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Okay, last thing on Steven because maybe I wasn't clear enough. I understand the theory Ash is facing him because he's #3 and they want Ash to go #3 ->#2 ->#1. But how did they come to decide to make Steven #3 when he's a much less compelling match-up compared to Alain, Lance, and even Diantha?
I wholeheartedly disagree with Lance. He's the Kanto champion, Ash worked alongside him during his G-Men missions, and he witnessed Lance catch the Red Gyarados that serves as his anime ace.
Diantha... he's at least battled before.
My issue is with the match-up. There's nothing particularly interesting about Ash battling Steven from a storytelling perspective. They've never battled before, I'm not sure Steven was the champion in the filler AG episode he appears in, and even in XY I don't remember them interacting.
I'll be guilty of going off-topic here, too, but just wanted to respond to a couple things.
Yes, Paul is shown to not be at Brandon's level, but it took Ash multiple tries to beat him, he used reserves (against Brandon, but never Paul), and he didn't face all 3 Regis in the same battle...
Narratively convenient his research led him to Sinnoh. And it probably worked a lot better to have someone Ash knows to talk to him about his next step. Plus, even though Gary stopped being a trainer, not seeing him in AG left his strength up in the air. Though his looking pretty weak in DP...
I thought it was explicitly about how it's a big world out there with more powerful trainers and Pokémon to overcome. Gary wasn't exactly the best choice to demonstrate that, but I can understand why they used him at that time.
Might need to draw on this "lesson" at the end of this series.
I know you did. I should've said more people.
I'll say my piece one last time. I think they are comparable in that they are two characters who hadn't appeared in a while, and both lost to Ash in their last on screen appearance. My problem is with those who say Iris getting into the Masters 8 is...
Favorable treatment? Paul got absolutely wrecked by Brandon, then went on to lose at the league against the guy he always had a leg-up on.
You want a character who's always gotten favorable treatment? See Iris.
My point being Ash could be written to lose to anyone, with Gary beating him being a prime example. And Ash losing to Paul wouldn't necessarily have the same issue as that loss to Gary because Paul could have accomplished anything after his last appearance at the Sinnoh League. That's my...
Ash's greatest achievement prior to winning the Alola League was conquering the Battle Frontier, and he immediately got beat by Gary. A guy who retired from being a trainer. Losing to Paul wouldn't be that much of a disservice. It's not like Infernape would be going down.
I've seen so many...