Pikachu, two characters who have been at the heart of the Pokémon series since its inception in 1997, retired as main protagonists on Friday. Their final episode was relatively quiet – nothing too flashy happened – but it made sense. The story ended where its journey began, in Pallet Town, and featured several callbacks to the series’ early episodes.
Ash and Pikachu’s journey spanned multiple shows and movies. In November, he won the Pokémon World Coronation Series and became one of the best trainers in the world of Pokémon. However, in December, The Pokémon Company International said the two would end their run with Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series, and two new trainers named Liko and Roy would take over the mantle as stars of the Pokémon series. But before Ash and Pikachu left, they got a series of special episodes where Ash reunited with old friends and Pokémon.
(Ed. remark: This article contains spoilers for the last episode starring Ash and Pikachu.)
The final episode starring the two aired in Japan on Friday. Oddly enough, it was almost like a final episode. But it made numerous references to the first episode, according to a plot synopsis.
We won’t go into all the details, but some moments stood out for their connection to previous episodes. Like in the very first episode, Ash also sleeps in after spending the night at his mother’s house, and rushes to Professor Oak’s lab in this episode.
From there, Ash saves a Charmander, which is a reference to how he saved his own Charizard when it was a Charmander. We later find out that Team Rocket has reunited and they make one last attempt to kidnap Pikachu, which is shocking but fails, and Pikachu is rescued by Ash’s Pidgeot.
Perhaps most enjoyable is the episode’s reflection on what it means to be a Pokémon Master. At the beginning of the episode, Ash runs into Gary on his way to Professor Oak. Gary congratulates him and asks him if he has become a Pokémon Master yet, but Ash doesn’t answer him. Later, Ash ponders the question and wonders if this is the end of his journey. The two then see a rainbow – a reference to seeing Ho-Oh in the first episode – and they decide to embark on a new adventure and run for the horizon.