When are we gonna get a good Ash one again? I havent felt like we really had one since episode 3 (the Gym episodes was more of a group focus to me)
The past few fillers had a lot of…
I’ve been thinking about this a while, and after a lot of thinking
and a lot of Bravely DefaultI’ve decided to go ahead and post on it (with apologies to noodlerama and dracoreflex for using their posts as a springboard.)
The below is just my opinion and as always, disagreements, alternative viewpoints, and spotted inaccuracies are welcome.
When I watched XY 14 (the Espurr episode) something was rolling around in my head, but it took a while to really click - Ash didn’t do much. The first half was Clemont trying (and failing) to not be terrified and Serena trying (and failing) to not terrify the boys. The second half was basically Bonnie and Espurr, with the CotD wrapping up the loose ends.
And when I saw this set of posts, I started thinking about the Ash-focused filler episodes and I realized something. It’s probably just me, but it seems like Ash looks like he’s getting more focus than he is because he’s been getting the focus in the climactic moments. We see heroism, but we don’t see characterization.
Part of it is in the team dynamic. For the most part, Clemont, Serena, and Bonnie are more or less driving Ash from Heroic Moment to Heroic Moment. Yes, that shortchanges the three of them because it Ash ends up enjoying the payoff of their efforts (as in the Spewpa episode). But it also shortchanges Ash, because the writers haven’t given him much of a role besides these Heroic Moments and the occasional pep talk.
Ash himself tends to fade into the background pretty quickly when he isn’t doing either of these things. In particular, Ash tends to be left out of a lot of the banter and the scenes that don’t directly affect the plot but still provide enjoyable interaction. He gets some nonplot involvement, but the others are playing off each other more often and more memorably. If Ash/Clemont/Bonnie is a complete group in terms of plot, Clemont/Bonnie/Serena is a complete group in terms of conversation.
But the anime itself does a lot to hide this by giving Ash the big scenes. In particular, note that Ash still looks like the Big Hero even when other Pokemon are bailing him out. I personally feel that Pikachu rallying the other Pokemon to cover Ash in the Forest episode and Vivillon saving him in the Merchant episode don’t get nearly enough credit in or out of universe precisely because the presentation is such that Ash remains in focus.
Audience reaction is also important here. Ash getting tied up in the Rhyhorn episode for example doesn’t get nearly as many complaints as the others getting tied up or shut out precisely because we’ve already seen Ash be a hero tons of times. Every episode where he takes center stage is increasingly being seen as an episode stolen from the rest of his group, especially when Ash is so active in stealing those episodes.
Serena doesn’t get a lot of plot importance because of her passiveness and inexperience. Similarly, Ash doesn’t get a lot of non-climactic involvement compared to the others because he’s being played too generically to play off the others and because his character isn’t conducive to the mid-episode planning that Clemont (and to a much lesser extent, Serena) provide.
By contrast, Clemont’s character allows him to get involved in both sides, and that to me is why episodes centered around him are so good. His polite yet awkward nature makes for very entertaining/emotional conversation, and he has enough courage to be the hero when he has the chance.
In particular, I myself think his hero moments are better precisely because of Clemont himself. Their Pokemon battling is about equally decent, but where Ash runs at the problem Clemont takes a running waddle into a diving jump, or uses his Aipom Arm to deflect a Fire attack.
I used to think that Clemont’s biggest problem would be character development; he basically strikes me as a smarter Ash Ketchum who wants to be Ash Ketchum but basically already is an Ash Ketchum who hasn’t had the chance to be Ash Ketchum. He doesn’t have confidence or good running speed, but he’s still very brave and protective, something that originally centered on Bonnie but has been slowly growing.
I was worried that he’d eventually grow out of his slower response to situation and then stop being interesting as a character, but as long as he retains the things about him that are unique he has the potential to be a great hero. Admittedly that’s a problem in itself, since he has the very real capability of outshining Ash, something the writers almost certainly will not allow to happen.
Even so, the team dynamic remains divided. Ash on one side, Clemont, Bonnie, and Serena on the other. So far, I haven’t really seen an episode where all four are simultaneously equally involved in the plot. To me, Serena’s inability to distinguish herself in the action and Ash’s inability to involve himself in the banter strike me as among the main reasons why. Typing this, I suddenly realize that it’s possible that the writers thought that “Amourshipping” would do much to ameliorate these issues, at least eventually.
I disagree, because both Ash and Serena are wrong for that. So what is the solution? I honestly don’t know.
I pretty much agree 100% with your analysis. With a lack of rivals, recurring characters and overall prominence given to the traveling companions in most situations, I’ve just found it really disjointed have him there sometimes. I feel Clemont to be balanced in both regards, activity as well as character development. I feel like the fact he doesn’t really play off others well and/or is mostly static in-terms of character changes himself to be a strong reason in itself while I just find Clemont be the best of the XY quartet thus far. I’m glad his inability to run, incompetence in confidence and more his defining aspects haven’t disappeared. The character thrives on that imo. Ash does tend to be quite show-stealing in a lot of situations and that’s the bane of me for a number of episodes.