Pokémon Horizons marks the first time in 25 Pokémon anime to focus on a main character other than Ash Ketchum, reinvigorating the series. The new series is more plot-driven and has a mystery at its core, driving the plot forward and adding an element of intrigue that Ash’s carefree adventures lack. Riko and Roy, the new heroes of Pokémon Horizons, have characteristics that make them likable and relatable, and their dynamic adds depth to the series. The expanded cast of adult characters also brings a fresh dimension to the story.
New series Pokémon Horizon marks the first time in the show’s 25-year history to focus on a main character other than Ash Ketchum, and while it’s hard to say goodbye to one of anime’s most iconic characters, but the series’ new direction has reinvigorated the anime in a way that fans have been waiting for.
Announced alongside Ash Ketchum’s official departure from the show, Pokémon Horizons represents the first major change in the anime since its inception in 1997. Although there have been other anime projects featuring the characters main series other than Ash (such as Mega Evolution Specials or Pokémon Origins), these were all short-lived miniseries in which the ever-popular Ash remained safely the main character of the main series. However, after Ash achieved his dream of becoming world champion, it seemed like it was time for the series to move and finally let a new hero take the reins.
Pokémon Horizons proved to be different from the first episode
Pokémon Horizons launches in Japan in April 2023 and follows two main characters: Riko, a young girl who possesses a mysterious pendant, and Roy, a boy with an ancient and intricate Poké Ball cannot be opened. The series kicks off with an action-packed premiere, introducing new villains (called Adventurers) who are after Riko’s pendant for unknown reasons. Riko is rescued by a group called the Rising Volt Tacklers, led by rogue professor Friede and his right-hand Pokémon, Captain Pikachu. By the end of the first two episodes, it’s clear that this is a very different series from its predecessor.
Pokémon Horizons has announced an English dub for 2023, but it has not yet been released at the time of writing.
The first and most obvious change, aside from the characters themselves, is that this iteration of the Pokémon anime is more story-driven than the Ash era. Ash Ketchum tends to wander slowly from town to town, getting into mischief and adventure along the way, hunted by Team Rocket. The only overarching story is Ash’s quest to defeat the local gyms and enter the tournament at the end, its mission is to keep the series going but otherwise isn’t very engaging, at least especially until the tournaments actually start. Pokémon Horizons is at its core a mystery revolving around the ancient explorer Luciusand unraveling that mystery is what drives the plot forward, not a vague desire to be the best.
Another big change is how Pokémon Horizons treats villains. Team Rocket was nominally the main villain of the series under Ash, but Team Rocket quickly became a joke and any fan paying attention soon realized that they would never be able to achieve their goals. The target is to steal Pikachu. By completely eliminating the villains’ ability to succeed, much of the tension disappears, and Team Rocket is used in this way in most episodes. On the other hand, Adventurers are used less and the heroes’ lack of experience puts them at a major disadvantage against more skilled trainers like Amethio. In general, Adventurers are also more vicious, using Pokémon in nefarious ways to achieve their goals that give Team Rocket pause.
The new heroes of Pokémon Horizons are the perfect choice
As main characters, Riko and Roy still have many things that make Ash famous. Riko’s kindness and love for all Pokémon is the same as Ash’s, while her fiery fighting spirit has instead passed on to Roy. Dividing these traits into two personalities gave them a yin and yang relationship, covering up each other’s shortcomings and helping each other when needed. Riko also has to deal with shyness and insecurity in a way that Ash never did, which makes her struggle even more compelling to pursue. Even in the first arc, Riko has matured into a more confident personshows a level of character development that would take Ash hundreds of episodes or more to develop.
Of course, Pokémon Horizons’ biggest asset over the original series with Ash is its expanded cast. With the series primarily set on a spaceship, Pokémon Horizons gave Liko and Roy a cast of adult characters they could rely on when times got tough. These adult characters like Friede have even been in the spotlight for a while, and it turns out that having side characters around as main characters is a very positive change for the series. Additionally, having adult characters helps older fans feel more relatable and adds a new dimension to the series’ storytelling.
Pokémon Horizons was also wise not to completely do away with adventure-of-the-week stories, even in the face of a newfound dedication to long-form storytelling. The series often lingers a few episodes after major plot points to stay engaging, providing the everyday adventures that Ash goes through without slowing down the story significantly. These episodes allow viewers to get to know the characters better, while also giving Riko and Roy the opportunity to catch new Pokémon just like Ash did. Adventure week episodes also tend to feature elements from the game that fans want to see, such as gym leaders, opponents (such as Nemona appearing), and even The whole mechanism is like a picnic.
Pokémon Horizons is a successor with its own identity
This is not to say that the Ash anime is bad. However, Pokémon Horizons sets itself apart by being a very different kind of anime. While many fans were sad to see Ash go after all these years, those who approached Horizons with an open mind found the new series to be just as enjoyable, if not more so. Fans even still get Pikachu weekly through Captain Pikachu, who proves to be a different character than Ash’s Pikachu while still retaining his most adorable qualities. Changing up the plot formula could also attract new fans who don’t like Ash’s slower-paced style.
As fans patiently wait for the official English release, Pokémon Horizon made it clear that it sought to revolutionize the animated series that had been around for over 25 years, while remaining faithful to its roots and maintaining the kind of show that had a little something for everyone, and franchising will be all the better for It.