It’s the anime equivalent of LeBron winning his first ring or Scorsese winning his first Oscar. After 22 years on the air, the long-running “Pokemon” anime series gave fans what they’ve always wanted, as Ash Ketchum finally won his first Pokemon league title Sunday.
For decades, Ash has traveled through the various regions of the world of Pokemon with his buddy Pikachu, meeting friends and foiling the plots of Team Rocket. Along the way, he has caught dozens of Pokemon and competed in six regional league tournaments, but every time he has fallen short. He did bring a trophy back to his home in Pallet Town way back in 1999 by winning all four badges in the Orange League, but that league did not have a full tournament.
Ash’s constant setbacks have been praised for teaching kids how to learn and grow from failure, but longtime fans have been begging and pleading for him to finally reach the top of the mountain. He got there on Sunday’s episode of “Pokemon: Sun and Moon — Ultra Legends,” the 1080th episode of the series, which aired this week in Japan.
Titled “The Rise of Alola’s Champion,” Ash faced Gladion, a rival trainer he’s encountered multiple times in the “Sun & Moon” series, in the championship match of the Alola region’s tournament, the Alola Conference. Gladion’s main Pokemon was a formidable Lycanroc, a Rock-type that resembles a wolf. Ash brought out his own Lycanroc for the battle and came out victorious, becoming Alola’s regional champion.
For millennials who were kids when the 10-year-old Ash first set out on his Pokemon quest back in 1997, it’s a truly remarkable moment. It’s also a big moment for Ash’s original voice actor, Veronica Taylor, who congratulated Ash as well as her Japanese dub counterpart, Rica Matsumoto.
Congratulations to Pokémon League Champion Ash Ketchum!! It’s been a long journey to this day! And congratulations to @rica_matsumoto3! Your voice has inspired every Ash/Satoshi around the world. #pokemon #FollowYourDreams pic.twitter.com/EvY7rgP39c
— Veronica Taylor (@TheVeronicaT) September 15, 2019
Ash Ketchum has been a part of millions of lives & while many stop watching the Pokémon anime Ash continued to be a role model trainer for new generations. He's lost every Pokémon League to teach children it's ok to lose & today he finally won. What a day to be a Pokémon fan 🙂 pic.twitter.com/Gzbf9j08N9
— Aero (@ActualAero) September 15, 2019
Stan Lee didn't publish his first comic until he was 39.
Vera Wang didn't enter the fashion industry until she was 40.
After 22 years, Ash Ketchum finally won the Pokémon League at the age of 32. Congratulations Ash ????
You're never too old to accomplish your dreams ???? pic.twitter.com/M6CeG6pAE6
— ???? shirley j. 셜리 ???? 화이팅!! ♡ ٩(ˊᗜˋ*)و✨ (@LionintheTrees) September 15, 2019
Fans in the U.S. will be able to see Ash’s big victory in English when it airs on Disney XD on Jan. 18.
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Let's face it, Pokémon has never been a great anime; its messy premise has always better served the mechanics of a video game than the plot of a cartoon. But regardless of format, it's the sense of almost mundane exploration in a big wide Pokémon world that makes the franchise memorable. While the heroes of "Dragonball Z" and "Gundam Wing" were tasked with saving humanity, Pokémon's cartoon protagonist Ash Ketchum was often barely competent, just trying to make any sort of mark as he explored the wilderness.
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