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The Best Characters In The Entire Pokemon Franchise According To Fans

Between games, films, anime series, comics, card games, planned reality series, and various forms of merchandise, the "Pokémon" franchise is one of the mightiest and most omnipresent media institutions to have emerged in the past three decades. And, by definition, most of that ocean of content has been focused on and dedicated to the titular Pokémon themselves. When your fictional universe is made up of 912 distinct species of superpowered creatures with their own unique appearances, traits, skills, and complex evolutionary trees, it's only natural that fans' imaginations should be taken with those creatures above all else.

Indeed, the near-endless appeal and fascination of the ever-growing Pokédex is largely responsible for the standing of "Pokémon" as the highest-grossing media franchise of all time (via Statista). Most franchises struggle to establish even a small handful of characters beloved and identifiable enough to sell toys and merch based on them; how many properties can say for themselves that they've been able to establish over nine hundred? But that doesn't mean "Pokémon" — whether we're talking about the games or the shows — boils down to just the Pokémon. In the franchise's world, the humans who cross paths with the critters, training and caring for them, are often just as important. Pikachu, iconic as he may be, wouldn't be the character we know and love without Ash. The Togepi became the series' premier symbol of cuteness through his relationship with Misty; the list goes on. And those characters — the humans — were the subject of a recent Reddit thread.

N is an iconic character and very unusual rival

On December 11, 2021, Reddit user u/BB19_vp shared a post to the r/pokemon subreddit asking, "Who is your favorite Character in the Pokémon franchise?" Expanding on the question in the post, the user said, "I remember The Pokémon Company having a Poll for the most popular Pokémon a few years ago. But I don't think I've ever seen a discussion or Poll about the most popular trainers/characters in the Franchise."

The most upvoted comment, by u/SonOfADeino, was "N – he's just my favorite rival." As Pokémon fans know, N — full name Natural Harmonia Gropius — is one of the most prominent rivals, i.e. antagonist trainers, in the "Pokémon Black" and "Pokémon White" games. In addition to the iconic look he sports, with long green hair and an inseparable black and gray baseball hat, N is notable for his ability to speak to and communicate with Pokémon. This unique skill renders him extremely attached to the Pokémon and attentive to their particular needs and wants over the years, such that his goal becomes pushing for a world in which Pokémon are allowed to live free and separate from humans — a goal he seeks through his nominal leadership of Team Plasma. The extensive mythology behind N's appearances both in the games and on the TV series made him a fan favorite, with a role that goes way beyond that of a typical rival.

Redditors found Wally's story especially moving

Another highly upvoted comment on the Reddit thread, by u/Shadow_Jedi, read, "I always really liked Wally. His story wasn't about being the best, but about doing better for himself. Very few people actually believed in him because of his health issues, but he is all about proving those people wrong."

Much like N, Wally is a rival character in the Pokémon games. But, whereas N is rather far removed from the archetypal qualities of a rival, Wally actually fits the bill pretty neatly, being one of the opponents the player runs into in the "Pokémon Ruby," "Sapphire," "Emerald, "Omega Ruby," and "Alpha Sapphire" games. The "health issues" referred to by u/Shadow_Jedi are an unspecified illness that renders Wally virtually unable to leave his room in Petalburg City. In spite of this condition, however, Wally is passionate about becoming a Pokémon trainer; the first time we see him, he is gearing up to challenge his first gym, and his encounters with the player motivate him to keep learning, improving, and seeking to better his health. By the time you reach the Battle Maison in "Omega Ruby," Wally has become a resourceful trainer with an exceptionally strong team.

Unsurprisingly, the Reddit thread would seem to indicate "Pokémon" fans feel protective of Wally and are happy to see him steadily evolve as a trainer. As u/BabyYodaIsGod42069 summed up in a reply, "YES! Wally is precious and he's got amazing character development!"

Few trainers inspire more hushed admiration than Cynthia

If there's one "Pokémon" human character who's synonymous with strength, skill, and power, it's Cynthia. The archeologist and trainer is legendary among fans for the peerless might of her team of Pokémon, the sheer difficulty of beating her in the game, and the role of mentor and master trainer she fulfills on the animated series.

In the games, Cynthia is the reigning Champion of the Sinnoh region, as seen in "Pokémon Diamond," "Pearl," "Platinum," "Brilliant Diamond," and "Shining Pearl." She is deeply curious and inquisitive about Pokémon history and is often at hand to provide the player with bits of lore and vital information on battling. On the show, she is depicted as a participant in the World Coronation Series, which places her as one of the eight most powerful Pokémon trainers in the world — but that elevated status doesn't stop her from making time to help out Ash and company in their adventures and offer helpful advice at crucial junctures, much like her game counterpart does.

On the Reddit thread, a simple comment by u/Seth-B343 with the name "Cynthia." was one of the highest-rated comments. u/DrPikachu-PhD added, "['Brilliant Diamond' and 'Shining Pearl'] really reinforced this. After this game, no one can complain that her bark is worse than her bite. ['Black' and 'White'] post-game Cynthia and BDSP rematch Cynthia are probably the hardest fights in the whole franchise, and that definitely earns my respect."

Jessie and James go without saying

Another popular comment, by u/Krazytre, stated, "Jesse [sic], James, and Meowth, because you can't like one without liking the others." Of course, while one of the mentioned parties, Meowth, is a Pokémon and therefore technically outside the scope of the thread, the commenter did have a point. It's hard to think of Jessie, James, and Meowth — or, as they're collectively known, the Team Rocket Trio — as separate entities. And it's even harder to dissociate Jessie from James and vice versa; the two are strong contenders for the title of most notorious dynamic duo in anime history.

More so than any other characters on this list, Jessie and James dispense with the need for introductions. The primary villains of the "Pokémon" TV show throughout its 25-year history, the two magenta-haired field agents from the evil and mighty Team Rocket organization have become famous for a lot of things: Their iconic getups, their belabored and constantly-repeated introductory speech, their proclivity for the corniest wordplay imaginable, their comfort with blurring and even outright ignoring gender presentation lines. In terms of personality and appearance alone, there are no other villains quite like Jessie and James out there. Add to that the fact that their prominence on the anime has allowed writers to develop them and flesh them out in often surprising ways, and it's easy to understand why they're such staples of both the "Pokémon" show and its multiple merchandising offshoots.

Guzma is a Generation 7 favorite

A lot of the most popular human characters mentioned on the Reddit thread are old favorites — characters who have been there from the first handful of games and/or seasons and had time to settle into iconic status in fans' minds. But Guzma has the distinction of being a fan favorite who debuted relatively late into the franchise's run. Named by u/failed_pizza in a highly-voted comment that said "Ya boi Guzma" — in reference to the character's own catchphrase — Guzma also has the distinction of being one of the few characters mentioned on more than one popular comment, with u/samahiscryptic concurring, "Guzma. I mean, how can you NOT like him??"

Introduced in the 2016 games "Pokémon Sun" and "Pokémon Moon," Guzma is the leader of Team Skull, who serve as antagonists in the Generation 7 games and on the corresponding TV arc. What makes him so distinctive and interesting, as "Pokémon" human characters go, is that his personality consists of two levels: On the surface, he presents himself as a smooth, confident, and scary capital-B Bad Guy who has no trouble fighting dirty to get what he wants. But, as both series and game progress, he turns out to be a sore loser and a trainer with serious self-confidence issues, which explains a lot of his erratic behavior and set him on a path of character development that's unusually mature and complex for the "Pokémon" anime.