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PWC Story Blueprint - Proposing A Way To Finish It All Sensibly and Satisfyingly(Hopefully)

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Preamble and little disclaimer: This is my first post, hope it will be enjoyable. It is very long. So maybe grab a snack before reading it. In regards to Pokémon Anime, I watched Original Series 20 years ago almost thoroughly. Then in my later years, caught up with most important moments from Hoenn, Sinnoh and Unova. Watched XY/XYZ, SM and what has been of Journeys so far, thoroughly again. I didn’t play games although am casually familiar with mechanics. Not well versed in Anime or Manga in general, I just like Pokémon. Despite all its lows and constrains, simply ad- miring this series is going on for almost 25 years and the quality moments it contin- ues to bring despite being somehow/sometimes abused as just promotional tool.

In my leisure time I started thinking about PWC and Pokémon Anime probably finally ending Ash’s journey. And more I had been thinking, more I started realising there is not much space to end it all nicely and rewardingly. Being involved in storytelling in real life myself, I tried to find some way.

This is sort of part analysis, part opinion and part prediction how could Pokémon World Coronation Series transpire and end. Let’s call it a story blueprint for the lack of better term. So this is how my prediction should be read and understood if you will - it is not what I personally want, not fanfic of any kind. And I am fully aware many of you have different opinions or wishes - those even may come true. But now those of you who are interested, let’s look at story itself so far, outside-story factors and this whole corner, which Pokémon Anime has sort of painted itself into and what could be realistically done with it. I will be dealing only with PWC and Ash’s goal to defeat Leon, no other plots. I will also not be outlying everything, just necessary concepts and story arcs. On the other hand, doing it rigorously, I found myself in position to construct whole 6v6 matches to hold it all together.

I will usual provide the best way by my opinion how to get there, but regarding some smaller details of Pokémon rosters, which Pokémon goes against which won and outcomes, there will be leeway. IF anything has to happen the exact way, I will try to outline it and explain why. But in some less important details I would probably saying something like “this is my proposal how to do it, but various similar are as good or shake thing up a little bit is also possible, till we reach the same goal within story”. This is quite important in regard to Pokémon battles - sometimes I would outline important points of encounter, other times it would “these two against each other, epic battle, this one wins”.

This effort is simply trying to determine the best path for story to progress satisfyingly in most possible ways for all interested - fans and producers alike. It won’t be perfect obviously, but we cannot outdone previous 90+ Journeys episodes or 20+ years of anime. So let’s work what we have and look what could be salvaged to make narrative sense, satisfy emotions, respect characters, be business smart and fit into production constraints. To conclude it as metaphor, there is some minefield before us and this is one of the best paths that I could think of how to navigate it. Or more plainly, being writer for Pokémon Anime (which I am obviously not), this is the way I would handle the situation as best as I can. If you are interested, please indulge in.

Orientation remark - I started writing this around 2 months ago, since then some things have become more clear. I will be addressing them through the text, making it sometimes less coherent, but you could also see my thinking process more. I am closing this blueprint after 100th episode with Leon and new Intro. Who has not yet seen that, please beware of minor spoilers. Which has thankfully rather validated things that I had in blueprint (Flint, Greninja, 10 Million Volt Thunderbolt) and I did not have to rewrite half of it. So, everything that happened so far is acknowledged, to the best of my capabilities. But putting aside very unexpected case that my mind and Anime writers’ are almost identical, the real story in Anime would probably start to diverge right here. So anyone is free to come back and compare how the things will unfold in real Anime with this blueprint.

To bring some sort of structure, to ease understanding and maybe stir the debate, the prediction consists of following logically-connected parts:

  1. Assumptions - keystones, facts and observations, that we must work with
  2. Goals - what is preferable to achieve with story structure
  3. Basic season structure - crucial battles, how many and when they will happen
  4. Ash’s Pokémon - who he will be bringing to fight and why
  5. Road to Master Class - who is Ash facing, why and how the battles will look like
  6. Master Class participants and structure - who will battle and how tournament should be set up
  7. Ash’s path to Leon - opponents - who Ash will be facing, when and why
  8. Ash’s path to Leon - battles - how each battle and outcome should look like
  9. Ash vs Leon
  10. Conclusion and what could happen next
So please, let us dive right in.

I. Assumptions​

In regards to predict most reasonable way how this could transpire, it is necessary to take into consideration narrative and non-narrative factors. So basic assumptions to be building off are:

(A01) Ash will enter Master Class

(A02) Ash will face Leon, although other scenarios are possible and maybe even more reasonable (considering he is still 10-years old and has not had many wins against Champions and Elite Four before), everything is pointing to final match, so let’s work with that as some order from producers “Ash will face Leon in finals”

(A03) There are Pokémon games dealing with Sinnoh region around if I understand correctly and desirable to promote it (Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl previously and Legends of Acreus recently)

(A04) Journeys will presumably end after this year following now-standard 3-year cycle, so we have 40+ episodes to fit this narrative structure in, along other plots - now with Pokémon Scarlet and Violet recently announced this is almost certain

(A05) Due to the promotional function of Anime, recent or popular characters and Pokémon will be featured more prominently or at all. They also do not like showing same type of Pokémon too much with different trainers (Charizard being exception as usual)

(A06) It is not easy and preferable in Japan, to replace the voice actor, which may be another key factor in which characters return or not. However I do not possess much knowledge where it is the case, so I am simply counting on it being reason to alter plot sometimes.

(A07) From the business perspective, it is better for The Pokémon Company to keep Ash in the Anime after Journeys and find some way for him to continue. But let us structure story the way that this could be decided up to last moment. Maybe this is the end for him after all.

(A08) Anime has troubled past respecting game mechanics, but some of its understandable - Anime is a visual medium and in regards to applying Ice attacks, benefits of flying ability or size and weight of Pokémons, some things are complicated to sell visually (Slurpuff defeating Garchomp would not look good on any TV, despite typing advantage)

(A09) Pokémon and its games mechanics are obviously using some universal parallels from sporting world, like tournaments, referees, stadiums, gyms or need for rest and recovery after match. In this case it will come to debate as which Pokémon is unable to start in another match due over-exhaustion (like Harrison’s Blaziken after tough match with Ashizard or Infernape after defeating half of Paul’s team)

(A10) Pokémons of Champions mirror game lineups if not said otherwise - since we have not seen the squads and the most competent trainers are usually presented with their aces, I would presume they are using similar teams as in games (which I could google). I noticed that Cynthia has added Kommo-o for example, so these explicit cases are noted

(A11) Ash uses predominantly Pikachu and he wins his most prominent battles with him (Orange League, Battle Frontier, unofficial “championship match” against Kukui and Tapu Koko), so there is set expectation that final battle of finals boils down to Leon’s Charizard vs. Ash’s Pikachu

If it is not obvious, I am not advocating all this principles. Yes, dilemma between good story and business could be sometimes complicated. I am simply acknowledging them and fact that Pokémon Anime has always struggled how to put promo and story coherently together and with PWC it is even more complicated. It is how it is, I will be making my best to bake these into the story structure, however the results are obviously consisting of few compromises.

II. Goals​

Contrary to the Assumptions, which I deem mostly like observations, these goals are more self-imposed. I choose them, because I think they are:

(a) reasonable and would be well received by majority of fan-base and make good story and also

(b) at least to some degree achievable, even within constrains.

I will be referencing them in my predicted story structure systematically to flash out how it could all work. Sometimes these goals compliment each other, sometimes one has to choose between them as some story points do not satisfy all goals.

(G01) Whole path and each Ash’s win must be earned and not feel cheap - since we are dealing with (A01) him entering Top 8 trainers of the world class and even (A02) facing Leon in finals, very crucial. He has barely scratched Champions so far. Path is also important, so far he has challenged couple of the best Gym Trainers and Iris (still feels a little bit cheap making her Champion and then let her fight just in Great Class, just winner of the league would be more fitting, maybe), but none of the juggernauts we have seen before. This is most important goal and just be clear - beating someone does not equal being undoubtedly better from now on. These are all great trainers and Ash may be losing to them in next match, but here we aim for him to win. Maybe even with bit of luck. I will elaborate further when discussing particular battles.

