Last month (March 24), Pokémon fans received a bittersweet end to Ash and Pikachu’s 26-year-long journey with Season 25, Episode 57 of the Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series anime series. Titled “The Rainbow and the Pokémon Master!,” the finale came after episodes of build-up filled with touching reunions and emotional farewells. As their journey drew to a close, Ash and Pikachu made their way back to Pallet Town, reflecting on their adventures and the many Pokémon they had encountered along the way. Fueled by their passion for exploration, the two eagerly anticipate the next leg of their journey, with Ash continuing his quest to become a Pokémon Master.
Pokémon originally aired in Japan on TV Tokyo on April 1, 1997, and reached North America on Kids’ WB on September 8, 1998. Based on the original Pokémon video game line, the series chronicles the story of 10-year-old aspiring Pokémon trainer, Ash Ketchum. Given Pikachu by Pokémon researcher Professor Oak, Ash embarks on his journey befriending water-type trainer Misty and Pokémon breeder Brock. Ash’s drive to win the Indigo Plateau’s Pokémon League leads him to defeat each of the Kanto region’s elite Pokémon gym leaders and embark on his journey to become the very best.
The enduring popularity of the Pokémon franchise has spawned over 1,000 episodes and 23 feature films, making it one of the longest-running anime series in history. With its global reach extending to diverse media platforms, along with a popular trading card game and a plethora of merchandise, Pokémon has become a cultural phenomenon.
As we reflect on the beginnings of Ash and Pikachu’s journey, we put together the top episodes from Season 1 of the original Pokémon anime series, known as the Indigo League Arc. This season of 80 episodes (82 in Japan) has become an iconic cultural touchstone for many children who grew up in the ’90s, featuring moments that have left an indelible mark on pop culture history.
As we say goodbye to Ash and Pikachu, take a look at some of the top episodes from the Pokémon anime series, Season 1: Indigo League below.
Episode 1, “Pokémon! I Choose You!”
The first episode of the Pokémon series marks a crucial starting point for the entire franchise. It introduces us to 10-year-old Ash Ketchum and his initial struggles to win over his stubborn Pikachu, along with his rival Gary Oak, the grandson of esteemed Pokémon expert Professor Oak. Moreover, the episode delves into why Pikachu refuses to enter a Poké Ball and introduces us to Ash’s future companion, Misty. The episode’s conclusion hints at the emotional depth that the Pokémon series would come to embody for many years to come.
Episode 3, “Ash Catches a Pokémon”
As Ash and Pikachu continue their journey, they are joined by Misty, and together they venture into the Viridian Forest. This episode is significant as it marks the first Pokémon that Ash ever catches. Along with capturing Caterpie, the young trainer also encounters Pidgeotto, two Pokémon that quickly became fan favorites and have since become iconic representatives of Generation I.
In addition to introducing the beloved Pokémon, Episode 2 also offers moments of foreshadowing. Caterpie shares its dream of evolving into a Butterfree with Pikachu, setting the stage for its evolution later in the season. Moreover, the trio manages to foil one of Team Rocket’s early attempts to capture Pikachu, sending the bumbling villains blasting off into the sky.
Episode 5, “Showdown in Pewter City”
Ash, Pikachu, and Misty arrive in Pewter City, where they meet Brock, the city’s Gym Leader. The episode features one of Ash’s early defeats, as he fails to overcome Brock’s powerful Rock-type Pokémon. However, this defeat serves to introduce a central theme of the series, unwavering perseverance. Despite the setback, Ash remains determined to become a Pokémon Master and continues to pursue his dreams with renewed vigor.
Brock makes the decision to join Ash and his companions, leaving his Gym Leader responsibilities to his siblings and father. Brock’s true passion lies in becoming the world’s best Pokémon breeder, and he sets out to pursue his dream alongside his new friends.
Episode 10, 11, 12, “Bulbasaur and the Hidden Village,” “Charmander – The Stray Pokémon,” “Here Comes the Squirtle Squad”
Episodes 10, 11, and 12 hold great significance as they introduce beloved starter Pokémon, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander. These iconic Pokémon have remained fan favorites for over 26 years and are synonymous with the Pokémon franchise worldwide. In these episodes, Ash acquires all three Pokémon, but not before earning their trust and respect.
Bulbasaur challenges Ash and Pikachu to a battle, testing their skills and determination. Ash saves the abandoned Charmander from a rainstorm and Squirtle witnesses Ash’s kindness and compassion towards Pikachu. Episode 12 also marks the introduction of the Squirtle Squad, a group of Squirtles abandoned by their trainers and easily identifiable by their signature sunglasses.
Episode 14, “Electric Shock Showdown”
Episode 14 of the Pokémon series answered a question that had been on the minds of many fans: would Pikachu ever evolve? As Ash and Pikachu arrive in Vermilion City, they face off against the local gym leader, Lt. Surge, and his powerful partner Pokémon, Raichu, the evolved form of Pikachu.
Despite Lt. Surge’s harsh questioning of Ash’s decision not to evolve Pikachu, the duo perseveres and trains tirelessly to defeat the gym leader and earn the Thunder Badge. Through their hard work and dedication, Ash and Pikachu prove the importance of nurturing strong bonds with Pokémon and treating them with kindness and respect, rather than simply focusing on their strength.
Episode 44, “Attack of the Prehistoric Pokémon”
Throughout the season, Team Rocket has been up to their usual tricks, devising dastardly plans to capture Pikachu. However, in Episode 44, they take their schemes to the next level, attempting to blow up a canyon. Of course, as usual, their plan fails, and Team Rocket, Ash, and Pikachu end up falling into a pit filled with ancient awakened Pokémon.
With no other options for escape, Ash’s Charmeleon steps up, battling a raging Aerodactyl. In a stunning turn of events, Charmeleon evolves into the iconic Charizard, helping the group make it out of the canyon. The episode also introduces a rare Pokémon egg that Ash discovers, which eventually hatches into Togepi, opening up the possibilities for Generation II of the Pokémon universe.
Episode 61, “The Battle of the Badge”
In one of the most suspenseful episodes of the first season, Ash travels to the Gym in Viridian City, only to find that his rival Gary has already challenged the gym leader, none other than Team Rocket’s commander Giovanni. Gary is easily defeated by Giovanni’s never-before-seen Pokémon, Mewtwo, which the Pokédex cannot identify.
Giovanni leaves the Gym with Mewtwo to deal with an emergency, leaving Jessie, James, and Meowth in charge. When Ash challenges them for the Earth Badge, his eighth and final badge, despite refusing to give it up, Ash eventually gets the badge furthering his quest to the Indigo Plateau’s Pokémon League.
Episode 74, “All Fired Up!”
After a long and challenging journey, Ash finally reaches the Indigo Plateau, the site of the coveted Pokémon League conference. But before the tournament can begin, a ceremonial cauldron must be lit with the flame of the legendary Pokémon, Moltres. As a participant in the conference, Ash is chosen to carry the flame.