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The Heartbreaking Reason Why Pokémon's Professor Oak Actor Is Retiring

As the journey of Ash Ketchum ends and the "Pokémon" anime moves onto new horizons, fans are bracing themselves for a lot of changes. As well as Ash, fans also say goodbye to other iconic characters like the members of Team Rocket, his various companions, and the people who guided him along the way. From the very beginning Professor Oak has been central to the anime — and since the "Pokémon Ruby" and "Sapphire" days, the same person has voiced the foremost expert in all things Pokémon. As it turns out, though, James Carter Cathcart — who originally voiced Gary Oak, and later Meowth, James, and Oak — will be departing the show upon the conclusion of the Ash Ketchum arc.

Back at the end of January 2023, Cathcart's family began the blog on Caring Bridge to document his progression with throat cancer. The initial post explains that he was diagnosed earlier in January after his throat didn't feel right for nearly a year, though there wasn't an indication that it would spur his departure from the show. He has since sought treatment for the last few months as his wife Martha Jacobi updates concerned fans on how he is doing.

In a post made April 17, 2023, Cathcart's online journal revealed that he made the decision to retire from voice acting, and will not be returning to voice dub for the English version of "Pokémon." Fans of the anime are heartbroken over the news, though the most recent post on the Caring Bridge blog explains that Cathcart will be beginning a new "definitive treatment" soon.

Cathcart's retirement caps a long, memorable Pokemon career

James Carter Cathcart was among the original cast for the English dub of the "Pokémon" anime and played Gary Oak as well as other episodic characters. Later down the line he took on Professor Oak as well as Team Rocket's James, roles which he would continue until his retirement in April 2023. From Season 5 of the English dub to now, Cathcart also took on the role of script adaptation for western audiences. Until now, Jimmy was the only member of the original cast who had stayed with the show for every season.  He was sometimes credited as Billy Beach and Jimmy Zoppi, and fans have come together to celebrate Cathcart's contributions to the English dub of the "Pokémon" anime.

As pointed out by his wife Martha Jacobi, it is somewhat fitting that Jimmy will bow out of the "Pokémon" anime as it concludes Ash's journey. "He has been with the series since the first episode, so it is a timely decision as the series transitions to new characters and storylines," Jacobi writes in the April 17 post. "We remain eternally grateful for your love, thoughts, comments, "hearts," prayers, and well-wishes."

Fans' responses to the actor's retirement announcement were a mix of support for his ongoing treatment and praise for his work, as well as curses thrown cancer's way. Cathcart's talents have undoubtedly been a major part of many peoples' childhoods, and fans only hope for the best for the actor as Professor Oak, Meowth, James, and much of the rest of the cast depart at the end of Season 25.