(G02) Each battle shown in Master Class, whether featuring Ash or otherwise, should have an emotional/narrative dimension to it, similar to Alola where it IMHO worked well. We have limited time-space with one season (A04), so better make each battle count

(G03) None character - Trainer or Pokémon should lose its dignity with some deus-ex machina plot or sudden power level boost/drop. Such goal should be obvious, but it is tough without planning properly as we have seen in many franchises last couple of years.

(G04) Reasonable typing of Pokémon match-ups. Honestly, making this perfect is beyond my time-scope and considering full 6v6 battles and various move-sets, there are too many variables. But at least key matchups of aces should make some sense, at least to the better of Anime standards. (A08)

(G05) Closing arcs properly is priority, not extending them for nostalgia’s sake. Again, limited scope of season (A04) does not leave much space to nostalgia alone, so especially for Ash’s opponents and Pokémon used, there is no space to repeat. We need to close the loose ends, no open another ones.

(G06) It stems from previous goals, but I will address it here even separately - we need to employ Ash’s older Pokémon or as they are here called “reserves”. I will try my best to not get carried away. More as the story structure is unveiled.

(G07) During the match, Pokémon could be switched only after they defeated their opponent. This was somehow tradition in XYZ, now I have noticed substitutions anytime (especially Volkner has been proficient in it). That brings too many options, so I would like to keep it simple - otherwise would trainers realistically caught themselves in wheel of tactical speculation reacting to others Pokémon choices instantly and trying to out-strategise others. I do not know how exactly it works in competitive gaming, I presume at least one turn/move must pass, but I would like to have simpler approach here - choose your Pokémon, battle, and if you win, you may see what other Pokémon your opponent brings - then switch or continue to battle till one Pokémon is unable to battle

These I consider reasonable goals and I sincerely think they probably are acceptable to fanbase. Applying them to story is more complicated, so maybe when I make key story decisions in next chapter, you could say that you would have applied goal differently. And that is perfectly fine, there is some margin where pure opinions, preferences and taste start. I will be happy to read about them.

A word about battle gimmicks - G-Max, Mega and Z-Moves​

As a baseline, there is obviously only one gimmick per match allowed. Pokémon is obviously keen on presenting the latest one - G-Max. But what is to be said about it, in Anime it looks somehow silly - two gigantic Pokémon sending waves at each other. No wonder Anime has recently begun to spread out the gimmicks and taking more interesting scenarios like mega-evolved Lucario manoeuvring G-maxed Machamp. And even more recently, Gengar and Grimmsnarl having their G-Maxing spread out and not taking it simultaneously.

So we would try to keep G-Max present where possible and fitting, but it would mostly depend on trainer and his Pokémon involved. Not forcing it. And would like to just gigantamax, not dynamax, despite this technique being available theoretically to all Pokémon.

III. Basic season structure​

Sidenote: When I started writing this about months ago, I was obviously not aware of recent episode to involve Marnie from Galar. It outlines one big problem with PWC - over promotion of Galar. Do not take me wrong, I would like to explore more of Galar and its Gym Leaders, and I think they were incorporated gracefully so far, be it in position of rival (Bea) or supporting story role (Opal, Allister). But they do not fit well into PWC and merging these two things may wreck narrative havoc. As if “we needed to promote Galar but also pair Ash with Goh and make this PWC, so why not merge it and despite it being world competition, as it draws near end, just for sake of it, each Ashes opponent will be from Galar or optionally Sinnoh”. Does not help that Galar even does not have Elite Four in standard sense, and hopefully they would not try to import Hop there in competitive manner. What has partly wrecked my blueprint here was 1v1 battle and Ash advancing to number 15! That…does not make a lot of sense. Especially since Marnie was around 27th if I remember correctly.

Still, too many constraints, but let’s look at my previous thinking. Ash was previously number 36. Final series’ season itself could previously accommodate usually 1-2 big matches/Gyms before League. Master Class will undoubtedly take the usual place of league at the end of the season, which left us with reasonably 2 more (after Marnie) matches to satisfy Ash’s advancement into Master Class (A04). Less is selling it cheap, more is very hard to fit in along other plots without compromises and satisfying built-up of battles and not adhering to goal of earning it (G01) or having emotional pay-off(G02).

Frankly, it is still a compromise, because narratively speaking “the slump before the league” has always worked well in my opinion. In this case to develop it properly (omitting Marnie):
  1. Ash could winning one after Bea and advancing to let’s say n. 23 and then
  2. Battling with someone for spot around n. 15 and the right to challenge Member of Master Class and replace him/her in it in case of winning.
They overblown it with advancing that high in one match against Marnie - not exactly championship-level trainer.
  1. Then we “need” Ash hitting low with losing that match and seeing his dream of challenging Leon crumbling so close, then
  2. Having one last chance for TOP 16, winning and then
  3. Challenging Master 8 member and winning again would make the most sense.
Despite Anime taking steps n. 1 and n. 2 in one match, it still challenge to squeeze defeat into the story, but necessary. Since Ash is on winning streak (Dozer, Rinto, Iris, Volkner, Bea, Marnie) and to continue with another 3 straight (and even more challenging - one for MC and at least two in MC prior) wins to end up in finale against Leon (A02) would be boring beyond hell, we must make him lose one - with being so high (n.15), it unfortunately invites us to complicate things a little bit.

Therefore the loss must be in “match-to-enter-master-class”, and then some arc is needed for rematch - I propose to spice it up with one more battle. It would also better serve announced intentions to bring back former rivals, more on that in next chapter.

So the final blueprint in this case is starting with Ash currently n. 15:

1. Loss in battle for spot in MC
2. Battle to redeem chance
3. Rematch for MC (3v3) in Ultra Class to advance in the first half of season.

And then 3 full battles in the Master Class for similar reasons. I will deal with it more in chapter dedicated to Master Class.

All-in-all 3 +3 total PWC battles including one with Leon. There may be unofficial/training skirmishes here and there, obviously.


Now, someone could have problem with full battles in Master Class, because we have seen only three (Lance, Raihan, Flint) 1v1 battles there so far. There are several reasons why we should get 6v6.

Despite the fact that if Master Class had even remotely resembled anything from our real world, its promoters would keep 1 on 1 and the most matches they could phantom between Champions to bring only the best Pokémon, keep battles brief and have the most TV coverage as they could get. Business as usual.

However, Anime goes by different standards, so the previous 1v1 matches could be attributed to this being first year, maybe even part experimental, of PWC. I have rewatched the episode with Leon vs Lance battle and everything (and I daresay logically) infers this is the first time and Leon first Monarch. Having only 1v1 battles, maybe even only the Master Class (there is mention some Battle Commission proofs its members, on the other hand, Ash’s initial ranking would not make any sense in that case) to try this format and then open it up as full-scale competition makes logical and narrative sense. Not mentioning Ultra Class has been 3v3 so far (till Marnie unfortunately), upgrading for Master Class makes total sense.

Almost every previous Anime League arch featured at least two full battles at the end, Alola being the exception recently. But the different approach of new league, where we had numerous people to cheer for, was very well chosen in my opinion. PWC is more like classic league we have seen before, obviously without any preliminary rounds, so 6v6 battles it is.

