Perhaps you’ve heard but there’s about to be a major change in the world of Pokémon. After serving as the Pocket Monster-catching protagonist of the anime series for 25 years, Ash Ketchum will be hanging up his Poké Balls and Gym Badges for good.
The young hero from Pallet Town has been a major part of the worldwide Pokémon brand since he first debuted in the Pokémon anime TV series in 1997. Alongside his faithful partner Pikachu, Ash traversed the Pokémon world for 25 seasons encompassing nine different generations of Pokémon and unique environs. That journey will finally come to an end at the conclusion of Pokémon Ultimate Journeys, the final season currently airing in Japan.
While much digital ink has been spilled wishing Ash Ketchum a fond farewell (including here at ye olde Den of Geek) we fear that one aspect of Ash’s departure hasn’t received enough attention. The end of Ash’s story means the end of Pikachu’s story as well! Moreso than Ash Ketchum (or anyone else for that matter) Pikachu has been the enduring face of Pokémon for the last 25 years as it has grown to be one of the most successful franchises in human history.
We presume that Pikachu will carry on in its mascot role for the franchise at large (after all, its rosey cheeks and black-tipped yellow eras are as recognizable an icon as Mickey Mouse) but its absence in the anime will loom quite large. With Pikachu sidelined (or at least Ash’s Pikachu sidelined) from an enormous part of the Pokémon brand going forward, it’s entirely possible that The Pokémon Company (TPC) and its parent company Nintendo are grooming another Pokémon to serve as the face of this whole operation.
With that in mind, let’s start dreaming up some of Pikachu’s potential replacements. Before we delve in to the candidates, here are the qualities that we think Nintendo might be looking for its next generation mascot.
The Next Pikachu should be a Basic Pokémon. This excludes “Baby” Pokémon like Pichu or Igglybuff and evolved Pokémon like Incineroar, Charizard, and Blastoise.
The Next Pikachu will probably one of the original 151 Pokémon. TPC seems to have a bias for Pokémon from the original batch of 151 in Pokémon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow. We can’t say with certainty that this is a prerequisite but we will favor original generation Pokémon whenever possible.
The Next Pikachu won’t be a “starter Pokémon.” Each generation of Pokémon games and media starts with a new trio of “starter” Pokémon made up of grass, fire, and water types (i.e. Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle). TPC wouldn’t want to appear biased towards any starter type by electing one as its mascot.
The Next Pikachu will not be a Legendary or Mythical Pokémon. Part of Pikachu’s appeal is its accessibility. So while entities like Mewtwo and Arceus are both tremendously important to the Pokémon mythos, they likely won’t be seen as a cuddly mascot anytime soon.
The Next Pikachu will be cute. Obviously.
Honorable Mention: Another Pikachu-Like Pokémon
Includes: Dedenne, Emolga, Pawmi, Mimikyu, Plusle, Minum, Morpeko, Pachirisu, Marill, Togedemaru
Let’s just get these guys out of the way up top. Starting with the second generation of Pokémon games, every subsequent generation of Pokémon introductions one or more Pokémon that just happen to strongly resemble Pikachu. Oftentimes these little Pika-buddies will be considered a “rodent Pokémon,” feature electric attacks, or have distinct circular cheeks.
If The Pokémon Company really intends to introduce a mascot other than Pikachu, it might be helpful to pick something that’s almost a Pikachu already anyway. Our choice would be Generation VIII’s Morpeko, which can alternate its appearance between “Full Belly Mode” and “Hangry Mode.”
The fox-like Dark Pokémon Zorua and its evolution Zoroark were both introduced in the franchise’s fifth generation. In fact, Zorua and Zoroark were the first two Gen-V Pokémon introduced to the public when Nintendo rolled them out on Feb. 10, 2010. The Pokémon Company clearly loves this little guy and why wouldn’t they? Equal parts handsome and intense with its black and red shading, Zorua is just a fundamentally solid Pokémon.
Zorua has also been a frequent presence throughout the anime, with even a Shiny version of its white and pink “Hisuian” form making an appearance in the miniseries Pokémon: Hisuian Snow. Unfortunately, however, Zorua has a defining feature that makes it an imperfect mascot. It likes to spend a lot of its time seamlessly mimicking other Pokémon. And The Pokémon Company would surely appreciate some consistency and continuity out of their new mascot.
OK I know we just said Pokémon wouldn’t want a mascot that frequently changes its appearance. Like we literally JUST said that. It’s still up there in the paragraph above and everything. But hear us out on the difference between Zorua and the shape-shifting Ditto … you see: Ditto’s got these itty bitty eyeballs.
Ditto, a little pink blob, possesses the ability to turn itself into a convincing facsimile of other Pokémon. The only visible difference between the original Pokémon and the imposter Ditto is that the Ditto-ified Pokémon keeps Ditto’s comically small eyes. Pokémon has had a lot of fun with this trickery ever since Ditto arrived in Generation I and we could imagine a world in which Pokémon’s new mascot was a never-ending cycle of transformed Dittos.
Somebody at Nintendo really likes Lucario. First introduced in Generation IV, Lucario has sometimes felt like a de facto franchise mascot in its own right already. Enigmatically known as an “Aura Pokémon,” Lucario made its arrival in the movie Lucario and the Mystery of Mew. Since then the sleek fighting type has been a frequent presence in both the anime and video game series.
In fact, Lucario has been available in every main generation Pokémon game since Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl. It is also usable as a fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Lucario doesn’t necessarily have the family friendly cuteness as Pikachu but it already has the clear blessing of Nintendo and most fans.
Step aside, you little yellow mouse. It’s the big boys’ time to run things. Implicit in the prompt that Pokémon would want a replacement for Pikachu is the idea that said replacement would be another lil’ guy. But what if Pokémon decided to go in the opposite direction altogether and begin the embrace the era of chubsters? If it’s chub that Pokémon seeks, then it need look no further than Gen I’s tired king Snorlax.
Snorlax is just a big cuddly critter. Perpetually sleepy, Snorlax spends mosts its days lazing away waiting for meal time or a battle. Ash encountered a Snorlax early on in the Pokémon anime and it became an important part of his squad. It is also eminently merchandisable, as anyone who spends their nights in a plush Snorlax’s embrace could tell you.
OK, Eevee wins. We’re sorry for wasting your time, everyone. Because the question of “who would replace Pikachu as Pokémon’s mascot?” has a very simple answer. It’s Eevee. Eevee has everything that Pokémon would be looking for in the face of its franchise. It is: small, cute, a Basic Pokémon, one of the original 151 (#133), and adapts perfectly to all manner of toys and merchandise, Additionally, Eevee is not a rare Pokémon, Legendary Pokémon, or starter Pokémon.
But more than just checking every box, Eevee brings another unique trait to the table that has proven tremendously useful to Pokémon historically. As its name suggests, Eevee is all about evolution. A single Eevee can evolve into one of eight distinct Pokémon: Vaporeon, Jolteon, Flaeron, Espeon, Umbreon, Leafeon, Glaceon, and Sylveon. Evolution is a big part of Pokémon’s appeal and no Pokémon evolves better than Eevee.
It’s quite clear that The Pokémon Company knows what magic it has with Eevee. When remaking Pokémon Yellow for the Nintendo Switch in 2018, TPC named the two installments Let’s Go, Pikachu and Let’s Go, Eevee. If headlining a pair of games alongside Pikachu isn’t a passing of the torch then we don’t know what is.