Despite all the hints, many were shocked when it was announced that Pokemon would be retiring Ash and starting the Scarlet & Violet generation with two new characters. It’s hard to imagine the series going on without Ash and Pikachu, and these new protagonists have some huge boots to fill. All we’ve seen of Liko and Roy is a single image, so there’s no way to know whether they’re good characters yet. Unfortunately, the fact that they’re not Ash is enough to draw disdain from fans.
After all the hate Ash’s Sword & Shield friend Goh got when the community started to suspect he would eventually replace Ash, it’s safe to assume Ash’s actual replacements will receive even more backlash. No one can ever replace Ash for those who grew up alongside him, but giving the anime a fresh start does present some unique opportunities to make changes. If the next generation wants to win over Ash’s fans, the best thing it can do is fix the things fans have always complained about. And the best place to start is with their roster.
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One of the most frustrating things about Ash’s journey was that he never seemed to progress or develop as a character. Though he eventually became the regional champion of Alola and went on to win the World Coronation Series this year, the bulk of Ash’s 25 years were spent repeating the same arc over and over again. In every season, Ash would go to a new region, make new friends, catch new Pokemon, and try (and fail) to become the regional champion. Every time he traveled to a new region, he’d leave his experiences, his friendships, and his Pokemon behind.
Giving Ash a fresh start every generation is somewhat necessary. His journeys have always reflected the games, so it makes sense that each season would be disconnected from the previous one. We want to see Ash’s power progression each season as he catches and trains new Pokemon, and if he had a bunch of max-level Pokemon from previous adventures, he’d just end up relying on them to win battles. The Pokemon Ash trains usually have their own individual personalities and character arcs too, and it wouldn’t be possible for the show to continue adding new characters forever. Understandably, Ash cycles out his Pokemon each season, but it’s how he does it that’s so unsatisfying.
No matter how strong Ash’s bond is with his Pokemon, he unceremoniously abandons them at the end of each season, never to be mentioned again. On incredibly rare occasions, we get to see cameos of Ash’s old Pokemon, but for the most part, the show pretends like they never existed. It wasn’t until Ash won the World Coronation Series and signaled his departure that we got to see all his beloved Pokemon again, and 20 years is a long time to wait. Liko and Roy have an opportunity to change this pattern by keeping all the Pokemon they catch from season to season.
There are better ways to deal with the problems that carrying Pokemon over between seasons creates. Instead of sending all of their old Pokemon to the professor, they could keep them in the PC just like we do, and cycle them in and out for whatever battle situations they find themselves in. Older Pokemon would show up more infrequently than newer ones, but it would be so exciting to see them pull out a Pokemon from past generations at just the right time in battle.
To fix the power curve problem, all they need to do is institute a level cap for each gym or tournament they enter, just like the games. This would force the heroes to focus on training their newer, weaker Pokemon instead of relying on their strong Pokemon from past seasons. By pulling from the mechanics of the games, the anime can solve a lot of Ash’s problems while also tightening the connection between the games and the show.
We won’t know how the anime handles the transition between generations for a few years. For all we know, Liko and Roy are only going to be the protagonists during Scarlet & Violet, and we’ll get new leads for Gen 10. If they do end up carrying the show forward for multiple seasons, it’d be nice if all the Pokemon they catch can go with them.