Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Most Terrible Things Ash Ketchum Has Ever Done

For the past 20 years, Ash Ketchum has traveled through the Pokémon world on a journey to be the best, like no one ever was. Realistically, though, he might actually be the worst.

Despite being the focus of a cartoon that's made him one of the most beloved characters in one of the most successful cross-media franchises of all time — ranking only behind a giant rat that can shoot lightning out of its face and a pair of teenage gang members — Ash is a surprisingly terrible person. From criminal acts to a vicious mean streak to just plain being an idiot, here are the most terrible things that Ash Ketchum has ever done.


Refused to learn anything about training Pokémon

One of Ash's most irritating flaws is also so well-known that it's become a running gag among fans: he is unbelievably bad at being a Pokémon trainer.

On one level, that's pretty understandable. He is, after all, the viewpoint character that kids are meant to identify with. So the fact that he needs to have literally everything about the world around him explained in crushingly simple terms is just a way to get information to the impressionable audience. Plus, despite starring in a TV show that has racked up 992 episodes and 24 movies, Ash is still only ten years old — which, incidentally, means that each day of Ash's life has encompassed an average of three episodes of the cartoon. With that much happening, it makes sense that he might get a little overwhelmed.


And yet, the first thing we learn about Ash is that becoming a Pokémon Master is the only thing he has ever wanted. If you're going to dedicate your entire life to a single goal, maybe you could bother to learn one thing about it. And yet, even the simplest things like "fire beats grass" seem to slide right out of his head without leaving any impression. He once had to ask his Pokédex what a Koffing was after seeing one at least three times a day when he was attacked by Team Rocket, and even his own 'Dex once called him stupid. That's pretty harsh, but the fact remains that he refuses to make anything beyond the slightest effort to learn something. 

Failed to tell the difference between human women and Pokémon

Then again, Ash doesn't seem to understand the world outside of Pokémon, either. It's hardly the worst of his many, many sins, but Ash doesn't seem to know ... well, anything.

In "Dig Those Diglett," when Ash is confronted with his old rival Gary Oak, he also meets Gary's fan club: six young ladies who ride around in Gary's car, cheering him on as he actually succeeds at things, something Ash only manages to do by accident. Naturally, Ash has a question, but it's not "how did you get those weird badges I've never seen before," or even "how can I win a battle for once?"


Instead, Ash looks at six clearly human women and asks "Are they Pokémon?"

To be fair, this question isn't quite as stupid as it sounds. He does, after all, live in a world where everything from chandeliers to ice cream cones is likely to get up and start a fistfight, and with weirdos like Mr. Mime out there running around, it's sometimes difficult to figure these things out. Plus, they're not entirely dissimilar to Pokémon: there's six of them traveling with a trainer, and they have pretty limited dialogue, too. But that said, you can make all the excuses you want, and Occam's Razor is still going to lead you to the conclusion that Ash just isn't that bright.

Didn't actually win his badges

Of course, if you could breeze through the entire Pokémon League without ever needing to know anything, you probably wouldn't bother to learn, either. Which is exactly how it works for Ash.

In the games, making your way through League requires you to defeat each Gym Leader. You have to figure out which types are stronger make a varied team that can handle any threat — or at least one that's high-level enough to brute force your way to a shiny set of gym badges. Ash, on the other hand, just blunders his way through so pathetically that he tends to get his badges out of pity rather than skill.


Of the eight original Kanto Gym Leaders, Ash only truly defeated three, and even those came when he begged for a second chance after causing his so called "best friends" to get the crap kicked out of them the first time. The rest of the gym battles saw Ash getting help from other trainers, getting the badges in return for dealing with bad guys or running errands, and, in the case of the Earth Badge, literally having it fall into his hands after sending Team Rocket blasting off again, without ever coming within a mile of the actual gym leader. The nice thing, though, is that there were actually consequences to this one: since Ash never had to get better, he never developed the skills he'd need in the League, and wound up turfing out of the tournament in the early rounds.