It also underlines even more important point and that is credibility of Ash’s place on top. To put it bluntly, for Ash to be even in-universe believable to advancing so high (expected to be the by far youngest member of Master 8 and challenging legends like Leon, Lance or Cynthia) he must bring “whole himself” - that means his passion and will, unorthodox tactics and yes, given real-time 25 years of anime, unprecedented roster of Pokémon. These are his greatest strengths, because in 1v1 battles, it is more or less about the raw power of Aces. Pikachu fits that bill to some extent, but it stands grievously out-typed against Cynthia’s Garchomp and as we have seen outgunned against Leon’s Charizard, even type-friendly Lance’s Gyarados would be great challenge. Other members of current team are simply not experienced enough and it would be offending for them to take down the years-standing aces of champions alone (G01). Full battles allows Ash to compose teams full of aces and compatible battlers, which would be reminding us of his wins:

• Orange League and his team accumulating wins against other Drake’s Pokémon to keep enough on the board to wear down his overpowered Dragonite

• Battle Frontier against Brandon and despite losing Charizard early, especially Bulbasaur and Squirtle stepping up to give Pikachu even footing with opportunity to take down Regice

• To some degree in Alola league, where Ash was sporting the most versatile team of entire competition - it is not address in-universe, but simple opportunity to choose from the wider array of Pokémon and rest others should be factor for Ash (and also Gladion) against trainers with more limited rosters

And yes, speaking about Ash’s roster, let’s get to his mons.

IV. Ash’s Pokémon​

Now is time to address the elephant in the room. Who should Ash bring to the battles. At least in some general terms, the specific teams/lineups of matches will be described separately later.

First of all, hard to avoid that Anime decided to give Ash new “Galar” team, albeit only two Pokémon are native to Galar. Just to be clear, this team is strong. I am counting Pikachu as part of it. For the regular league, it would be debatable if not the strongest, but definitely holding its own against Kanto (but with their Battle Frontier level and experience), Sinnoh, Kalos and Alola.
Acknowledging this and also their story arcs (Lucario, Sirfetch’d, Gengar, Dragonite and Dracovish) so far - and I agree some are missing more development, but again, we work with what we have - they will be given prominence. Despite I would say, not having proven to be above the level of the TOP of the reserves. They simply lack experience and tough battles yet. Best illustrated by quite similar battle with Volkner, although it could be debated Volkner has improved a bit - Ash needed to use gimmick while he was not. This could be seen also not only in comparison to life-long partnerships of Champions’ Ace Pokémons, but also some of the Ash’s previous aces (Charizard being obviously prime example with him stepping up his game as he was gradually returning through the Anime, Pikachu to some degree also).

So Journeys' team will be given maybe more prominence that would their rough strength and experience so far validate, but we have to strike the most delicate balance possible.

Taking previous chapter into the consideration, we have 9 (3+3 + rematch) Ultra Class Battle Spots available and most likely 18 spots in Master Class (6 + 6 + 6).

Although the most in-universe realistic split would be 6:3 in rest of Ultra Class and 9:9 in Master Class for Journeys’ Team (incl. Pikachu): Reserves, trying to give the most possible prominence to former - the following seems reasonable:

Ultra Class - for remaining 9 spots, 7 for current squad, 1 could be debated, 1 definitely from reserves

Master Class - for 18 spots, 12 for current squad and 6 from reserves


Almost 20 spots for current squad should satisfy their story arcs and bring them some memorable wins. On the other hand, it is very hard to give even less spots to reserves, not only to make Ash winning even more in-universe believable, but also in case to their characters and arcs (G03). This is not usual region and league, where Ash has only Pikachu a tries to build up local team for league (real-world reason is well-known). This is the most prestigious tournament ever, everyone will bringing their A-game, as Ash did previously in Battle Frontier and Sinnoh (Anime was more coherent then, that is fact). But it is also logical in terms of his Pokémon characters.

Just to repeat to oblivion, we probably did not need to make this PWC and whole best in the world, but since the Anime has done it so, we must adjust accordingly. Therefore opportunity to bring the best and close their respective story arcs is NOW. (G05) Like seriously, could you picture for example Infernape or Greninja or Incineroar with their long dedication to training and bringing best out of themselves and hoping for tough opponents learning that Ash did not invite them to THIS competition?

Let’s look at them and reasons why he should be bringing them and others. Disclaimer, from released or long-term unavailable Pokémon, Greninja is the only one I would consider...whom I kidding, I am bringing back. (And update from new Intro - Anime unsurprisingly agrees) But apart from that, anybody who’s not currently on hand, at Oak’s or at Kukui’s is off limits. Still would be challenge to choose between them.

Legendaries​

All credit for naming goes to @Lumiose Trainer Zac and his recently published Ash’s Pokémon Strength Tier List. There is no point in debating ranking itself here, but I agree that naming these four (+ Pikachu) a legendary tier, not only for their demonstrated or expected capability to take on legendaries. They are also legends of the Anime in real-world sense, very popular mons that have built the reputation of series. Honestly, it is quite impossible not to bring these ones back, because of their sheer strength and popularity.

Infernape - mentioning him first, because he was at least featured so far (fighting again with Moltres and in alternate universe). He is still training ferociously, after closing arc with Paul does not have any step-up in battling like Charizard had against Articuno. Could you imagine Ash visiting him after PWC and other newcomers telling him how there was this world championship and Ash did not bring his blazing monkey? Inexcusable. If one mon is coming to get big win, it must be him. Any writer constructing story otherwise could other excuse oneself by having ill mother and needing money or go to do something else.

Charizard - not that different from Infernape. We have already seen him and still up to good fight. Not forgetting last time he was in competitive match, he lost against not that legendary opponent partly thanks to Ash’s blunder. There it served its narrative purpose to shock us by Ash loosing his then most powerful weapon early. As has his return in B&W to partly redeem the series. But still, this mon with Pikachu, Infernape and Greninja best represents Ash’s spirit and has always wanted to be the best. Understandably, Pokémon Anime is over-charizarded, they could not resist to throw Charizard everywhere - Alain’s, Kiawe’s and now Leon’s. Yes, that is hiccup, but again, be it so, overflowing of other Charizards should not hinder paying respect to Ash’s Charizard in particular and his character. And that means bringing him back for one last epic fight.

Greninja - this mon has probably least in-universe need to come back, but c’mon. Ash reaching to new heights and this immensely popular froggie is not returning? No way. With all due respects to his job as the world’s most important gardener, Satoshi-Gekkouga should be seen at least one more time. We are still waiting for that one really big win.

Sceptile - probably has the most complete arc from the legends and therefore is least necessary to return. And has not been featured yet. But in-universe, he is very competent battler and would be very hard to justify not considering him. When meeting the best trainers in the world, it could be handy to have Darkrai-slayer at your side.

One thing to wrap this up. Obviously these are the most powerful and popular Pokémon. If Trainer is allowed to have 6 Pokémon on hand, then something like First All Star Team for Ash would be Pikachu, Charizard, Sceptile, Infernape, Greninja and Lucario (set up by Journeys for that spot). Charizard, Infernape and Greninja, I would say, even sort of define the different real-world generations of Pokémon fans. The oldest fans initially with Charizard, then move to Infernape and then Greninja recently - they are eventually among the most popular Pokémon. It also helps they are all starters. Pikachu is in category of its own, Sceptile is the best of the rest to fill in and Lucario here is very popular, but somehow overdue for Ash to have. But they did it anyway. My point is these are all superstars and although many fan videos would like to see them once in lifetime fighting together, it would probably be too much. And they would be stealing spotlight from one to antoher and debate would start who did not perform. So - I would no be lining them up all together for any match, even Leon. My private and I think reasonable ceiling is only 3 of those 6 Pokémon on hand for any given match. Everyone would get their spotlight.

OK, one exception, if Tobias is to be returned for some revenge-exhibition match, they are all allowed to kick his legendaries.:giggle:

Aces​

These are other previous aces or potential aces. They are maybe a little bit less popular, lack proper battle against Legendary or something to that degree and maybe, in overall, satisfyingly “closed” in their respective story arc for now - but meaning everything that in comparison to Legendary Tier to put this to perspective. So there is more in-universe tactical reason to bring them, because of how powerful they are, narrative need is less strong.

