Ash Ketchum and Pikachu, two characters who have been the heart of the Pokémon series since its start in 1997, retired as the protagonists on Friday. Their final episode was relatively quiet — nothing too flashy happened — but it was meaningful. The story ended where his journey began, in Pallet Town, and incorporated several callbacks to the series’ early episodes.
Ash and Pikachu’s journey has spanned multiple shows and movies. In November, he won the Pokémon World Coronation Series and became one of the best trainers in the world of Pokémon. However, in December, The Pokémon Company International said that the two would be concluding their run with Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series, and two new trainers named Liko and Roy would take the mantle as stars of the Pokémon series. Before Ash and Pikachu left though, they would get a run of special episodes that reunited Ash with old friends and Pokémon.
[Ed. note: This article contains spoilers for the final episode where Ash and Pikachu are protagonists.]
The last episode starring the two aired in Japan on Friday. Oddly, it seemed almost for a final episode. But it did make numerous references to the first episode, according to a plot synopsis.
We won’t go into all the details but some moments stood out because of their connection to earlier episodes. Similar to the very first episode, Ash also sleeps in after spending the night at his mom’s home, and hurries off to Professor Oak’s lab in this one.
From there, Ash rescues a Charmander, which is a reference to how he rescued his own Charizard when it was a Charmander. We later find out that Team Rocket has gotten back together and they have one last go at kidnapping Pikachu, which shocker, does not work out, and Pikachu gets rescued by Ash’s Pidgeot.
What is perhaps sweetest though, is the episode's reflection on what it means to be a Pokémon Master. Early in the episode, Ash runs into Gary on the way to Professor Oak. Gary congratulates him and asks him if he’s become a Pokémon Master yet, but Ash doesn’t answer him. Later, Ash reflects on the question and wonders if it's the end of his journey. The two then see a rainbow — a reference to seeing Ho-Oh in the first episode — and they decide to set upon a new adventure and run towards the horizon.