Ash’s Pikachu is an iconic Pokémon that accompanied the series hero on his journey to becoming a Pokémon Master from start to finish. It just never developed. Why actually?
When Ash and Pikachu met for the first time, it didn’t look like the deep friendship that the duo would develop over the course of their journey together.
For Ash, Pikachu was a stopgap after he missed picking up a starter Pokémon from Professor Oak in time. Pikachu, on the other hand, saw Ash as an annoying trainer who wanted to give him orders and even put him in a Poké Ball – which resulted in one or two electric shocks for Ash.
Only a difficult battle together against a swarm of wild Habitaks brought the two together. A long journey began full of challenges and duels in which both grew together.
But unlike other Pokémon, Ash’s Pikachu never developed. And there is a simple reason for that.
No Raichu for Ash: Pikachu doesn’t want to evolve
Evolution is one of the fundamental principles of Pokémon as they become stronger. It’s no surprise that it was also a recurring theme with Ash’s Pikachu over the course of the series. But Pikachu never became Raichu – which was also due to another Raichu.
Already in the 14th episode of the Pokémon series, a development of Pikachu comes into question for the first time, because in the fight against Gym Leader Major Bob, Ash’s partner Pokémon is not only mocked, but also devastatingly defeated by the Gym Leader’s Raichu.
While Pikachu is being nursed back up in the Pokémon Center, he is given the opportunity to evolve with a Thunder Stone. But it rejects this: It wants to prove that it is strong enough to be able to defeat stronger Pokémon even as Pikachu.
And that’s how it happens: With a focus on speed, Pikachu manages to take the supposedly stronger Raichu by surprise and thereby win another medal with Ash.
You can see how the victorious battle went in the video from the Pokémon channel on YouTube:
Things happen in a similar way later in the anime, when the friends meet trainer Sho in episode 74. Once again Pikachu is defeated by a Raichu, falls unconscious and has to go to the Pokémon Center. The topic of “development” comes up again – in the truest sense, as the Thunderstone lies with Pikachu while he recovers.
However, it decides against development again and disappears into a forest to train there alone. When Ash and his friends find it again through the striking thunderclaps, they take up special training together. They then face Sho and Raichu again and win – without any development.
And by the end of the journey with Ash, Pikachu wasn’t supposed to develop any more, even though he repeatedly faced opponents who were, on paper, more powerful than the little electric mouse. Instead, it proved that it could keep up with them even as Pikachu.
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Was there an exception? In a sense, yes: Even if Pikachu never evolved into Raichu, the episode “Hello, Pikachu” of the “Pokémon Journeys” series shows how it originally evolved from Pichu into Pikachu.
The episode covers how Pichu is taken in by a Kangama in a forest and befriends its baby. When the family part ways again, it evolves into Pikachu as they say goodbye – and years later becomes Ash’s starter Pokémon.
Pikachu has become a special Pokémon over the years. Fans show this again and again. For example, with huge Pikachu collections in Pokémon GO.