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Ash’s First Pokémon Arch Rival WASN’T Team Rocket


While Team Rocket is easily the most iconic antagonist group in Pokémon, Jessie, James, and Meowth weren’t the first rivals Ash and Pikachu ever had.

While Team Rocket is most commonly associated with being the main antagonist group/organization in Pokémon, one early episode of the anime proves that Jessie, James, and Meowth weren’t Ash’s first arch rivals–as that honor goes to someone much goofier.

The iconic members of Team Rocket made their debut in the second episode of the original Pokémon anime, and right from the start, their purpose in the series was made crystal clear. Team Rocket’s goal in the show was to travel around the world and steal rare Pokémon however they could. In fact, that’s how Ash, Misty, and Pikachu first met them. When Pikachu was being healed at a Pokémon Center following an injury he sustained battling a flock of Spearows, Team Rocket infiltrated that facility with the intention of stealing valuable Pokémon being treated there. When they became aware of Pikachu’s immense power (far greater than any other Pikachu that they were aware of) Team Rocket knew they had to have him–thus beginning their decades-long pursuit of Ash, Pikachu, and their friends. However, while Team Rocket may have become the most long-lasting rivals of Ash and Pikachu, they weren’t exactly the first.


Related: Ash Didn’t Use Pikachu for His First Pokémon Battle

The Samurai was Ash’s First Pokémon Rival, Not Team Rocket

Pokemon: Ash vs the Samurai.

In Pokémon: Indigo League episode 4 (written by Hideki Sonoda and directed by Masamitsu Hidaka), Ash and Misty are trekking through the woods, looking for wild Pokémon to catch, when they are suddenly accosted by a kid who calls himself the Samurai. As advertised, the Samurai is wearing a Samurai costume, and he presumably lives in the woods or at least has a cabin his family lets him stay in without supervision. While their encounter was sudden, it wasn’t accidental, as the Samurai reveals to Ash that he sought him out in order to engage in a Pokémon battle with him. The Samurai heard another trainer was walking through ‘his’ area of the woods, and he needed to test their skill.

While it is all in good fun and incredibly short-lived, the Samurai proves to be Ash’s first real Pokémon rival for a few reasons. Firstly, the Samurai heard of Ash and deliberately went looking for him to challenge the new trainer to battle. Secondly, the Samurai is really the only contender for this position of ‘Ash’s first rival’. The only other candidates would be Team Rocket or Gary Oak, but neither of those choices work. Gary doesn’t fit the bill because he and Ash aren’t even in the same league at this point, not to mention they’ve never even been in an actual Pokémon battle before–and Team Rocket doesn’t yet see Ash as an actual contender, just an obstacle keeping them from their coveted Pikachu (not exactly ‘rival’ material there).

All-in-all, the Samurai fulfilled every requirement for being the rival of an anime protagonist, as he saw Ash as a worthy opponent, sought him out, and challenged him to battle. The Samurai wanted to fight Ash specifically, not just because he had a valuable Pokémon–proving that Ash’s first arch rival wasn’t Team Rocket (or Gary).

More: Ash Reveals Why He’s the Best Trainer with His First Two Pokémon


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