Incineroar - This Pokémon has already beaten somewhat champion’s ace, if we consider Kukui the strongest trainer in Alola prior Ash...as Torracat. Now evolved to Incineroar, we have not seen him battle yet and with his spirit and resiliency could be asset to almost any battle. And frankly, given his nature, what exactly is he doing back in Alola all these days except training against Kukui’s Incineroar, Lycanroc and Melmetal?

Lycanroc - being Pokémon who finally sealed first overall league victory for Ash, this is also powerhouse. His story arc is completed for now, but purely from the battle perspective, is one of the Pokémons who could justifiably turn the tides for Ash even against strongest opponents.

Krookodile - another powerful mon from Ash’s roster, maybe even slightly less impressive than Lycanroc, but proficient fighter for any battle.

Heawyweights​

These Pokémon have been previously used as tanks. They do not close strong narrative arcs, they are more characterised by their personality. But from battling perspective bringing them onboard means bringing very powerful, monstrous Pokémon that could turn tide of battle. This tier is missing released Pokémon - meaning Goodra and Naganadel - the most.

Melmetal - obvious choice, despite not winning much in Alola, this steel colossus command much respect. We have only began to see his true power and being mythical, it is also a tactical surprise for any opponent to crept some doubt into their strategy. And could potentially gigantamax.

Snorlax - proven powerhouse, albeit we have not seen him very recently. Could also gigantamax and is very popular.

Heracross - maybe smallest of heavyweights, but formidable nonetheless. It is debatable how he could be used against the best and his arc is somewhat closed helping in Lily of the Valley Conference, despite losing in the end against Darkrai. His case is not helped by quite prominent Goh’s Heracross. (A05)

Above-Their-Weight-Punchers​

Many Ash’s Pokémon would fit that description, but to name at least most prominent. His grass starters are numerous here.

Bulbasaur - The leader of Ash’s Pokémon, most mature and fuelled by sheer will. It has been over 15 years we have seen him battling with Gathering the Gang of Four, and he was arguably MVP of that fight turning tide. Not being featured prominently last decade, he is probably unknown to younger generations of fans and his battling record is sealed respectably. Still, it is without question to at least consider this formidable Pokémon for some match with Pokémon ten times his size and overpowering through his strong will. He is besides Pikachu the best personification of this Ash’s quality and could come handy when clashing with titans.

Bayleef - somewhat troublesome case, being probably considered weakest of these mentioned mons. Her story arc was battle-wise rounded respectably, after not doing much against Gary’s Blastoise, creatively defeating Harrison’s Houndoom despite typing disadvantage and trying to lay some hits on his Blaziken. So, in regards to not being in the league of Charizard, Sceptile, Infernape, Greninja or Incineroar as fully developed starters and aces, not bad. She is more in Pignite category. Tactically, probably not much need to bring her, but it is a little bit troublesome how Anime has ignored her affectionate relationship to Ash post Diamond and Pearl. Treating her as character, she would lay herself down to win some important matchup for Ash, but not being on active roster for almost 20 years, this is obviously not something producers are pushing fans to see. Still, maybe chance of finally evolving to Meganium?

Swellow - arguably the best bird, latest we heard something particular, he was having air races with Staraptor. Last combat appearance against Latios and not doing that much. So there is definitely room for some delightful comeback.

Torterra - could be also used in Heavyweight tier. Let’s be frank here, at the end of Sinnoh, Ash’s Torterra has begun to accumulate loses and I fear that this was because of...not longer being cute Turtwig and as Torterra not being lean or menacing enough. Yes, I blame the looks and therefore disinterest to promote this Pokémon. He does not get any win in two most tough matches - last Gym with Volkner and obviously against Paul, not making any appearance against Tobias and that is pretty much it. Yes, the design maybe not the best - it is not lean, human-like-bipedal fighter like Sceptile, Blaziken, Infernape, Lucario, Greninja, etc. , nor it is bulky in menacing sense like Blastoise or Tyranitar. But again, I would like to pay respect to Torterra as character.

And that is pretty much it - we have 14 Pokémon for 7, maybe 8 available spots. Even here we would need to make compromises. As you can see, we are choosing Pokémon, that are strong enough and “ready to go” to finish their arcs. As for the others - Kingler, Muk, Tauros, Donphan, Glalie, Torkoal, Gliscor and Leavanny had their share of battle and there is not much arc to complete, they are probably not strong enough to make difference and there is not room to evolve. Gliscor’s typing is interesting though. Less developed mons that could benefit from further development would need more complete arc that one final battle - Quilava, Corphish, Buizel, Pignite, Scraggy, Palpitoad, Boldore and especially Noivern - despite being fully evolved he has still not mastered his strength. As for the birds, Pidgeot is gone and Swellow has the best potential, Unfezant was not that impressive and not sure fanbase would be thrilled with rectifying. Staraptor, Talonflame and Noctowl are all good birds, but not too much room and tactical/narrative need to fit them in, same with Hawlucha. Rowlet and Gible are only mons (besides Bulbasaur obviously) that could be threat even at this stage of evolution, but again, they are also comedic reliefs and would need more development. Others like Totodile, Oshawott and Snivy are too behind on their evolution, being mostly small cutesies or pains in...

Eventually, these are the dilemmas of Ash’ s roster regarding PWC. Catching some new Pokémon now would be even less sensible, so that is pretty much it in regards to battles.

But I think it is of the utmost importance to have probably all Ash’s Pokémon involved in his struggle to win PWC and there is I think quite smart way how to achieve that…

Teamwork​

OK, we do not have enough spots for them to fight and many of them are not on the level to make difference. But everyone can contribute with training and raising spirits. Below in particular matches I have a “pre-match” section where at least the most notable cases of training and reserves helping those who would be battling achieve new moves and preparation necessary to succeed.

It could also make for an adorable scene, all Ash reserves coming to Cerise Park and have 1-2 seconds of awkwardness when Journeys’ Team would be staring at them and then let it break by Dragonite hugging Charizard for example and all of them getting acquainted with each other.

Then we could have some gems like Sceptile teaching Sirfetch’d his iconic Leaf Blade.

So simple as that, make them train, cheer each other up, continue this amazing community they have and make all Ash’s most important wins belong to them all. With Mimey taking care of everybody.

So, how we could Ash get to MC.

V. Road to Master Class​

So now we have to determine 2 most reasonable remaining matchups for Ash to get into Master Class. Who should he face, why and how it should all end up. Honestly, there is not much to be said here, thinking about it for very long time, the most logical typing of matches is firstly some very decent rival and then some prominent Elite Four Member. Adding another Gym Leader in to the mix doesn’t make sense, introducing new character even less (although Anime Producers would obviously try to have their cake and eat it too with Galar characters) and it is too soon for Champions.

Previously, I thought that this succession (Rival -> Elite Four Member) would be better. But since Marnie we have to deal with this number 15 situation and we narratively “need Ash to lose”, we will have not immediate rematch. Theoretically could Ash firstly challenge one Master Class member, lose, then regain position in duel with Rival and then challenge some other MC member - but that is a little bit too complicated. So the narrative sense will be rematch, but not immediately like it is with GYM challenges.

V.a First Battle with some Elite Four Member for spot in Master Class​

Now Ash is inside TOP 16 to make claim for Master Class, or something like that - it does not matter that much, how would it be explained in-universe. More important is that we need really though opponent that is believable to be member of Master Class and mechanics how to explain the rematch. Still could be done with straight win, but as I explained, that would be a little bit boring, albeit in Alola we managed to see Ash just winning. Still some heart-stopping moments like Rowlet sleeping against Hau come back to memory.

So been thinking about it and I deem Flint from Sinnoh Elite Four to be the most fitting. This was something I decided almost two months ago, and am quite happy that it seems Anime writers agree (regarding 100th episode).

Why This Opponent​

Let’s explain why he works the best. He is obviously from Sinnoh (A03), but also close friend to already re-introduced Volkner, so that fits nicely into the plot. He is obviously very competent, his Infernape clearing out Ash’s Buizel, Pikachu and Infernape back in Diamond and Pearl. Not mentioning unsuccessfully challenging Cynthia’s Garchomp, but looking stunning in the process.

