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New characters take over Pokémon anime as Ash and Pikachu retire

Liko, Roy, and their Paldea region starters will star in the new series

Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Ash Ketchum and Pikachu have traveled the world for 25 years, an adventure that’s spanned a whole bunch of series. But their journey ends with Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series, where Ash beat Leon in the Pokémon Coronation Series — a championship with trainers from across the franchise’s world — and Ash was finally named the No. 1-ranked trainer in the world.

Ash and Pikachu finally met their lifetime goal, and now it’s time to move on. The Pokémon Company announced Friday that as Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series comes to an end, a new series will take its place — a story featuring dual protagonists Liko and Roy alongside Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet starters Sprigatito, Fuecoco, and Quaxly and shiny Legendary Pokémon Rayquaza.

There’s not much information on the series, not even a name, but The Pokémon Company said the group will be “unraveling the mysteries of the Pokémon world — from Trainer battles to fun Pokémon encounters.” It’ll debut worldwide in 2023, and The Pokémon Company promised more details will come “in the future.”

Before the new series starts up, though, The Pokémon Company said it’ll air “a collection of special episodes” to cap off Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series. It’s expected to feature series favorites like Misty and Brock, who also appeared in the show when Ash won the Pokémon World Coronation. There are five episodes of Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series following Ash’s big win, three of which have already debuted in Japan. English versions of the show haven’t aired on Netflix just yet. No release date for the episodes was announced.

Following the announcement, Pokémon fans have been sending off Ash and Pikachu with tributes to their historic adventure. Japanese voice actor Rica Matsumoto tweeted about playing Ash (called Satoshi in the Japanese version of the show) for two decades — promising that Ash will always be close to fans’ hearts, just like when he left Pallet Town for the first time.

Ash Ketchum’s English voice actor, who’s played the iconic character for nearly 17 years, posted a tribute to Ash and the franchise on Twitter Friday. “No matter what lies beyond his final chapter, he’ll live forever in the hearts of many generations to come,” Natochenny wrote. I’ll keep him present for all of us in every way I can.” Natochenny took over the role from Veronica Taylor in 2006, when Natochenny was 19.

Fans have been speculating for a while that the anime series would come to an end after Ash and Pikachu achieved their dreams, and that’s turned out to be true. It’s the end of an era for Ash — who’s been perpetually 10 for the last 25 years — and Pikachu. But it’s also exciting to welcome in a new era for the franchise, to follow new storylines and meet new people.

Now that Ash and Pikachu are the best in the world, it seems likely that Liko and Roy may run into the duo somewhere along their own journey.

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