With over 1100 episodes under its belt, Pokémon has become one of the longest-running and most popular franchises to date, and any series that lasts over 20 years is bound to change over the course of its run. Pokémon is no exception to this, with Ash and his friends changing scenery every few years as new iterations of the Pokémon RPG series are released. Aside from moving locations, the anime has undergone other changes that improve the quality of the show or change how characters are depicted throughout the series.
From character growth to fitness regimes, here are 10 ways the anime has changed over the years.
10 Ash Isn’t a Moron Anymore (except for Black and White)
At the beginning of the show, Ash is a fresh-faced trainer with more energy than brains, with no real clue as to how he goes about reaching his goal of being a Pokémon Master. During his first few gym challenges, he wins either out of sheer luck or the gym leader taking pity on him and just giving him the badge. Thankfully as the show went on and Ash got a few more wins under his belt, his technique in battle and strategy planning turned him into one of the better trainers in the show, to the point where he won the Alola League. The only exception is the entire Black and White anime, when he reverted back to level 5 along with Pikachu, but we can just pretend that never happened.
9 The Companion Characters Have Better Reasons to Follow Ash
While Brock had a decent reason for leaving his post as a gym leader and Misty seemed to hang onto her busted bike for far too long, neither of them really gained anything from traveling with Ash. For the majority of their time together, Brock and Misty’s role was mainly keeping Ash out of trouble and holding his hand as he learned how to be a Pokémon trainer. Once they departed the show, it made way for the roles to be reversed and let Ash help newbie trainers like May and Dawn instead. Although this might seem to be more of the same with different characters, the new introductions aren’t gym leaders shirking their responsibilities to make sure Ash’s Charizard doesn’t kill him, which is a step up for Ash.
8 Pikachu Slimmed Out
There was a time, way back when the show first started, that Pikachu was a bit more rotund than his present-day counterpart. While this could come down to stylistic changes and the improvements in animation quality, it’s strange to look back on his first appearances compared to the slim and agile Pikachu we have today. Just looking at the pudgy mouse’s first appearances, it’s hard to imagine this agile Pokémon as anything other than a tiny, yellow Snorlax.
7 The Alola Region
Ash’s adventures in Alola marked a huge change in both the scenery and the way the anime approached his story. No longer was Ash chasing down the next gym badge to make another attempt at the regional Pokémon League. Instead, the show shifted to a more slice-of-life style, with many episodes dedicated to the everyday lives of Ash’s classmates and their Pokémon partners, with Ash’s Island Trials taking somewhat of a backseat.
This could have gone horribly wrong but ended up giving us some of the best backstories we’ve seen to date, including the heart-wrenching story of Litten and Stoutland that left many viewers wondering whether they were being stalked by onion cutting Greninjas.
6 Ash’s eyes get color
Believe it or not, there was a long period of time when Ash’s eyes had no color. From his first appearance in Pokémon, I Choose You!, all the way to Kalos, Where Dreams and Adventures Begin!, Ash had black eyes. It wasn’t until the Kalos region that the animators finally decided they needed to have some color, and changed them to make him look more lifelike. This eye color has also been retroactively added to older scenes when we see Ash’s previous adventures reanimated for flashbacks.
5 Fewer Filler Arcs
When the Pokémon anime first aired, it took its sweet time moving Ash through his gym battles, and the groups run through both Kanto and Johto went at a snails pace. The original series lasted a whopping 274 episodes, easily doubling most of the other regions. While this can be attributed to the fact they were going through two regions instead of one, there were many instances where the group would find themselves in a town that is nowhere to be found on the actual map of the region. There was also the entire Orange Islands arc that bridged Kanto and Johto, which was similarly done with the Advanced series Battle Frontier arc bridging Hoenn and Sinnoh. Since the Battle Frontier, however, the amount of filler episodes as dropped drastically, being reduced to almost none as of now.
4 More Energetic Battles
This could once again come down to animation quality, but as the series moved on the pace of battles picked up dramatically, especially when it came to Ash’s choice of Pokémon. Usually preferring fast and agile team members like Pikachu and Greninja, the early battle sequences did nothing to show their speed off to the audience.
Instead, it reduced them to repeated shots of stationary Pokémon blasting each other with moves, reflecting the mainline games quite well but not showing what these monsters are truly capable of. These days, we have epic fight scenes like Ash vs Kukui and Greninja vs basically everyone he ever battled.
3 4Kids No Longer Dubs It
4Kids gained a huge reputation as a licensing company back in the ’90s and early 2000s, for better or worse. Their work on the English dub of Pokémon for a western audience catapulted the small-time company into the big leagues, where they went on to other popular shows like Yu-Gi-Oh and Dragon Ball Z. Unfortunately for them, that time in the spotlight wouldn’t last forever. The companies tagline was to make eastern animation more relatable and understandable to western kids, and that mentality ended up losing them a lot of business in the long run. These days, the English dub is done in-house under The Pokémon Company International, and we no longer have to wonder why those donuts looked so odd.
2 Gary Oak is Gone
There was a time in the animes run when it seemed like Ash couldn’t escape his fellow Pallet Town rival, nor could he catch up to his level of skill. His chase after Gary reached its end in the Johto League, when he finally defeated his long time rival in a matchup that shouldn’t have gone his way: Charizard vs Blastoise. After Gary’s crushing defeat, he revealed to Ash he wanted to be like his grandfather and become a researcher, and he has barely been seen since. While he made a few appearances in the Diamond and Pearl anime, he has effectively lost his status as Ash’s rival to make way for arguably better ones.
1 Pikachu’s Better Moveset
There was a time in Pikachu’s life when his moveset was terrible, to put it mildly. That changed in the Hoenn region when Ash finally decided Pikachu needed a solid way of dealing with Rock and Ground-Type Pokémon, one that didn’t involve aiming for the horn or accidentally setting off the sprinklers. Even since learning Iron Tail, it has become a go-to move for Ash to test the waters of any unknown foe, and has combined it with other attacks on multiple occasions. Pikachu’s new moves haven’t stopped there, with him learning moves such as Volt Tackle, Electro Ball, and, most recently, Electro Web.
The Pokémon anime has been around for a long time. It's changed quite a bit throughout the years, here's how.