Dragged Pikachu around with a rope

On the day that he was meant to start his Pokémon journey, Ash overslept. Not only is that a great indication of just how little he actually cares about his "dream" of becoming a Pokémon Master, it also means that he didn't get one of the standard starters. Instead, he wound up with a Pikachu, a relatively obscure monster from the games whose eventual popularity among kids saw him becoming the mascot for the whole franchise.


But it's pointless to have a popular, cute, and incredibly marketable mascot without actually having him on the screen, and since most Pokémon travel around in Pokéballs — which keeps them off screen until it's time for Ash to fumble through another battle — the creators of the anime made the decision to keep Ash's Pikachu out of the ball and in front of kids' eyeballs. And they also made the decision to have Ash himself be real friggin' salty about it.

In the first episode, after Pikachu refuses to be crammed into a Pokéball, Ash puts on a pair of rubber gloves and literally drags Pikachu down the road while berating him about not being "nice." Even worse? His entire reasoning for Pikachu to get into the ball in the first place is that he's "just like all Pokémon, and should act like it." Cramming your pet into a carrier for their own safety is something a lot of people have had to deal with, but telling your "friend" that he's nothing special just to make your life slightly more convenient? That's just cruel.


Pressured Pikachu to evolve

Despite the pretty rocky start, Pikachu and Ash developed a lasting friendship, which is especially impressive when you consider how rarely that happens in a relationship that starts with one party putting on rubber clothes and tying the other up. Usually, you at least have to get dinner and a movie before you get to that point.


It wasn't all smooth sailing, though. Once again, Ash's desire to win battles trumped any lessons he'd learned about friendship when he took on Lieutenant Surge at the Vermilion City Gym. As his name implies, Surge was a specialist in Electric types, and rather than catching a Rock type to give himself an advantage — or even borrowing one from Brock, who was right there — Ash decided to just toss Pikachu at him and hope for the best. Unsurprisingly, Pikachu got stomped by Surge's Raichu, being so badly injured that he wound up in a (weirdly human-sized) hospital bed, with Ash waving a Thunderstone in his face.

To be fair, Ash did tell Pikachu that he didn't want to make him evolve into Raichu if he didn't want to. On the other hand, he also spent the minutes before that complaining about how they could win if Pikachu would just try harder, while sitting next to his injured Pokémon in a hospital bed. Even after Pikachu refused to evolve and slapped the Thunderstone out of his hand, Ash kept it around, you know, just in case. In other words, Ash told Pikachu he was nothing special, and then a few weeks later asked if he wanted to maybe change everything about himself because he wasn't trying hard enough. Real nice, Ketchum.


Unleashed an unstable Charizard against his opponents

Not all of Ash's callous disregard for everything around him involves Pikachu, and there's no better example of that than his tumultuous relationship with Charizard. It actually started out as one of Ash's shining moments, rescuing a Charmander from its original abusive trainer, Damian.


Unfortunately, as Charmander evolved into Charizard, it stopped listening to its trainer, which makes sense. Usually, trainers' badges are what give them the authority to command their Pokémon, but given Ash's established difficulties in legitimately getting badges (and his general lack of knowledge), it's easy to see why Charizard would refuse to obey. The problem? Charizard was strong. Very strong.

So strong, in fact, that Ash often let him out to battle knowing that he had no control over what Charizard would do to his opponents. Usually, this just meant that Charizard would refuse to fight and go to sleep, costing Ash a battle. But occasionally, Charizard's fiery temper would send him on an uncontrollable path of destruction. Case in point: a battle against a Tauros in the Orange Islands, which ended with a single hit before Charizard started flying around burning up the city. It's tempting to think that battles are all in good fun, but just look at the picture above: that thing is dead


Dumped 30 Tauros on an unsuspecting Professor Oak

Every Pokémon trainer is well aware that one of your primary goals in the game is to help Professor Oak complete the Pokédex by catching as many different Pokémon as you can. It's so important that "Gotta Catch 'Em All" became the catchphrase for the entire franchise. For Ash, however, it's barely even a suggestion.