UPDATE: This is now somehow wrecked by what seeming to be quite easy Leon’s Charizard win. OK, one way how to cement Leonolizardon’s n. 1 status, on the other hand his matches are becoming quite predictable - opposing mon strikes him one into belly, Charizard aches like “that hurt a little bit” and then obliterates him. Not mentioning it seems like the most durable in his battle against him was surprisingly Pikachu, but did not manage to land one good hit in normal form, but withstand maybe even more than literal steel dragon named Duralodon. Which totally fits Pikachu, right… and in regards to Infernape, after seeing Ash’s Infernape against Moltres it seems like somebody in Anime Team hates Infernape, but was instructed to include them in Journeys, so he’s doing weird job. I think they deserved better. And why Flare Blitz suddenly looks like Flame Wheel? Alright, enough bashing inconsistencies, back to Flint.

There are also narrative reasons, Flint is very straightforward and demands giving it all as demonstrated by him trying Volkner to get back to training and battling. We need this, because this opens some reasonable door for “defeat and rematch” scenario and we will get to how it could transpire.

And final reason is Infernape vs Infernape showdown, but more about that later.

I have hard time choosing any other alternative, but if someone is absolutely against this option, then Drake from Hoenn Elite Four would be acceptable strength-wise obviously and to some degree story-wise. But even that is inferior option IMHO. And would bring over-dragonification to the plot - Lance, Raihan and Iris being dragon masters, Leon, Cynthia and Ash having two dragons on rosters and then even Drake at the top of it all.

Or if you absolutely have to choose different opponent for first and second try to get to MC, then Caitlin from Unova works in this first match.

First match with Flint - Teams​

That brings us to the first match and which Pokémon would be Flint bringing in. Honestly, there is not much to discuss - the following almost exclusively fire-typed team makes sense - Magmortar, Houndoom and obviously his ace Infernape. Magmortar is impressive enough, Houndoom opens up decent opportunity for Mega Evolution and Infernape is without question. It would make sense that Flint would use his gimmick on other Pokémon, since there is no G-Max form, and would consider Infernape strong enough without additives.

What about Ash’s lineup? Since we are setting him to get some proper beating, we need to get Dragonite and Gengar out of picture. We need him to start heavily promoted stars Pikachu and Lucario and let them taste proper defeat to give more gravity to their wins later. Just to remind everybody, last time Pikachu had impressive victory against Volkner and Lucario was MVP of battle against Bea. For the last spot, let’s go with what makes the best sense typing-wise and choose long abandoned Dracovish.

First match with Flint - How could it unfold​

So let us begin, the first battle would start with Flint calling out Magmortar and Ash using Dracovish to counter, knowing he will need to dispose of Flint’s Pokémon quickly to have enough firepower for his Infernape. There is room to be creative with this matchup, picture yourselves the most attractive way the battle could go, as long as Dracovish simply wins. Flint is impressed and calls out Houndoom. Still having typing advantage, Dracovish struggles more because of bulkiness and lack of experience and after some hits goes down. Ash sees opportunity a sends in Lucario, who has some disadvantage through fire-steel mismatch and some advantage due dark-fighting against Houndoom. We have quite impressive showing of Houndoom struggling to land effective flamethrower and Lucario struggling to hit such agile target properly. They both mega evolve to step it up and finally after exhaustion Lucario wins. Being already mega-evolved, Lucario wants to press advantage even when Flint brings Infernape, who has advantage in typing and experience. Flint being proficient in defensive strategies lets Lucario exhaust himself in desperate trying to land proper hit. Ash would urge Lucario to back down and save some strength but out of respect and always supporting his Pokémon he leaves him there (mirroring Lucario denying mega-evolution). But in this match Lucario loses, badly. Pikachu is up, but struggling to land proper hit and without Z-Move lacking that over-the-top punch to break Infernape’s defenses and loses as well.

Ash is devastated, being denied the opportunity to enter Master Class so near the finish and having his newest ace quite badly hurt.

First match aftermath and transition to rematch​

Then, right there at the stadium something unexpected happens. Flint walks towards Ash disapprovingly and scolds him for not giving it his best. We know Flint, he expresses his feelings rather straightforwardly and Ash is amazed that he is talked down by someone who has won right against him. Turns out Flint knows about Ash’s dream of fighting Leon and deems him capable of beating him. But is disappointed with what he has seen and says this would absolutely would not fly in Master Class, let alone against Leon. He is willing to give Ash rematch, if he reveals himself capable. Demanding absolute best against someone that healed his friends Volkner appetite for battle by giving it all. And also won fight against him as well, twice. The crowd is amazed, announcer as well. Flint exercises his right to challenge somebody as member of Master Class, but it is not Leon, but Ash. But it must happen...let’s say in very short time.

Yes, this not the most elegant way for Ash and his Pokémon to get at least runny nose in their path to challenging Leon, but remember limited scope of episodes (A04). This is the best path I could think of, anyone is dearly welcomed to bring out some better way, I would love to have one, but unfortunately muse did not kick in hard enough.

But, to make it a little bit more interesting and bearable, we could have a scene as Ash is leaving stadium pondering what to do next and how to prove himself to have rematch with Flint. Then he hears “That was a tough loss.” and sees Paul. Ash admits it and says there is not much he could have done. Paul demonstrating character growth, although still speaking in his calm, cold, efficient manner, points out that defence and calculation is not Ash’s style, he simply needs to bring big enough gun to overpower Flint. And as he remembers, Ash has some Pokémon, who are simply too stubborn to lose, with little smile. Ash is trying to figure out what he means, as Paul leaves with “Get it together, I will soon have my own Master Class Challenge, want to win and would like to battle you there” and is gone.

Ash begins to understand he must bring everything he has and in this fight it means Pokémon that have already mastered the unwavering will and flow of anger and emotions turned into proper weapon, which is not quite the case for Pikachu and Lucario, even more so after they are beat up and probably not 100% fit. So it takes every mon he has to manage it all, and invites everybody to Cerise Park, to boost his team.

There we have it, so Ash is at his lowest, trying to clinch to hope of entering Master Class with beaten up team, seeing his rival growing character-wise and aspiring to do the same.

V.b Battle with Rival for another chance to enter Master Class​

Honestly, coming with proper rival took me probably the longest. But I had to settle on Ritchie.

Why This Opponent​

He is competent trainer, has been brought back (after defeating Ash) in original series in Johto. (A05, G01) There is still promise made that they will battle once more and Ash has some score to settle after that embarrassing loss in Indigo League. (G02,G05).

Alternatives are less compelling, Harrison or Tyson are not that popular I think, and they are significantly older than Ash. I do not have the writer’s patience to bring back Cameron from Unova, sorry.

Paul is very popular and we already brought him up (as did Anime in intro) it would have made sense for him to be competing also. I completely understand the desire to have him face Ash against but there is little to gain storywise by defeating him again. (G05) Not mentioning that match should have Infernape involved to be proper, and I think I have better matchup for him. Nothing against Paul returning and fighting someone else, but not Ash.

They can have some training skirmish. Narratively, I deem it more important to bring Paul to character growth within his limits - in Diamond and Pearl he was very hate-able, Ash challenged him and we wanted Ash to win. To have character growth, Paul must learn and advance from his mistakes and this time we must want to see him win (and logically, that cannot be against Ash) and have Ash to be inspired by Paul to enhance his game and get into Master Class. That is “master plan” for Paul.

Another trainer that would make sense to be this high is Sawyer with his relentless and methodical approach, but it is similar problem as with Paul. Sawyer would benefit from defeating Ash, but we do not have time for that.

Gary or Gladion are closed arcs in terms of rivalry and although occasional sparing match is welcomed, they are currently pursuing other goals.

Tobias could be interesting, but being more plot device than real character, it would still be challenge how to bring him in narratively satisfying way at this stage.

