• Craig McDonald

Ash Has Won a Pokemon League?

Ash the very best like no-one ever was!? Craig talks about the new Alola League Champion and the anime's future...

HOLY **** HE DID IT!!!

Sorry, let’s try this again…

September 15th, 2019 will now live on as a momentous date in history for fans of Pokémon as the day that Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town can finally be called ‘Champion’. In Episode 139 Birth! The Alola Champion!! he defeated Gladion in a tense Lycanroc vs. Lycanroc showdown to become the winner of the region’s first-ever Pokémon League, and therefore its first Champion.

The fan base has been absolutely ecstatic with this news after feeling robbed in 2016 when Ash failed to win the Kalos League. The death of old memes, the birth of new ones, fan reaction videos, cheering from large groups of people (I assume), you name the type of reaction and the fandom has had it!

What I want to discuss is a number of things:

1) The battle itself and if it lives up to the hype

2) Whether it makes sense that Ash has finally won a Pokémon League Championship

3) Where does the Anime go from here?

So I encourage you, dear reader, to sit back, relax, and enjoy this breakdown of the Alola League Final match by Fresh Take’s very own Pokémon Master (Cineworld awarded title).

The Final Match: Ash vs. Gladion

It’s hard to watch this match without making comparisons to Ash’s last outing in a Pokémon League Final in Kalos. The scope of this battle feels a lot smaller. Going from a high-tech stadium filled with flashing lights, raised platform battlefields, and thousands of spectators, to a fairly humble tropical setting, does have some psychological impact in terms of ‘does this battle actually matter?’

Not to mention that there is still the ongoing debate of the controversial art-style of Sun and Moon, making Ash, in particular, look more childlike and foolish. As much as this style allows more fluid animation, it does lose some of the grandiose qualities that X&Y’s heavier reliance on computer-generated content could provide in terms of camera angles and shots. Sun and Moon was always meant to be a slice of life anime, and it works. But this does have a trade-off in terms of the battles.

Where this battle does succeed, is the narrative. Lycanroc vs. Lycanroc as the final match is one that makes sense and is also fairly epic. The two have had a rivalry depicted throughout the show, and the episode even reflects that in the well-placed montages with the trainer’s narrations. The battle strategies involved are constantly evolving (also a good trick to save on the animation budget, using certain moves over and over), and even the last attack is perfectly symbolic of this series overall.

Throughout the battle, Gladion has been using the move Counter over and over (both as a strong damage dealer and as a psychological hurdle for Ash to overcome). To finish the match, Gladion uses one last Counter which gets countered by, you guessed it, Counter. This shows the idea of Ash learning from his opponents and using their strengths to his advantage (a constant theme with his battling) and also depicts really well his experience in this region as he was in the region attending a school with a strong focus on learning from all sources you can.

With this move, he wins the match and the emotion is strong! I felt genuine shivers listening to the crowd cheer for Ash, for his mother and Professor Oak discussing their pride, and seeing the bewildered look on Ash’s face. His time with the League isn’t quite over yet as the prize for victory is an exhibition match against the Masked Royal so we will see how that pans out!

Ash's face at the announcement of his victory

Does this victory make sense?

Ash has been losing Leagues for 20 years now. What suddenly changed? Did anything change? Every single time the Regional League takes place, arguments begin over if Ash will or ever win. Obviously this has now changed, which starts a new debate: should he have won?

My answer is- I am genuinely surprised that he won, but yes it makes sense that he did.

First of all, let’s look at the cast of characters entered into the league.

Of the Top 16 who survived the Battle Royale, five of them are Ash’s classmates. Of those five, only one of them is seriously into battling: Kiawe. Also, Jessie and James of Team Rocket were competing. They have NEVER been known to be competitively capable. Then we have additional characters such as Samson Oak (who we have never seen battle), Mina (who we have never seen), and Faba (who should never have existed), so the potential for serious competition is growing thin…

Alola League Top 16

So who could actually be considered a threat in this League? We have part-time rival Hau (of the main series game), Ilima (who was noted to have competed in other regions such as the Kalos League), Acerola (a trial Captain), Gladion (rival and eventual finalist), and Yaboi Guzma of Team Skull.

That’s five people (six if we’re generous and include Kiawe).

It became increasingly obvious to me throughout the series by seeing more and more episodes where characters introduced had less and less of a focus on battling that this was going to be the situation at the end. Either Ash was going to steamroll everyone or someone who I felt shouldn’t win was going to (harking back to the dark days of the B&W series where Ash lost incredibly disrespectfully to Cameron).

When they announced an Alola League was going to occur, I asked myself constantly: who is going to enter? This wasn’t helped by the fact they let ANYONE participate (seriously why not make Trial completion a factor at least?) Honestly I’m impressed with how they actually handled his rival matches. Guzma and Gladion, in particular, were presented and written in ways that made them much stronger than anticipated.

Where does the Anime go from here?

Honestly, the reason I’m surprised that Ash won is simply because I didn’t think the writers had the guts to go through with it.

A large part of the Anime’s driving force is Ash’s desire to get stronger and eventually become a Pokémon Master. The problem is that the show has established that getting the title of Champion is basically another name for Master. Also, once you win a regional tournament in Anime, you then go on to face the Champion League consisting of the Elite 4 and Champion. But that doesn’t exist in Alola. So is that it? Will Ash stay in Alola and face challengers for a while?


There is literally no way that the Anime