The Pokemon anime is about to start season No. 20 later this year, sending Ash and Pikachu on their seventh Pokemon quest. The new Pokemon series, Sun and Moon, will pull Ash away from the Pokemon battlefield and into the classroom as he settles down for a prolonged stay in the tropical Alola region.
For those not as familiar with the Pokemon anime, the show is divided into five distinct series. While Ash and Pikachu are central characters throughout the show, each series features new companions, new challenges, and brand new Pokemon teams.
Since Pokemon Sun and Moon will be on Japanese television (and YouTube) in the not too distant future, we feel that it's a good time to give our definitive ranking of the various Pokemon series.
[Note: We did decide to split Ash's Kanto and Johto adventures into separate runs, even though they're technically considered one series.]
6) Pokemon: Best Wishes
Most fans agree that Pokemon: Best Wishes, which chronicles Ash's adventures in the Unova region, is easily the worst part of the Pokemon anime. After a brilliant finish to the Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl series, Ash's skills and Pokemon knowledge painfully regressed back to that of a newbie trainer.
Ash was also hurt by two annoying companions, neither of whom had any redeeming features. Cilan (taking the place of Brock) came off as snooty and Iris is possibly the most annoying companion in the history of the show.
The series' one redeeming quality was that Ash attempted to rotate more than six Pokemon during his journeys. In addition to Pikachu, Ash rotated through nine Pokemon, although only Krookodile was particularly strong. In the end, not even Charizard (who made his first appearance in several years) was able to save Best Wishes from being the worst of the Pokemon series.
5) Pokemon: Indigo League
The first Pokemon series, Indigo League is probably the series most people remember watching as kids. In addition to introducing Ash, Misty, and Brock, Indigo League also featured Ash's most iconic lineup of Pikachu, Pidgeotto, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charizard.
Although Indigo League will always hold a place in our hearts for being the first Pokemon series, it comes in fifth because....well, Ash is an idiot through most of the series. Ash earns most of gym badges not by winning gym battles, but by helping the gym leaders with some Team Rocket-caused predicament. Ash only earned one of his eight badges on the first try, and didn't even face an actual Gym leader for his final badge.
Ash was also pretty immature for much of the series and only showed signs of maturity after losing in the Pokemon League for the first time.
4) Pokemon: Advanced Generation
Pokemon: Advanced Generation follows Ash's journeys through the Hoenn region, accompanied by Brock and his new friends May and Max. Although Misty didn't join Ash in Hoenn, she re-appeared for two episodes where she released her recently evolved Togetic to protect a colony of Togepi.
Although Ash failed to win Hoenn's Pokemon League, Advanced Generation does feature Ash's biggest win to date. Ash competed and won the Kanto Battle Frontier in the series' final season, using his iconic "Gang of Four" (Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charizard) to defeat the Pyramid King Brandon and earn an offer to become a Frontier Brain.
Advanced Generation isn't a bad series, but it ranks fourth mainly because Ash's team through his Hoenn journey is a bit...odd. While Sceptile and Glalie proved to be powerhouses on Ash's team, Torkoal and Corphish felt more like running gags than useful Pokemon.
3) Pokemon: The Johto Journeys
While technically a part of the original Indigo League series, The Johto Journeys combines the nostalgia of the original series with a smarter and more mature Ash. Ash actually won most of his gym battles in Johto, was a whole lot less annoying, and even stopped permanently releasing Pokemon in favor of letting them train separately for extended periods of time. More often than not, Ash also got along with Misty and Brock, so the Johto episodes had much less bickering than the Kanto series.
The Johto Journeys also marked the end of Ash's rivalry with Gary, his Pallet Town neighbor and childhood friend. Ash used his Charizard to take down three of Gary's Pokemon (including a Blastoise) to finally triumph over his heated rival. The pair later rekindled their friendship and even became occasional allies moving forward.
2) Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl
If you're looking for a complete storyline in the Pokemon series, look no further than Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl. The Ash/Paul rivalry is probably the show's most complete and fulfilling storyline and takes up the better part of three seasons to complete.
Ash met Paul early in the series and quickly discovered they had opposite beliefs in training. While Ash believed in cultivating Pokemon to their fullest potential, Paul only kept the strongest and most naturally gifted Pokemon. This culminated when Paul released a Chimchar for being too weak, leading for it to join Ash's team.
Through most of the series, Paul defeated Ash handily every time they battled, seemingly proving Paul's style of training superior. However, Ash's hard work finally paid off at the Pokemon League when he and Infernape (the evolved form of the Chimchar he took from Paul) took down Paul once and for all.
Although Ash's quest to win a Pokemon League fell short once again when he ran into a trainer with a Darkrai in the semi-finals, Diamond and Pearl showed Ash at his finest.
1) Pokemon XY: The Series
Although it's the most recent, Pokemon XY is easily the best series of the Pokemon animes to date. Ash joins Serena, Clemont, and Bonnie in the Kalos region and assembles his strongest team of Pokemon to date. Not only does Ash finally add a quasi-Legendary Pokemon (Goodra) to his squad, he also befriends a Greninja that can "synchro-evolve" into an even more powerful form that rivals Mega Evolution.
In XY, Ash is depicted as a veteran trainer, able to think on his feet and win most of his battles easily. Although he still prefers an "out of the box" style of battling, Ash scouts his opponents and even occasionally pays attention to battling style.
It also helps that Ash's traveling companions are just as fun and interesting as Ash. Serena is the best female companion since Misty, and is the first companion to have an established crush on Ash (Misty's "crush" on Ash only implied and rarely said outright). Clemont takes on the nuturing Brock role, while also adding plenty of humor with his failed scientific inventions.
All in all, XY stands head and shoulders above the other Pokemon series. It's fun for both kids and adults and will keep longtime fans of the Pokemon series while not pandering too much on nostalgia.