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Warning: this article is full of Pokeballs and spoilers. Read at your own risk or choose another article to read.
It looks like 2016 is the year of Pokemon. As the franchise celebrates its 20th anniversary, we have the imminent launch of the new games Pokemon Sun and Moon, and also the augmented reality game Pokemon Go so, Pokemon stays fresh and up to date in our otaku’s lives. Let’s not forget either that new anime episodes are still being released. 19 seasons in total! That’s something not all anime can be proud of stating, right?
Throughout all these years, a lot of characters in Pokemon have come and gone, accompanying its ever enthusiastic protagonist Ash (Satoshi) on their adventures to capture and train the mysterious creatures. But, among them, we have a special spot in our hearts for Ash’s first rival: Gary Oak. He had the ugly but necessary job of being an unlikeable know it all in the first episodes of Pokemon. Gary had to provide a contrast for Ash, after all. Still, as Ash becomes more knowledgeable and experienced in the Pokemon training arts, their relationship becomes more and more interesting. We could say this pair love/hate each other :p
So, let’s all grab our caps, bags and pokeballs. Let’s travel to the Pokemon world to find out why Ash x Gary are the most passionate rivals there!
Why Ash and Gary are the Most Passionate Rivals of the Pokemon world.
1. Because Ash was a loser.
Let’s face it, Pokemon fans, Ash wasn’t the personification of a great hero when he was introduced in the first episode of Pokemon (Pokémon - I Choose You!). The guy has a dream and a purpose on his life of course, so Ash is courageous, resilient and works hard, but he was clumsy as heck, too. Let’s not forget that Ash overslept on the day when he had to start his training to become a Pokemon master, so all the good Pokemon starters of Pallet Town were already taken by the time he arrived to Professor Oak’s lab. On the other hand, this act of laziness let Ash have Pikachu, who became the best Pokemon companion ever.
Anyway, going back to the business, Ash encountered Gary in this first episode also. Gary acted all smug, bragging about having the best Pokemon thanks to his connection with Professor Oak and leaving in a luxurious car to start his training, cheered on by virtually the whole town. Meanwhile, Ash had a chaotic start, trying to get on good terms with Pikachu and later with Charizard, winning medals out of sheer luck in his first Pokemon showdowns.
2. Because Gary is a Pokemon expert.
We already mentioned that Gary has a relationship with Professor Oak, who manages the Pokemon Research Center in Pallet Town. The truth is, Professor Oak is Gary’s grandfather. Professor Oak has several Pokemon specimens in his lab, where he takes care of them and studies them, updating the Pokedex constantly. Of course, it is natural to assume that Gary grew up having all sorts of information about Pokemon at the tips of his fingers.
It is the application of this knowledge that lets Gary be effective in battle since his first showdown. Later, after the Silver Conference showdowns, this marks the growth of Gary’s determination in becoming a Pokemon researcher like his grandfather. We can see here that Gary is clearly a tough rival for Ash.
Still, Gary wasn’t of much help in other situations. For example, in episode 31 (Dig those Diglett!!!), Gary is invited to get rid of a plague of Digletts and even calls himself the best Pokemon Trainer in front of Ash. Yet, as his Pokemon do not want to get out of the Pokeballs to confront the Digletts, Gary simply goes away in his luxurious car, accompanied by his cheerleaders. In contrast, Ash and his team mates study the Digletts in their natural habitat to find out why the Pokemon didn’t want to battle them. So, they eventually found out how to resolve the conflict between humans and Digletts without resorting to violence. Gary may dream of being a Pokemon researcher, but he still has a lot to learn.
3. Because their relationship was broken.
Oh, yes, the childhood. In the case of Ash x Gary, it is implied in a few episodes of Pokemon that they used to get along well. Then, rivalry and something awful called “growing up” came in the middle to ruin their relationship. Remember kids, healthy competition is good, but take it one step forward and you forget your rival once was an important human being for you. Please don’t be like that. ☹
So, in the case of Ash and Gary, in episode 271 (The ties that bind), Ash apparently got drunk or intoxicated, because he opens up to Misty and Brock about what happened between him and Gary. It turns out that a few days before their Pokemon Trainer journeys started, Ash was fishing in a river close to Pallet Town. He caught a Magikarp, but the Pokemon easily defeated him and went back to the water. Gary watched the encounter and mocked him, telling Ash that Magikarp was the weakest Pokemon and that it was a shame that Ash didn’t even know its basic attacks. The bad mood scaled to the point that they went to fish on exactly the same spot. Both caught an old Pokeball with their fishing rods and wouldn’t let go of it, breaking it in two. Gary kept the red part and Ash kept the smaller white part. Gary even said that tying with Ash in something was as bad as losing to him! (ouch) ><
Since then, both Ash x Gary carry the Pokeball’s halves everywhere with them. It is the symbol of what Ash x Gary had between them. Thus now we can understand why Ash is so passionate in his purpose of defeating Gary.
4. Because Gary always was a step ahead of him.
We know that Ash had a slowly build up as a Pokemon Trainer. After the “great” start when he was the last on leaving Pallet Town to train, Ash was constantly updated about Gary’s advances through Professor Oak. Ash went on furious fits or simply became disappointed whenever he found out that his rival had more badges and Pokemon than him. Gary always ignited a fire in Ash’s resolve.
Nevertheless, by the time of the Indigo Plateau, Ash had become more confident in his abilities as a Pokemon Trainer. It is even mentioned by Professor Oak in episode 65 (Showdown at the Po-ke Corral) that Ash and Gary were the Top Trainers from Pallet down. In episode 76 (Fire and Ice), Gary watches one of Ash’s showdowns with a look of spite and jealousy. Then, Gary himself is defeated in the next episode (The fourth round rumble), exiting the competition while Ash advances to the fifth round. So, although Ash didn’t win in the end, he was among the Top 16 Trainers on the Indigo Plateau, effectively overpowering Gary for the first time.
5. Because Ash won Gary's respect.
So, Gary exits the story for a while, until he makes a notable reappearance just before the Johto League arc starts. In episode 115 (A tent situation), he even congratulates Ash for his victories in the Orange League. However, Ash x Gary fall back into their usual rivalry ways, starting a showdown with Eevee and Pikachu in which Ash loses. Ash could not overpower Gary until episode 270 (Can’t beat the heat), where after a spectacular battle, Ash finally defeated his rival with none other than Charizard, another one of his rebellious Pokemon. It was through his passion for his rival that Ash finally won.
Ash x Gary have a private encounter besides a lake that night. Gary gives Ash his red Pokeball half and promises to cheer for him on his next match. They shake hands, and their relationship is restored. This is the point in which you see the true bond in their relationship.
If we can notice something about Ash and Gary’s story, it is how different their approaches to training Pokemon are. Gary relies heavily on encyclopedic knowledge, while Ash is more into actively seeking and interacting with them. As a result, Gary accumulates much more Pokemon than Ash, but the relationship between Ash and his Pokemon are better. Thus, when they have to battle, the bond of friendship and trust that Ash nurtures becomes a strong point that helps him win and eventually overpower his rivals. In the end, quantity is not as important as quality for a Pokemon Trainer. Of course not having encyclopedic knowledge meant that Ash had a hard start too. Kids, remember to balance both quantity and quality if you want to succeed in the Pokemon World, as Ash x Gary eventually did throughout their rivalry story! ☺
Which is your favorite Ash and Gary episode and/or moment? What would you like to see them doing in future episodes of Pokemon? Which other Pokemon rivalries would you like us to revise on this section? Remember that we are open to all your comments and suggestions. See you soon!