Get ready to cheer and cry some big ‘ol Poké-tears as Rika Matsumoto aims to be a Pokémon master one last time.

“OK, let’s have some fun,” says Rika Matsumoto as she puts on her headset and walks up to the mic. And it’s only fair that Matsumoto get to enjoy herself, because she’s been keeping anime fans entertained for 26 years now as the voice of Satoshi, a.k.a. Ash, the Pokémon anime’s protagonist.

Matsumoto has been voicing Satoshi since the very first Pokémon anime episode was broadcast in Japan on April 1, 1997, and will continue to do so in its 1,234th, which airs March 24 (tonight). This episode will also be the last to feature Satoshi as the series main character, following an his end-of-character-arc Pokémon World Championship victory in November.

So to celebrate the closing of one of the longest chapters in anime voice acting history, YouTube channel The First Take invited Matsumoto to sing “Mezase Pokémon Master” (“Aim to Be a Pokémon Master”), the original Japanese opening theme song for the Pokémon anime. The First Take’s schtick, as you can probably guess, is that the performers only get one try – their very first take is the one that goes into the video.

So how does Matsumoto do with her one-and-only take?

She absolutely nails it.

With a contingent of Poké-plushies watching, the 54-year-old Matsumoto vocally transforms into a 10-year-old Pokémon trainer erupting with youthful energy and ready to take on the world, as she cries out “Gonna catch that Pokémon!”

Matsumoto does have a lot of experience with the song, after all, since she’s not only Satoshi’s voice actress, but also the singer of “Mezase Pokémon Master,” which was used as the anime’s opener for its 80 episodes in Japan. It was also brought back earlier this year as the opener for Satoshi’s final 11 episodes, with a new arrangement and name, “Mezase Pokémon Master -with my friends-,” which is the version Matsumoto sings in the video, accompanied by live backing instruments and vocalists.

Compared to the English Pokémon opening theme (which is a completely different song), “Mezase Pokémon Master” isn’t quite as grandiose in its instrumentation. Like a lot of anime themes, there’s a focus on how challenging the hero’s journey is going to be, with lines like “There’s never any guarantee that things are going to go your way” and “It’s really, really, really, really tough.” But it’s also an undeniably hopeful and positive song, as Matsumoto sings “But I’ll always, always do my best in life, because I’ve got you here with me” and “Yesterday’s enemies are today’s friends…today’s friends are tomorrow’s friends too, forever and ever.” And it’s not like “Mezase Pokémon Master” is lacking for confidence, as Matsumoto promises “I want to be a Pokémon Master, I have to, I will, no matter what!”

Matsumoto’s high-energy performance is enough to have any fan standing up and cheering, followed by being reduced to a pile of blubbery Poké-tears when the song ends.

“I had so much fun” she says, and the message feels equally intended for everyone in the studio and for everyone who’s been watching the Pokémon anime for the last quarter-century-plus.

Source, images: YouTube/THE FIRST TAKE
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he wouldn’t be the person he is today without having grown up without ’90s anime opening theme energy.