The Pokemon anime has been centered around Ash Ketchum from the very beginning. In his quest to become a Pokemon Master, he and his beloved Pikachu have traveled to many different regions and befriended trainers of all sorts. Though some of those trainers have been affected by Ash more than others, even to the point of where they’d decided to go off on their own adventures with him. They’ve stood by his side, aiding him in times of distress and have added to the plot of the show. Without them, the anime probably wouldn’t be where it is today – on its 14th season.
Ash’s first traveling companion was a redhead tomboy who managed to ‘catch’ him and his Pikachu while she was fishing. Directly after, he took her bicycle and made a dash for a Pokemon Center as he and Pikachu had been attacked by an angry flock of Spearow. Along the way, the girl’s bike was hit with an electric attack and she later vowed to follow after him until he replaced it. And she did follow him; embodying femininity when need be, and encouraging Ash to become stronger throughout their journey, as well as stepping in to pull Brock’s ear whenever he became overly amorous to other female characters.
She became a skilled Water Pokemon trainer and overcame more than one of her fears, becoming somewhat tolerant of Bug-type Pokemon and even befriending a Gyarados that inhabits the Cerulean Gym. Bossy and temperamental, she went against the mold of what is expected of girls at that age, and proved that there’s a lot more to beauty than just appearances.
Brock was Ash’s second traveling partner and friend that stayed by the young trainer’s side the longest. Ash first met the aspiring breeder when he went to take on the Pewter City gym and heard that Brock, despite just being a teenager himself, actually took care of his siblings the way parents would. Brock was later relieved of his duties to the gym and his brothers and sisters when his father returned and told him that he could finally go out and live his dreams as well, which led to him joining Ash and Misty.
Over their travels, Brock would become the voice of reason and wisdom, and also act as a caretaker for the others in the group. He would cook and wash their clothes, as well as read the map and carry supplies that he believed would later come in handy. For comic relief, he would often faun over women older than him and attempt to win them over with his awkward knowledge of poetry – his actions often led to the other members of the group face palming or dragging him off by his ear. Constantly observant, the breeder could often tell if a Pokemon was unhappy just by looking at it, and was also able to tell the Officer Jennys and Nurse Joys apart. Brock showed children that being a caretaker was a genderless role, and that it’s okay to change your mind over what you want to do with your life.
Tracey came in during the Orange Islands arch, a temporary replacement for Brock. Like Brock, he was very observant. Though he took that talent to the next level, and aspired to be a great Pokemon watcher. He was also very knowledgeable, and taller than Ash and Misty, adding even more to him and the breeder’s similarities. The young man idolized Professor Oak, and eventually decided to stay with the aging professor after finally meeting him. There, he does various chores around the lab and cares for the Pokemon sent there, even forming friendships with some of them. Though he traveled with Ash for only a short period, he’s managed to stay current in the anime; appearing beside Professor Oak on many different occasions.
A while passed before Ash parted with his friends in Kanto and set off alone with his Pikachu to the Hoenn region. There, Pikachu once again fried another girl’s bike, this one belonging to a beginning trainer by the name of May. After ranting about her bicycle being ruined she discovered why the Pikachu had shocked it in the first place and decided to go traveling along with the boy so that she wouldn’t have to be alone. Soon after, Brock and May’s little brother, Max, joined the group as well.
As they trekked across Hoenn, May discovered she had a love for competing in Pokemon Contests and learned to have more confidence in her abilities. She often embodied the motherly role when it was needed, worrying for her brother and nagging him and Ash, and was slightly more feminine than Misty. She would often go shopping for new bathing suits and work on routines that would show off her Pokemon’s’ greatest attributes. Though, she was later told that her battling style greatly reflected Ash’s own, and so she decided to go off on her own to Johto so that she would be able to discover her own style.
During her absence she grew even more skilled and managed to do what even Ash and Dawn had been unable to do, defeat Dawn’s rival Zoey. Determined and self conscious, May overcame challenge after challenge and showed that the friendship she built with Ash and Brock can last a lifetime, despite their distance. Before Best Wishes, she and Brock were the only two to meet all of Ash’s other traveling companions.
As stated before, May’s kid brother Max joined the group soon after she decided to travel with Ash. The young boy was smart beyond his years, often identifying Pokemon or describing their habits despite not being old enough to have his very own Pokemon. Like any other brother, he would annoy his older sister, though would support her when it counted.
He looked up to Ash as a role model, and for laughs would often drag Brock away by his ear when he became overbearing and obnoxiously flirtatious. At heart, he was still just a child, though. He enjoyed playing with Pokemon and often befriended creatures of smaller stature, like May’s Munchlax.
Following the humorous electrocuted bike cycle, Ash again found himself in the same predicament, with an angry girl chasing after him. Eventually the girl, Dawn, simmered down and felt that traveling with Ash could help her learn new techniques for her contests. Contrasting with May’s character, Dawn was very confident in her abilities as a coordinator and knew from the very beginning that she wanted to follow in her mothers’ footsteps. She was also VERY feminine and self conscious of her appearance, often sleeping in a tent while the others in the group slept under the stars and being extremely meticulous over her hair in general. Being very loyal to her Pokemon and her goals in general, she ended up staying in Sinnoh to practice and stay with her Buneary, despite wanting to continue to traveling with Ash and Brock.
And now that Ash has started another journey, it goes kind of hand in hand with him gaining new friends that he’ll travel with. Because Unova is so far away from Kanto and the other regions he’s visited, he’s had to start over and entirely new friends to travel with. Along the way, he’s met Iris – a wild child who’s extremely resourceful – though not much is known about her due to the season being so new. It’s just made apparent that she adores her Axew and has trained it fairly well.
As the years have passed, the Pokemon anime has gone through changes. Ash Ketchum has changed traveling partners many times and has made friendships that will last a lifetime. Though those friends are each unique in their own way and have added as much to the show as the main character himself. They’ve proven to be characters that people can relate to and aspire to be like, as well as taught morals and values along their journeys. Without them, the show wouldn’t be the same.