Other rivals are not very much of note - been already weaker or defeated by Ash, with exception of Alain, but I think he is better served elsewhere.

One last point concerning larger story - around this time in the series we will be nearing 25th anniversary of Pokémon Anime, meaning Misty and Brock very likely returning and their story could be tied up nicely with Ritchie.

If you are absolutely against Ritchie, then showing some love to Hoenn, Tyson works reasonably well as most suitable alternative. But frankly, I think the most competent, promising rivals in similar age work the best, and asides from Ritchie, I explained why Gary, Paul, Sawyer and Gladion do not work in this case.

Match with Ritchie - Teams​

So be it Ritchie, there is obviously some benefit and some baggage to the Pokémon he would, and even must, bring to the table. Be it 3v3, he is definitely bringing Sparky and Zippo (who would 99% at this point be Charizard, oh gosh, ANOTHER Charizard). Those two are narratively must, but here is just right time to make a compromise and leave Zippo behind. Since Sparky is necessary, I would sacrifice Zippo’s position. Third Pokémon is open, he had Pupitar Cruise who could evolved into Tyranitar, completing formidable team. But whatever makes him look formidable and makes sense Ash defeating him. Plenty of time has passed and Ritchie obviously had opportunity to acquire many Pokémons. I would continue the trend of him acquiring similar ones to Ash - so in the end I would love him to bring this team - Lapras, Noivern and Pikachu (Sparky). Also apart from Pikachu, Ash probably would not bringing these Pokémon.

For Ash to counter, this is obviously place for Pikachu and I would not call any reserves yet. But let’s make it Ash needs very convincing victory and therefore the best he has, with Lucario beaten up, Gengar is narratively bound to make appearance since learning g-maxing recently. To compliment team, Dragonite seems to be the best option, missing fights against plethora of fights (Volkner, Bea, Marnie and defeat against Flint). It would also be nice, that all Ash’s Pokémon here would be Kanto/original 151, as they rivalry brings back the memories of Indigo Plateau.

How will the match unfold​

The details could be mixed up in several ways. But in general sense, the preferred way is Gengar should Gigantamax and take G-Maxed Lapras, with Dragonite taking care of Noivern, to allow share footing for both Pikachu. In the end Ash’s Pikachu finally edging Sparky, preferably without any gimmicks - just pure speed and power showdown of both Pikachu. This would also be last Pikachu match-ending win before meeting Leon. Yes, in the end, all 3 Ash’s Pokémon could defeat all Ritchie’s, not taking one loss in the process. But at the cost of quite over-exhausting themselves, knowing they must perform top-notch for their trainer not to lose chance of his life.

Explanation and Alternatives​

First of all, making it 3:0 against Ritchie may be a little bit harsh on him, but on the other hand, some surprise is welcomed. Not forgetting Ash’s progress should be earned (G01), which in this case could easily mean smooth win. It is somehow unnatural how Anime has so far not given Ash almost no important victory when he sweeps someone. Short-sighted view maybe, that they like to make every battle close and engaging. Fair enough, but it is hardly believable that in middle of first season Ash is taking some loses and even drops from Great Class and at the end he is defeating Champions. Even in sports, contemporary form and momentum is important, but those are too big swings. Since we are setting up Ash against best, proving himself good for rematch and it does make sense to give him one landslide win. To illustrate that when everything goes right, Ash could be downright unbeatable and has somehow outgrown even Ritchie, who at the time of Indigo league seemed more competent (pointed out by Misty, although not having ace Pokémon). And it is also probably our last opportunity for something like that. The closest to this is Lycanroc sweeping three Nanu’s Pokémon, but this is different.

As in regards to rosters, hard to imagine Ash bringing somebody else. Ritchie leaves more room. For example, Tyranitar could be swapped if Lapras is not to your liking, to make battle more tough type-wise. Or in case we should be G-Max vs. G-Max and continuing trend of Ritchie having similar Pokémon then Snorlax (although against Gengar specifically would move that match into Metapod vs Metapod territory) or Kingler come to mind in exchange of Lapras. No Butterfree, it would just bring painful memories of Ash’s Butterfree long gone and Ritchie still with his one. Goodra is only pseudo-legendary besides Dragonite Ash ever had, so I was considering her, but since Raihan has one, it was off limits (A05).


V.c Rematch with Elite Four MC Member to finally enter Master Class​

Rematch with Flint - Teams & How will it unfold​

Flint will be using his Steelix instead of Magmortar to bring some spice and even more imposing Pokémon to his roster. Ash stars rather tiny valiant Sirfetch’d against this monstrous steel snake, with some type-advantage, but not exactly more raw power, not mentioning enormous defense Steelix has. But this is bird-knight’s time to shine, again, I will leave it up to you to imagine the most spectacular battle possible with Sirfetch’d navigating battlefield, refusing to yield, finding weaknesses, throwing his shield and winning. Flint brings out Houndoom as he did previously. Sirfetch’d is still having some advantage and is on the run, so Ash hopes for him to land some blows, but makes only one successful attack before fainting, as there is simply nothing left in his tank. Now we have to guess who goes against hellish dog and turns out Ash brought Lycanroc. Dog and wolf are having spectacular fight, with Lycanroc proving too much for Houndoom with his speed, controlled ferocity and occasional employment of Counter attack. Flint is loving it and mega-evolves his mon, but still loses to final attack - Z-Move Splintered Stormshards. In the end, it his time for Flint’s Infernape trying to turn the match. Let’s have some amazing fighting with Lycanroc landing Bite and Accelerock, but not having any advantage over Infernape eventually loses with Infernape showing its durability. So down to last Pokémon, Ash brings his own Infernape. And again, I am not expert-choreograph and there many ways how to do it, so let your fantasy do the rest. Both Infernapes are fighting as never before, Flint’s displaying its durability and Ash’s one his will, both activating Blaze - Flint’s one first to do so and Ashes having more intense blue-fire crown to also distinguish him - and coming against each other with Flare Blitz...and one remaining standing in the end is the Ash’s.

Flint is not even sad he lost and his thrilled and congratulates Ash for advancing and reminding him to give at all. As Ash and Infernape are leaving the stadium, Paul comes across saying directly to Infernape “Great battle, deserved win.” - rectifying that this was done mostly non-verbally after their match in Sinnoh and Infernape deserves to hear it. Paul reminds us his challenge is up next and Ash wishes him the best. We end up learning that Paul was challenging Raihan and could not overpower his Duralodon. Ash is the only one of the young prodigies making it into Master Class.

Explanation and Alternatives​

Lycanroc’s spot is probably the most debatable. Could be reasonably exchanged for example for Krookodile. Flint as fire-type trainer is not very suitable for grass-types obviously, so even Sceptile is not very good choice, same with Melmetal. But obviously, the choice here is not only to have one small vs giant fight (Sirfetch’d getting impressive win), then to match animal allegories and, most importantly, to underline the specific character of Pokémon that Ash needs to overcome Flint - fighter that is so keen on fight that it borders on rage, stubbornness and madness, but he managed to control it somehow and convert it to strength. Sirfetch’d from Journeys’ team and Infernape with Lycanroc fit that best, I mean it is festival of “mad eyes” with these Pokémon fighting.

Adding Paul to Infernape’s arc also makes sense, also with necessary growth to make him seem even likeable. Learning about him not managing to get into Master Class needs to sting the right way.

And since we are at it, let’s look at Master Class.


VI. Master Class participants and structure​

So this is rough estimate how it could all look like to work well.

VI.a Members​

First and foremost, again credit where credit is due, I almost wholeheartedly agree with @Charusaru ’s quite recent video with analysis who will be in Masters 8.