And honestly, that part's fine. Plenty of trainers focus on just getting the ones they like, and actually completing the 'Dex is pretty rare. Where Ash goes wrong isn't in the fact that he only catches four or five Pokémon in every region, it's that he once caught 30 of the same one–and then dumped them all on Professor Oak. Which probably wouldn't be a problem if they hadn't been Tauros, meaning that Ash basically sent his kindly old neighbor a herd of stampeding bulls.

If you don't remember that happening, that's okay. The episode where Ash captured them was actually banned in America and never translated thanks to a scene where a bad guy pulled a gun on him. Still, while it might be easy to gloss over smaller events from other banned episodes, 30 Tauros are a little harder to ignore, especially once they start rampaging through the Professor's laboratory, smashing up walls and nearly trampling Ash's mother in the process.


Literal piracy

Speaking of banned episodes, the most famous of those by far has to be "Beauty and the Beach," which was kept off the air in America for three years, and only aired twice in 2000. The reason? Team Rocket's Jessie and James both disguise themselves with bikinis, which in James's case includes a surprisingly buxom inflatable top.


Far less well-known, though, is the scene that includes Ash committing his very first felony: "accidentally" stealing a speedboat because he and his friends were stupid enough to assume that Pikachu rented a boat. Oh, and also his second felony, when he makes a pretty good attempt at vehicular manslaughter by ramming his ill-gotten yacht into Team Rocket's submarine and leaving them to die, drowning at the bottom of the ocean.

They survive of course, and while there's no evidence that they bothered to file a police report with the local Officer Jenny, it's worth noting that Ash and his accomplices — er, friends — have never been back to Acapulco.

Assaulted Team Rocket with an enraged Primeape

If we're being completely fair about this, Ash's boatjacking and attempted drownings were technically accidents — although if you've ever accidentally stolen a boat, that's a story we absolutely want to hear. But while it's both easy and correct to think of Ash as a bumbling idiot, that kid also has a mean streak a mile wide.


For evidence, look no further than the end of "Primeape Goes Bananas," in which Ash throws his newly caught Primeape into a pit with Team Rocket with all the murderous glee of someone tossing a grenade into a foxhole. Again, there are some mitigating circumstances — Team Rocket had pretty much been trying to murder and rob Ash for about 25 episodes at this point — but Ash had just witnessed firsthand how dangerous this particular Pokémon could be. It doesn't just beat up the other Pokémon, it takes on the humans, too, sending Jessie face-first into a boulder, and punching Brock so hard that he lands in the next county.

That's what Ash throws into the pit with them: a creature so hateful that the latest version of the 'Dex claims that it "has been known to become so angry that it dies as a result," and "It will never forgive opponents who have angered it. Even after it has beaten them down until they can't move, it never ever forgives." That's not an inference. That's actual canon.


Condemned his friends' souls to be trapped forever as the playthings of a mad psychic

That brings us to what is unquestionably the worst thing Ash Ketchum has ever done: abandoning his friends while their souls were trapped in inanimate objects, used as literal toys by a being of incalculable psychic power. No, seriously. That happened. Pokémon is weird.


When Ash took on Sabrina, the psychic leader of the Saffron City gym, he discovered that she was a monumentally creepy psychic who communicated through a doll that she animated with her powers. Even worse, that doll wanted a few friends. The price for failing to defeat Sabrina was to be turned into a doll yourself, condemned to an eternity in her dollhouse — and as we all know, failing to defeat gym leaders is what Ash does best. 

But this time, he didn't even make it to the battle before he ditched, quitting and running as fast as he could, leaving Brock and Misty to be turned into dolls themselves before he made his escape with Sabrina's father. The good news is that he eventually returned, after taking a few hours to attempt to enslave the undead souls of once-living humans into battling Sabrina for him. So hey, that's something good he did for a change ... Right?