Ash Winning The Pokemon League Is Everything To Competitive Dreamers

TJ Denzer,

September 16, 2019 11:51 AM

Can a TV show inspire the hearts of competitive players everywhere? We'd say yes after reactions to Ash Ketchum finally winning a Pokemon League.

The Pokemon animated TV show has been running for over 20 years since its debu in Japan on April 1 in 1997. Its trajectory has followed the games throughout each region, each with a fresh series of pokemon to catch, gym leaders to defeat, and leagues to compete in for the main protagonist Ash Ketchum and his trusty pal Pikachu. Ash always playing the star role, so you might think that in a show made for kids, he’d have come out on top by the end of things more than a few times, You’d be wrong. Ash Ketchum has never actually won a Pokemon League final… That is, until the most recent season in Alola. And hundreds of thousands of real people cheered for his win.

WARNING: This obviously contains spoilers for the Pokemon animated series.

The episode in question, Season 22 (Pokemon the Series: Sun & Moon – Ultra Legends), Episode 47: "The Rise of Alola's Champion!!" launched in Japan on September 15, 2019. It sees Ash come up against his Alolan rival and final obstacle of the Alolan Pokemon League, Gladio. At the end of a grueling fight, it is Ash who comes out on top and becomes Pokemon Champion for the first time in the entire series spanning over 1000 episodes. An entire internet that has been following the journey and was ready for another close loss for Ash was floored.

Why does this matter to real-world people? Consider the fact that the Pokemon animated series has been around for 22 seasons - over two decades. 22 years of people watching their hero hit snags until he finally got the big one. Pokemon at its core is an incredible story of competitive spirit, and its something that many of us have spent a good portion of our lives seeing, at the very least often in the periphery of our vision if not directly and fervently. Take that history into account and it’s not hard to see why everyone lost their minds when, at long last, Ash Ketchum scored the big one in a Pokemon League.

And people did lose their minds. All across social media, competitive players and organizations cheered on the arrival of a fictional character finally arriving at their dream of becoming a champion.

It’s easy to compare Ash’s grind to the real grind of competition. Only a handful of people are lucky enough to get away with success in a short time, and even less are able to sustain it. Ash’s single major victory is relateable because it’s the realest thing about the show. You grind and lose, lose and learn, and then you hope you’ve learned enough to be better next time, but maybe even then you fall short. The true competitive experience isn’t just winning. It’s falling down and getting back up, and Ash Ketchum encompasses that.

It’s possible no one felt that grind more on the same weekend than Panda Global’s Eric "ESAM" Lew. ESAM might be one of Super Smash Bros Ultimate’s best Pikachu players in the world, but despite that, he never captured a victory at a high-tier Smash Bros Ultimate event until the weekend of September 14 - 15 at Glitch 7. It was there that he came up against Rogue’s potent Star Fox player Paris "Light" Ramirez and scored a stunning 3-2 victory to capture his first Smash Major win, and with Pikachu no less.

It may be a little too easy a comparison, but it wasn’t lost on ESAM. He won his first Major on the same weekend that Ash finally become a true Pokemon Champion. It mattered and it was amazing to say the least.

Everyone needs a hero to look up to. Some find them in the real world. People like Dominique “Sonic Fox” McLean and Daigo “The Beast” Umehara in the FGC, Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok in League of Legends, Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev in Counter-Strike, and more are living legends and positive role models worth aspiring to, but sometimes fiction can be monumentally influential too. Ash Ketchum spent 22 years coming close enough that we could believe he could win… only to lose, and then tried again and again with new lessons learned until he finally caught up to his dream.

The message is beautiful because it’s the truth, and every player who ever dreamed of competing at the highest level should have no trouble recognizing it. The truth is that Ash is all of us who have ever tried our hardest and lost, but never given up, and that's what makes this fictional character's win so cool.


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