We know that Leon, Lance, Cynthia and Raihan are settled, a now we have Ash. That leaves only 3 spots. Charles is proposing Ritchie, who I deem not good enough and would like to leave Ash only 10-year old wonderboy getting in there. Therefore we had Ritchie back in Ultra Class in this blueprint. Instead to have double Kanto presence (since Lance was introduced as such, but I take he is also champion of Johto), I see Brandon taking another spot. Parking his Battle Pyramid somewhere in Galar would make nice shot, also it is opportunity to promote some newly added Regi-legendaries - Regieleki and Regidrago (A05). The remaining two in discussion, I absolutely agree with Charles, Steven representing Hoenn as its Champion and return of Alain who is probably the only Ash’s rival, albeit being older, who has Pokémon, skill and determination to join him in Master Class. And let’s establish him as Kalos Champion this time.

Explanation and Alternatives​

Having Alain here makes narrative sense as potential opponent for Ash (G05), also making him Kalos Champion. Back in XYZ, Ash was on the verge of making Diantha big trouble with speedy Ash-Greninja and Alain not only won the league, he also defeated Malva from Elite Four. It is expected he became stronger, returned the favour of defeat to Siebold as other Elite Four member and finally edged out Diantha with his restored Mega Charizard X (stone properly found and earned this time).

Other possible alternatives were Bruno from Kanto, but there have been enough fighting trainers and Pokémon already. Drake from Hoenn was explained earlier, definitely warranted strength-wise and was featured recently in Anime, but simply too many dragons around. Drake from Orange Islands is probably too much forgotten and again, that would mean dragon ace. I was considering Aaron from Sinnoh, but since he is bug-type specialist, I do not think it would seem impressive enough and Sinnoh is already over-represented. Some names are rectified just below talking about how Masters 8 is setup.


VI.b Setup​

There are some things we should cover to make Master 8 and crowning of Monarch clear.

Let’s take the obvious at out the way - there is no time for experiments here, tournament tree system has always worked quite well in Pokémon and anything else like group where everybody battles against everybody could be misleading and complicated to follow. Therefore we are expecting Masters 8 to deal with each other in quarter-finals, then 4 winners advancing to semi-finals and winners there making finals.

The seeding and how matches are set up and determined, could use some tweaking and deeper lore. My proposal how to handle it - let us differentiate the TOP 4 and others in Master Class, presumably from previous year. We know Leon and Lance got into finals the first year, it is reasonable to assume that Leon took out Cynthia in semi-finals and I would infer that Lance edged out Steven. These TOP 4 have their spot in Master Class guaranteed, although everyone could challenge Monarch as Raihan did.

The bottom 4 of Masters 8 need to fend off challengers to defend their spot. That’s how Ash got in. So let’s say we would be shown how Brandon was n.5 and remains in Master Class after defeating Sawyer (or if you like better, previously mentioned Drake from Hoenn Elite Four is also alternative here). Caitlin from Unova Elite Four was n. 6 - since Iris as Champion is nowhere to be seen (despite being featured in new Intro, not expecting her to be in MC last year) and Alder would be strange after loosing Championship - and lost her spot against Alain. Raihan was n. 7 as we know, and denied Paul the entrance. And Flint was n. 8 and lost to Ash.

So depending on the Master Class Spot defending of lower 4, new 8 is established for end-season tournament. The TOP 4 is then randomly seeded against the rest in quarter-finals, to ensure we do not get Leon vs Cynthia or Leon vs Lance too soon. This is usual sports parable, when you do not want your TOP guys battling each other right away and it makes sense here. Randomness would be added, so it is not automatically 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5, but depends on draw and is therefore partly matter of chance.

Once the tree is settled, it is clear which path is there to finals. This last one is important as it would be preferable for Ash to know he must get to finals to have hope of facing Leon after the draw of seedings. And we would make it for him worthwhile.

So who is standing in his way?

VII. Ash’s path to Leon - opponents​

We would want to construct this most delicately and obviously not that much options remain.

Let’s split it in two halves - Leon’s part of the tree and Ash’s part.

VIIa. Leon’s half of Master Class Championship Tree​

Setting Leon to prove his un-defeated status, but not waste too good of opponent against him is paramount. Therefore we will have Lance as other member of TOP 4, Raihan and Brandon from lower ranks.

The matching should be Leon vs Brandon and Lance vs Raihan. Leon will demonstrate his power clearing out Brandon’s Regi-ment (pun intended) and Raihan will prove his ambitions justified by defeating last-year finalist and fellow sparing-dragon-partner Lance.

In semi-finals, we have Leon facing Raihan again and Raihan coming close, but ultimately not achieving his goal of striping Leon of title.

VII.b Ash’s half of Master Class Championship Tree​

Since we have established Leon’s part, Ash is left with Cynthia, Steven from TOP 4 and he is joined with Alain from lower ranks of Master Class. Has to beat two of these opponents to face Leon.

So no stalling, we would give him Cynthia vs Ash in quarter-finals and Steven vs Alainwill repeat their unfinished mega-showdown, with Alain being victorious and facing off Ash in semi-finals.

Having that out of the way, let us explain some reasoning behind it and then visualise how such mountain-of-challenge could be traversed by Ash.

Explanation and Alternatives​

In regards to alternatives, there is only one viable, which I still deem unrealistic and too difficult for Ash - Master Class path consisting with Cynthia (QF) - Raihan (SF) - Leon (F) and since we probably would not like to miss rematch with Alain and everything that entails, it would mean Alain taking Ritchie’s spot in Ultra Class. And facing Alain, Flint, Cynthia, Raihan and Leon is one hell.

Moreover, to explain other matchups, Alain vs Steven is self-evident, they have history, it would be ecstatic to see Mega Metagross vs Mega Charizard X again, and finish this time. Brandon against Leon is necessity, but formidable, multiple times shown in anime, trainer who could pose serious challenge for Monarch. Lance has great goodwill built in Anime and was last-year finalist, their match with Raihan could provide some emotional setup for them both as Lance was very inspired training in his gym. (G02)

Then we should address another of our plethora of elephants in the room - why Ash vs Cynthia. Remember our goals? Matches should carry emotional and strategical weight and Ash’s spot in the finals must be earned (G01,G02). Looking at the TOP4, Lance is also very capable, but Ash simply has rapport and history with Cynthia (she is brought back multiple times by Anime), better than with Lance or Steven. And latter is better employed against Alain. Leon is off limits, because of facing him in finals. But the most important factor is not to let match against Leon outshine Cynthia’s too much. This is something that is 15 years in making, and Cynthia had been paramount of the best trainers in Anime before Leon was brought up. Any path to facing/beating him requires Ash to meet Cynthia first and to do it properly and for us to have time to properly savour all of it pre-match tension, match itself and aftermath. It would be hard, if it was just quick “well done and now Leon”.

Then having semi-finals against Alain would bring back memories and definitely other type of pressure. Alain is strong but obviously has been seen beatable by Ash (contrary to Cynthia and Leon), so it would seem like there is less “how this would be even possible” and more “Ash, you better not screw it now against Alain like in Kalos after having come so close”. There is also roster optimisation in place, but more about that later. Let’s just say it would be take all effort from Pikachu and Lucario to take down Cynthia’s roster and would need to be rested (A09) and it is believable to take Alain out without them, Cynthia and Leon not very much, so it also works in this sense.


VIII. Ash’s path to Leon - battles​

So, let’s look at these two matches, who will both trainers bring in and how could those matches unfold.

VIII.a Cynthia​

This is long awaited match and as has been said - we need to give it proper spotlight. Not mentioning that Ash defeating Cynthia was almost unimaginable to this day, so this fact is putting even more pressure on how to make this narratively believable and satisfying. Firstly, we look at the teams.

Teams​

Following line-ups make probably good sense in terms of entertaining match and strategically-savvy adjustments.

Cynthia would be bringing Garchomp, Spiritomb, Togekiss, Milotic, Roserade and Kommo-o. She would be using Z-Move with Kommo-o.

Ash should IMHO bring Charizard, Melmetal, Dracovish, Sirfetch’d, Pikachu and Lucario. He would be mega-evolving Lucario.

