The Pokémon anime is wrapping up Ash and Pikachu’s 25-year-long story with a series of farewell episodes, and in each of them, the duo has been revisiting old friends from across the Pokémon world. However, it sounds like the final episode before the show hands off the torch to new protagonists Liko and Roy won’t focus on Ash’s relationship with a friend, but a rival. That’s right: Gary, who started his own journey the same day Ash and Pikachu did in the show’s pilot back in 1998, is making a comeback.
The finale is titled “Rainbow and the Pokémon Master!” and a synopsis was shared through a Japanese TV guide (thanks ComicBook), which includes descriptions of new episodes in the upcoming month. It says that Ash will reunite with Gary after returning to his home in Pallet Town, and the two will discuss his journey and if he feels like he’s a Pokémon Master after his championship win earlier in the season.
“When Ash and Pikachu return to Pallet Town, they reunite with Gary who asks Ash the question: How much closer to becoming the Pokémon Master are you now that you’ve become the Champion? Becoming a Pokémon Master has been Ash’s dream ever since he set off on his journey with Pikachu. Will Ash be able to find the answer to this question?”
Over the course of the Pokémon anime’s 25 years, Ash has had several rivals that he and Pikachu have faced across different seasons, such as Paul from the Diamond and Pearl seasons and Leon in the most recent Journeys seasons, but Gary is the OG. He’s based off Blue in the original Pokémon Red and Blue games, and he’s the little shit every Pokémon fan loves to hate. Some of you might have literally nicknamed him shit in the games. It’s been a minute since he was a prominent character in the anime, a lot of older viewers no doubt still view him as Ash’s primary rival. Gary being so heavily featured in the finale feels like an acknowledgement of that. Ash has gone on to fight new rivals and face other threats, but anyone who’s seen his journey from the beginning knows all roads lead back to the rival he left behind at home.
All that being said, Gary and Ash’s rivalry has been in a state of mutual respect for a while now. Ash did actually beat Gary in a Pokémon battle 20 years ago in the episode “Can’t Beat the Heat!” Since then, Gary has appeared a few times throughout the series as a cameo, and while he and Ash still bicker, there’s less outright hostility. So it feels right to know Ash is going to reflect on his 25-year journey with the same person he started it alongside.
The episode is set to air in Japan on March 24, though there’s no concrete date for the English dub just yet. The Pokémon anime’s English dub is currently tied to a deal with Netflix in the US that rolls out episodes in chunks throughout the year, with the latest batch having just been added to the streaming service on February 24. As of this writing, Netflix is 25 episodes behind what’s aired in Japan, meaning that if the episodes continue to roll out at the around a dozen episodes every batch they have been up to this point, we will likely see Ash and Pikachu’s final episode come to Netflix sometime in the latter half of 2023.
Gary isn’t the only character from the early seasons returning in Ash and Pikachu’s farewell episodes. Misty and Brock, who were the pair’s traveling companions in the first seasons (Brock returned as a main cast member during the Hoenn and Sinnoh seasons), have both been staples of these episodes and traveling with Ash as he visits other old friends. So even though our heroes’ story has spanned several regions, it seems the anime is really leaning into the Gen I nostalgia.
While Ash’s Pikachu will finally retire, The Pokémon Company isn’t about to kick the mascot out of the show entirely, and is introducing Captain Pikachu, who will accompany new protagonists Liko and Roy on their adventures.