Ash’s decision not to bring Pikachu into battle with Gary was a strategic move to demonstrate his own strength and show that he could win even without Pikachu’s help. By leaving Pikachu on the bench, Ash wanted to show off his ability to train any Pokémon and make his tactics more unpredictable. Despite not having Pikachu on his team, Ash’s victory in the battle with Gary redefined their relationship, earning Gary’s respect and allowing them to eventually become friends.
One of Ash’s biggest battles of all Pokémon was his dramatic battle with Gary Oak during the Johto Region Silver Conference, and oddly enough, it was also one of the only battles where Ash didn’t have Pikachu on his team.
Of course, Ash and Gary have had a long rivalry since the first episode, with Gary always one step ahead, a fact that angers Ash. Ash and Gary only had a small one-on-one fight before, Ash’s Pikachu lost to Gary’s Eevee. After collecting the emblems of the Johto region and participating in the Silver Conference, it became clear that the two would have to fight each other in a full six-on-six battle. That’s when Ash shockingly puts Pikachu on the bench and assembles a team full of his other Pokémon, which he will battle Gary. Pikachu even asked to fight Gary’s Blastoise, but since Pikachu was not involved it was ineligible to fight.
Ash Wants To Prove His Own Strength, Not Pikachu’s
Despite Pikachu’s early loss to Gary’s Eevee, Pikachu proved himself to be an essential member of Ash’s team, helping him win the Orange Islands League as well as being a key member in most of the battles. in his gym. Ash’s Pikachu special powers are well established at this point, so it seems strange for Ash to leave Pikachu on the sidelines. In the episode, Ash never gives Pikachu or the audience a reason why he made this choice and Pikachu will immediately return to his team in the next round of the tournament. There is, however, one reason that is likely to stand out.
By this point in the series, Ash has relied on Pikachu’s powers quite a bit, perhaps excessively. While that has never stopped Ash from using Pikachu before, his rivalry with Gary is something that dates back to childhood, long before Pikachu appeared in the picture. Ash’s victory in the Orange League earned him the respect of Gary, but now it’s time for Ash to prove to Gary what a talented Coach he is. Gary is described as not liking any Pokémon, using all of his party members equally. Ash wants to show that he can train any Pokémon, not just Pikachu, and that he is capable of victory even without Pikachu’s help. This also has the side effect of making his tactics harder to predict.
Ash’s battle with Gary was a pivotal moment for his character, so clearly not using Pikachu here makes sense. His victory redefined their relationship, allowing them to finally bury the ax and become friends. Of course, Pikachu is still there by his side, cheering on his other Pokémon and supporting Ash through setbacks, but Ash has proven that he doesn’t need Pikachu on the field to defeat Gary. It’s unclear if Gary appreciated the significance of this decision, but at least it ultimately succeeded in earning Gary’s full respect. Ash vs Gary is definitely one of the most important matches in Pokémonand Ash proved he can win–with or without Pikachu.