The “final chapter of Ash and Pikachu’s story” is starting, and after it’s done the Pokémon anime is getting two new protagonists.

If there was ever any idea of having protagonist Satoshi/Ash age in real-time within the Pokémon anime, it’s safe to say the writers gave up on it a long time ago. The aspiring Pokémon Master left home at the age of 10 when the Pokémon anime started back in 1997, and he’s still officially 10 years old in the currently airing arc of the series, called Pokémon Journeys overseas and just Pocket Monsters in Japan.

But last month 10-year-old Satoshi finally achieved the goal he’s been chasing for 25 years by winning the Pokémon World Championship. It was an emotional moment, but as the excitement settled down, fans couldn’t help wondering if this also meant that Satoshi’s journey was coming to an end, and a series of announcements from the Pokémon anime’s producers confirm that really is the case.

First came the announcement on Friday of a special episode “commemorating the path that Satoshi and Pikachu have walked for 25 years.” Titled Pocket Monsters-The Distant Blue Sky, the episode will air on December 23 on TV Tokyo, and to animate it the producers reassembled a team of artists who worked on the original 1997 Pokémon anime.

▼ Video preview for Pocket Monsters-The Distant Blue Sky

The reveal was quickly followed by another announcement of a new arc to the Pocket Monsters anime, called Pocket Monsters-Mezase Pokémon Master, starting on January 13. “Now that you’re a champion, how close have you come to becoming a Pokémon Master?” Satoshi is asked in the video preview below, which also promises the return of Satosi’s original traveling companions Kasumi/Misty and Takeshi/Brock. But the more impactful words come when the narrator says this will be “The final chapter of Satoshi and Pikachu’s story.”

And then there’s the real kicker, a statement posted to the Pokémon anime’s official website, in both English and Japanese, that says:

To all fans of the Pokémon TV animated series

In April 1997, Ash and his Pikachu jumped out of Pallet Town and embarked on their journey meeting many Pokémon, many people, made new friends and headed on to another town — they continued on.

Fortunately, we have been able to watch over the adventure and growth of Ash and his Pikachu until today, and this is all thanks to you all, the supporting fans. We would like to express our sincere gratitude.

Starting from January 2023, “Pokémon: Mezase Pokémon Master” will begin which will give one answer to the long-standing question of what exactly is the “Pokémon Master” that Ash has been striving to become.

And from April 2023, a new series of Pokémon TV animation featuring new protagonists, Liko and Roy, will start. In the new Pokémon TV animated series, the camera will follow the adventures of the duo.

It was not easy to determine how and when to share this news. We decided today is the day, when we brought to you the story of Ash and Goh coming to a conclusion.

Our entire staff will continue to work hard to bring you Pokémon animation filled with dreams and adventures. Please look forward to the future development of the “Pokémon” animated series.

And sure enough, there’s already a teaser trailer for the “new series” Pocket Monster, debuting in April 2023, showing new main characters Liko and Roy, but neither Satoshi nor Pikachu.

An eventual changing of the Poké-guard was, in many ways, inevitable. Though the Pokémon anime characters don’t appear within the Pokémon video games, the two branches of the franchise do advance more or less in unison. Every time a new mainline Pokémon comes out, Satoshi makes his way to new region and encounters the new Pocket Monsters species featured in the game. But now that he’s a full-fledged Pokémon champion, there’s not going to be all that much drama to derive from him trying to catch Sprigatito, Fuecoco, and Quaxly, the starter Pokémon from the recently released Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s Paldea region, the next stop on the Pokémon anime’s itinerary. There’s no longer any higher level of Pokémon Trainer accomplishment for Satoshi to chase, and if he can’t move up any farther, for narrative purposes it’s probably necessary for him to step aside.

Outside the storyline, there’s also the fact that Satoshi and Pikachu’s Japanese-language voice actresses, Rika Matsumoto and Ikue Otani, and both now in their 50s. After working on a weekly TV series that’s aired more or less year-round for the past quarter century, they might need a rest, but with their voices now so strongly associated with the characters, long-term recasting would be especially difficult, even if the anime’s writers had appropriate challenges for Satoshi and Pikachu to continue face.

But even if it makes sense for Satoshi and Pikachu’s on-screen journey to come to an end, it’s still a bittersweet moment for fans who grew up with, and maybe even have watched their own kids grow up with, the Pokémon anime’s protagonist pair. Thankfully, Satoshi is getting time for a denouement in which to look back on all that’s happened over the last 25 years and find what to take forward from those experiences and cherish for the rest of his life, which is something fans will likely be doing too over the next few months.

Source, top image: TV Tokyo
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