Pokemon anime exec explains why Pikachu was Ash’s starter

Pokemon anime exec explains why Pikachu was Ash’s starter
Images via The Pokemon Company

Written by 

Tom Chapman


16th Mar 2023 12:19

We're not crying, you're crying. We've already waved goodbye to Team Rocket, and now, the Pokemon anime is preparing for Ash Ketchum and his ever-loyal Pikachu to walk off into the sunset.

March 24 is set to see the tears flow, but as we get ready for the dynamic duo's swansong, a tonne of interesting details about their time together are being unleashed from their Pokeballs. Now, we've learned how Pikachu became Ash's travelling companion. 

Why did Ash end up with Pikachu?

Ash and Pikachu Pokemon Anime Episode 1
Click to enlarge

While Pokemon Red & Green game debuted in Japan in 1996 (releasing as Red & Blue in America in 1998), the franchise really took off because of the anime. "Pokemon I Choose You!" first aired in April 1997, and some 1233 episodes later, Ash and Pikachu are leaving... for now.

Casting your minds back, the unlikely pairing only happened because Ash woke up late. By the time he arrived at Professor Oak's lab, there was only one naughty Pikachu left. Ash's enemy Gary got the pick of the bunch and selected Squirtle.

As for why the anime made Pikachu Ash's starter instead of Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle, director Kunihiko Yuyama told Animedia magazine (translated by Dephender) it's so fans wouldn't be disappointed if their favourite Pocket Monster wasn't picked.

"I think of Pikachu as a combination of cuteness, strength and the ability to bring a few laughs," said Yuyama. "By the way, I decided from the very get-go that the Pokemon that would become [Ash's] partner would not be one of the three you choose between at the start of the video game.

I figured that might make some of the viewers sad. That's why he ended up with a Pikachu, a decision I'm really glad I made."

Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle all have their own attributes, and while Charmander is arguably a frontrunner for best OG starter, it kicked off a trend of players continuously arguing over which of the starters you should pick in each generation.

What's next for the Pokemon anime?

We're glad Yuyama is sticking by his decision, and honestly, we can't imagine it being any other way. Pikachu has rightly become the mascot of The Pokemon Company and is easily one of the most marketable 'Mon out there.

Seeing the popularity of Pikachu - although it doesn't break into the top 10 - another electric mouse is on the horizon for the anime. New protagonists Liko and Roy will replace Ash, while there's also the adventurous Friede and Captain Pikachu.

We know Captain Pikachu is effectively just our Pikachu in a hat, but this flying fuzzball is sure to become just as much of a fan favourite. As for Ash ending up with Pikachu, we're glad Yuyama made the decision for us. Still, we're glad he nixed the idea of a talking Pikachu.

Tom is Trending News Editor at GGRecon, with an NCTJ qualification in Broadcast Journalism and over seven years of experience writing about film, gaming, and television. With bylines at IGN, Digital Spy, Den of Geek, and more, Tom’s love of horror means he's well-versed in all things Resident Evil, with aspirations to be the next Chris Redfield.

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