As the Pokémon franchise’s mascot and most recognizable character, fans new and old love Pikachu. This little yellow monster has become a cultural icon for Japan and the gaming industry, finding its way to planes, money and nearly ever piece of Nintendo’s marketing. The Electric-type Mouse Pokémon is best known for being the companion of anime protagonist Ash Ketchum, traveling with him since the start of his journey.
However, Pikachu isn’t even the final form in his evolutionary line. Raichu is. By using a Thunder Stone on a Pikachu, it can become even stronger and, in Alola, Raichu even gains a new type. Fans have questioned and joked about Ash not evolving his Pikachu for years even though the anime has explained that Ash’s Pikachu doesn’t want to evolve. And while this has long been accepted, Pokémon Sword and Shield offers another reason for Ash’s Pikachu remaining as he is.
One of the biggest features introduced in Sword and Shield is Dynamaxing. Combining elements of Generation VI’s Mega Evolution and Generation VII’s Z-Moves, Dynamaxing a Pokémon during a battle causes it to go through a temporary physical change. In addition to growing in size, a Dynamaxed Pokémon is stronger and has special Max Moves only available in this form.
While any Pokémon can Dynamax, certain Pokémon can even go a step further and Gigantamax. Only some species have Gigantamax forms, and only specific Pokémon within them are able to access them, making them pretty rare. In addition to getting larger, a Gigantamax Pokémon will change its appearance and gain access an exclusive and species-specific G-Max Move.
Most Pokémon who have the potential to Gigantamax are the final evolutionary stage in their respective lines. However, there are a few Pokémon who aren’t: Pikachu, Eevee and Meowth. Individuals of these species who do have the Gigantamax Factor won’t be able to evolve even if they meet the usual requirements for doing so.
In an episode from the most recent season of the anime that has yet to air in the West, Ash’s Pikachu absorbs Dynamax energy from glowing red cracks in the ground while trying to fight off a Gigantamaxed Drednaw on a rampage. The Dynamax energy makes Pikachu grow larger and change form, revealing that Ash’s Pikachu is capable of Gigantamaxing.
Since the first season of the anime, Ash’s Pikachu has expressed a desire to stay as he is, choosing time and time again not to evolve into Raichu. However, his ability to Gigantamax seems to indicate that, even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t be able to evolve.
Interestingly, Gigantamax Pikachu’s appearance is actually a reference to the creature’s history, growing larger and chunkier like its original sprite from Pokémon Red and Blue. According to Sword and Shield‘s website, a Gigatamax Pikachu is “so powerful that now it can produce enough electricity to rival a power plant.” Its signature move is G-Max Volt Crash, which paralyzes the opponent as well as does damage.
It should also be noted that Raichu doesn’t have a Gigantamax form of its own, so a Pikachu capable of such power is probably better off remaining as it is regardless. With or without the ability to Gigantamax, Ash’s Pikachu has already proven himself to be just as powerful as he is cute, and this only proves wrong those who have said he needs to evolve to grow stronger.
Ash's Pikachu has long made the decision not to evolve, but Pokémon Sword and Shield provides a new explanation for why he's stayed a Pikachu.