I want to be the very best...
With plenty of badges and a slew of Pokmon to his name, Ash Ketchum is a skilled Pokmon trainer well on his way to becoming a Pokmon Master. At least, that's how most people think of him now. Ash's early days as a Pokmon trainer, however, didn't exactly reveal his potential for greatness.
Thanks to Netflix's recent acquisition of Pokmon: The Indigo League (AKA, the first 80 episodes of Pokmon: The Animated Series) I've been able to relive the humble beginnings of Ash Ketchum's journey. And as I'm discovering, there are quite a few things about the animated series I had totally forgotten, and after rewatching it I've been enlightened to some strange things.
Ash only gets Pikachu because he oversleeps
The partnership of Ash and Pikachu is the stuff of legend, but it wasn't always that way. Ash was the last of Pallet Town's new trainers to show up at Professor Oak's house on that fateful morning, and as such, the usual starters (Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur) had already been claimed. D'oh.
In fact, Oak doesn't even want to let Ash have Pikachu, since the electric mouse is apparently unfit to be around people. Sure enough, after Ash's incessant whining, he acquires Pikachu and is immediately electrocuted. And though Pikachu warmed up to Ash eventually, he hated the new trainer at first. With good reason, though, because
Ash literally has no idea how Pokmon training works
For someone who wants to be the very best, Ash sure didn't have a clue about the world he was entering. He doesn't understand that Pokmon generally only say their own names, he drags Pikachu with a rope, and he tries to capture a Pidgey at full health in a Pokball. Worse, when Pikachu won't cooperate, Ash attempts to weaken would-be additions to his party by throwing rocks at them. Seriously. He's worthless.
As if that wasn't bad enough, he almost gets Pikachu killed on his first day as a trainer after pissing off a horde of Spearows, and only managed to get him to a Pokmon Center with the help of Misty and Officer Jenny. I'd like to say Ash got better after that first day, but the would-be Pokemon master still struggled with the basic concepts of Pokmon training for a while after that.
Misty only joins Ash because he steals her bike
It's Misty who shows concern for the injured Pikachu in the first episode, and she directs Ash to the nearest Pokmon Center. In return, he promptly steals her bike. As if that wasn't bad enough, the bike is destroyed when Pikachu uses a massive electric attack to get rid of attacking Spearows.
Sure, they become friends eventually, but at the start of Ash's journey, Misty is only tagging along because she wants Ash to replace her bike. And it's a good thing she's there, too, because she knows a hell of a lot more about Pokmon than Ash does.
Ash's dad is MIA, but his mother keeps talking about him like he's always there
The absence of father figures in the world of Pokmon is the stuff of mysteries and conspiracies, and Ash is no exception. His mom is clearly a prominent figure in his life, packing for his big journey, reminding him to change his underwear, and cheering him on from home every chance she gets. But where's his dad?
Mrs. Ketchum alludes to the fact that Mr. Ketchum isn't too far out of reach. She tells Ash how proud his father will be of him, even though Ash was the last of the new Pallet Town trainers to get his Pokmon. She also says that his father took four days to get to where Ash is in his training days, so maybe his old man was even less prepared than his son was. So where exactly is this guy? Perhaps there's no mysterious backstory to Mr. Ketchum after all; maybe he went to the Pokmart for cigarttes and never came back.
In a world of monsters, Misty is terrified of bugs
As a character, Misty is pretty great: she's smart, shrewd, and confident in her abilities. She's also deathly afraid of bugs, as shown when Ash catches his first Pokmon, a weak Caterpie. In our world, being freaked out by creepy-crawlies is the norm, but I also don't leave home at 10 to battle monsters out in the wild.
Ironically, it's with Caterpie that Ash shows his first signs of not being a complete failure, using the bug-type beast to defeat Team Rocket's Ekans and Koffing. This helps Misty get over her fear of bugs... at least enough to stop screaming every time Ash pulls one out in battle.
Brocks deadbeat dad helps Ash get his first gym badge.
Upon arriving in Pewter City, Ash and Misty encounter a bearded fellow selling rocks in a ditch. After inquiring about "this old guy," Ash heads to his next objective: fighting Gym Leader Brock for his first badge. Unfortunately, Brock's rock-type Onix makes short work of Ash's Pokmon, and Ash is forced to retreat.
Feeling that the problem is Pikachu's weakness, the bearded man helps Ash increase his Pokmon's electrical power (even though Electricity is weak against Rock). During Ash's next battle with Brock, he takes advantage of the sprinkler system to electrocute Onix. Though he walks away without knocking out the giant rock Pokmon, Brock gives him a badge anyway, and the mystery man reveals himself to be Brock's father, a failed trainer who abandoned his children because he was ashamed. With Brock's dad in the picture to help out with his siblings, Brock is free to join Ash and Misty and become the world's greatest Pokmon breeder.
Ash gets his first two gym badges without winning
Ash gets his first gym badge in Pewter City from Brock even though he backed off before knocking out Brock's Onix. His next gym stop, Cerulean City, features Misty's three older sisters, who are more interested in being famous than battling Pokmon. In fact, they offer to give Ash the badge without so much as a fight, but Misty, the fourth Cerulean City Gym Leader, challenges Ash.
Both sides put up a good fight, but before a victor can be declared, Team Rocket attacks the gym and attempts to kidnap all the Pokmon. Pikachu saves the day by electrifying the water-filled gym, and the Sensational Sisters thank Ash with a badge. Sure, eventually Ash starts collecting gym badges the old-fashioned way, but the first two were literally just handed to him for showing up.
Ash's confidence borders on deranged
From the very beginning of his tale, Ash is completely convinced that he's going to be the world's number one Pokmon master. It's one thing to be ambitious, but Ash has absolutely no knowledge or skill to back this up in his early days. That doesn't stop him from yelling "Do you know who I am?" at a bunch of angry Spearows, or bragging about his first two gym badges (that he didn't even technically earn) to anyone he meets.
Brock and Misty are both more experienced than Ash, but manage to keep their expectations--and egos--in check, all while advising Ash on the finer points of Pokmon training. Without them, who knows where Ash would be? Probably still in the forest throwing rocks at random monsters.
Like no one ever was?
As the early episodes of the Pokmon anime have shown us, it's a miracle Ash and Pikachu survived their first day of training, let alone went on to become a respected team. Did Ash really have what it takes all along, or was it sheer luck--and the help of his friends--that led him to where he is today?
One thing's for sure; at one point, Ash was shaping up to be one of the worst Pokmon trainers of all time. Maybe these less stellar moments in his history are better left forgotten.
And if you're looking for more, check out the top 7 weirdest things about the Pokemon universe and find out what happens when Pokemon rebel.