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Pokémon: Why Pikachu Never Evolved

Pokémon’s Pikachu has not evolved over the franchise’s history in order to push himself as a Pikachu and to remain the face of the franchise.

Ash’s Pikachu has avoided evolving for the entirety of Pokémon‘s decades-long run – here’s why Pikachu didn’t evolve. The anime aired its first episode in Japan on April 1, 1997, and focused largely on Ash Ketchum’s journey to becoming a Pokémon master. Throughout this quest, his Pikachu resisted evolving despite having several opportunities to make the change.

The first of Ash’s Pokémon to evolve was his Caterpie in the episode “Ash Catches a Pokémon.” Caterpie made the decision to evolve into Metapod after a battle with Team Rocket and being inspired by a Butterfree he spotted flying above one night. Ash and the group welcomed this decision with open arms. While the dangers of evolving too quickly were covered in the anime, the process was not treated as a negative thing. So why didn’t Ash’s Pikachu eventually follow suit?

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Related: Netflix’s Pokemon Movie Remake Didn’t Learn From Detective Pikachu

The official canonical reason why Pikachu never evolved is simple: Ash’s first Pokémon has not wanted to evolve. This decision was first made clear in season 1, episode 14, “Electric Shock Showdown.” In this episode, Pikachu was initially beaten and hospitalized by a Raichu belonging to Lt. Surge. After this defeat, Ash was given a Thunderstone that could have been used to evolve Pikachu. However, instead of letting his desire to win cloud his judgment, Ash asked Pikachu what he wanted to do. Pikachu – who was determined to win as he was – refused the stone.


Why It’s Good Ash’s Pikachu Never Evolves In Pokémon

what if ash ketchum won the pokemon league sooner, ash and pikachu

Pikachu’s refusal to evolve and its service to the story were laid out more explicitly in Pokémon Journeys. In the episode “Gotta Catch a What?!” Ash explained to his companion trainer Goh that Pikachu wanted to get stronger as a Pikachu. While evolving into a Raichu would have increased Pikachu’s power significantly, it also wouldn’t have been true to who he is. Ash’s Pikachu, in all iterations, has wanted to prove himself. Pikachu’s choice not to evolve fits the narrative that he was enough without changing who he was. The message that someone can be great while remaining exactly who they were was an important one for the show and a lesson that stood out to young viewers.


While that’s a heartwarming explanation as to why Pikachu never evolved, the other key reason is more cynical: his role as a symbol of the franchise for decades. Ash’s Pikachu evolving into a Raichu would have been in many ways the loss of an icon. Pikachu has been one of the most consistently marketable characters in the world alongside his Pokémon League Champion Trainer, Ash. Even those unfamiliar with the franchise have had some experience or interaction with the character. Evolving Ash’s Pikachu would have meant changing the mascot for the franchise and, as a result, losing marketability. Keeping Pikachu as a Pikachu has allowed the franchise to maintain its iconic branding.


Why Pikachu Can Now Never Evolve In Pokémon

Just lik in the anime, Yellow's Pikachu rejects Poké Balls.

For many reasons, it’s a good thing that Ash Ketchum’s Pikachu never wanted to evolve in Pokémon. But now that he’s spent so long as a Pikachu, he’ll have to stay that way forever. Pikachu’s decision to evolve into a Raichu sometime in the future could be spun as an effective character growth moment, but because the Pokémon has always been so determined to improve as he is, this would probably end up feeling inauthentic. On an entirely different note, a sudden evolution would also cost the Pokémon franchise its most iconic character. Now that Pikachu has gone so long committed to being the way he is, his chances of evolving are slim to none.


Related: How Detective Pikachu Sets Up A Pokémon Shared Universe

Pikachu’s continued commitment to his classic form has allowed the Pokémon franchise to keep him as its face. It has also allowed the character to provide a moral lesson for plenty of viewers. While Ash’s Pikachu may not have evolved, in Pokémon Journeys, Goh did eventually evolve a Pikachu – providing viewers who may have wanted to see the original Pikachu evolve some form of catharsis.

Next: Why Pokémon Fans Are Worried Ash Is Being Written Out Of The Anime

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