Explanation and Alternatives​

Now to the reasoning, let’s tackle Cynthia’s team first. Garchomp is obvious, she is her ace and most trusted Pokémon. It is somehow interesting that Ash has seen her actual moveset. Kommo-o is new featured addition and building up Cynthia’s connection to Alola makes sense, more on that later. Roserade has been featured in Arceus specials as very powerful. Now there are her game pokémon remaining, with only Glaceon and Gastrodon as far as I remember being featured, but simply outline of battle works better with majestic Milotic, aerial Togekiss and scary Spiritomb. I would prefer Glaceon if Roserade was not featured, but the position of smaller agile mon to square it off with Pikachu will be hers. Kommo-o could also work as second-ace, being another pseudo-legendary and could be narratively backed by story how Cynthia was enjoying stay in Alola just like Ash, local culture and also - it is the best option for gimmick. Yep. Cynthia would be sporting the Z-Ring as her gimmick, just cementing her rapport with Ash and hitting close to the chest.

Ash’s team is more delicate, with Dragonite and Gengar still having wounds after dominating Ritchie’s Pokémon, we must replace those two spots with preferably even stronger Pokémon and there are not that many, especially if durability is paramount. The key question here is obvious - even in case other Pokémon are beatable, who would make the most menacing lady Garchomp suffer some hits? Yep, being it a little bit cliché, but frankly, with Pikachu being ineffective against Ground types (and we would not be solving it with splashing water please), there is only Charizard having enough experience, raw power, will, durability and aerial mobility (which is important in Anime) to pose serious threat. Melmetal with its raw strength, mythical background is also logical candidate. The rest of Journey’s team remains. This is one of those cases when +1 ace Pokémon from reserves would have helped, but I am sticking to not-overflowing-it with reserves. Therefore, these two.


Pre-match development​

Despite sporting impressive roster, Ash realises that he have to win the thoughest match of his life to challange Leon. Knowing Garchomp is almost undefeatable, he reaches is old partner Charizard to do something more difficult that anything before. They would lay out some strategy, we would not know which one. Charizard nonetheless begins to train 3 on 1 with Noivern, Gible and Gliscor to at least immitate the match.

Melmetal trains with Staraptor and Talonflame to become more agile against aerial attacks. Snorlax teaches Lucario how to handle some really heavy hits. All to the benefit of the match.

Explanation and Alternatives​

Just a quick note here, along bringing some other Pokémon here to collaborate despite not having spots in matches, it obviously sets up stage for many turning points in to the battle. As I was mentioning - TEAMWORK

How could the match unfold​

Cythia would start with Garchomp, so Ash counters with Charizard. The tactic becomes obvious, using Charizard’s strength, aerial mobility and attacking range to neutralise and wear out Garchomp. For her every Dragon Claw there is Dragon Tail or Slash and her range attack with Scale Shot is neutralised with Flamethrower. Both “legendary beasts” battle it out without gimmicks. Seeing it troublesome, Cythia urges Garchomp to use Sandstorm to turn the tide. Charizard uses heat to overheat is body (possibly with Overheat attack) and sand from Sandstorm forms glassing protective counting on his body to withstand hard-to-avoid Garchomp’s attacks due to Sand Veil ability. However, at the end, everything is in the vain as Garchomp is too powerful, so Charizard, coming around, ignores Ash’s call to avoid her finishing Giga Impact and uses Flamethrower/Overheat/Blast Burn on himself, and traps Garchomp inside. This engulfs both Pokémon in excruciating pain and finishes them both off, laying both on ground, being declared unable to battle with both trainers rushing on field to take care of them. They are both hurt, but otherwise OK. Charizard “sacrifices” himself and proves his maturity with not playing to win, but playing to neutralise such powerful Pokémon, no matter the cost or glory. Both trainers would support them standing up, exchanging looks of respect and Cynthia commenting that she knew Ash was capable of the out-the-box move, but would never imagine his own Pokémon would improvise such moves themselves.

This could also be the end of episode, leaving match wide open. So, the next move, Cynthia chooses Milotic, trusting in her versatility with Recover and Ice Beam. Ash goes with simple strategy and draws out Pikachu. Pikachu wins, with his agility overcoming Milotic’s size and Recover, Thunderbolt overpowering Ice Beam.

Cynthia has to call another Pokémon and brings out Togekiss, counting on her flying abilities, hoping to lure Pikachu into defeat. Ash does not take a bait and makes first switch for Melmetal. Cynthia is amazed, as she just heard about it. After tough fight Togekiss loses, despitre trying to out-manuveur Melmetal to overcome her typing disadvantage. The crucial blow comes with realising that Melmetal knows Thunderbolt just like Pikachu, with Ash strategically saving that move.

With three Cynthia’s mons down, things look great for Ash, but it is not over yet. Cynthia calls out Kommo-o. Ash thinks about calling him off, but in the end trust Melmetal to use his strength and deliver som crucial blow and maybe even win. But Kommo-o prevails, turning out to be very elusive, durable and accurate hitter. His Protect is able to withstand Flash Cannon and Double Iron Bash.

This is turning tide for Ash, as he is still leading, but since Cynthia is saving her Spiritomb and Roserade with their resistances, he cannot bring out Lucario without great risk of wasting him and his mega-evolution. He chooses Sirftech’d hoping Cynthia would press advantage with Kommo-o, but she does not underestimate Ash and switches him for Roserade. Sirfetch’d battles valiantly against his type disadvantage and grinds out every accurate hit, but eventually Roserade prevails with her Power Whip.

Ash does not have much choice, sends Dracovish in, hoping he could prevail at least against one of Cynthia’s three remaining Pokémon, Cynthia judges Dracovish’s apparent durability and dragon typing and does not expose Roserade or Kommo to potentialy devastating ice hits - brings out Spiritomb instead. Dracovish pulls out fight of his life and edges out Spiritomb.

After losing her ghost, Cynthia seeing Dracovish fighting head on makes tactical switch and trust surprisingly more head-on-head fighting Kommo-o than agile Roserade. Ash trust Dracovish and his typingly advantageous attacks. But Kommo-o proves his elusiveness once again, breaks out of Ice Fang and lands direct hit.

Knowing Cynthia will probably switch for Roserade, Ash aims at bringing it down with Pikachu. However, Pikachu struggles to land good hit facing Roserade’s agility and is slowed down due to Sludgebomb and in the end faints.

With no other options left and being at disadvantage, Ash sends in Lucario. Cynthia keeps Roserade, despite poison attacks being ineffective on Lucario. Lucario from the start struggles with Roserade, but then pins her down with Steal Beam and lands overpowered Aura Sphere.

Cynthia brings back Kommo-o for the finale, heated battle ensues with mega-evolution and Kommo-o pressing his signature Z-Move Clangorous Soulblaze, but Lucario withstands it, prevails and finishes him Aura Sphere.

Ash is victorious.

Explanation and Alternatives​

First of all, it is very hard to find suitable matchup for Garchomp. Being champion’s ace and also very experienced Pokémon, the only one that would make sense facing him on that level is Pikachu, but with her ground typing is our beloved Pikachu simply outmatched. So we went with next best thing, Charizard. This is good opportunity to bring sport parables, albeit Pokémon Anime deals with them in very utilitaristic manner. So, to put it blantly, is still Cytnhia’s Garchomp better fighter than Ash’s Charizard? Yes, almost definitely. She would probably win more of out 10 matches than Charizard, or if there was some league of top ten pokémon facing each other, she would probably have more wins. But that does not mean, that Charizard is not good or experienced of enough, that is impossible for him to pull this off(even with out 100% Ash Ketchum style unorthodox move and with one deliberate tactical move). This mimics everything I was laying down at the beginning of this blueprint. Although many will logically equalise winning title of Monarch with being unquestionably the best, in real world it is far more complicated. It is near impossible for Ash with this setup to be the best - meaning he will definitely and repeatedly defeat anyone. We are aiming for him to just win this tournament. You can find many sport parables, when player or team that was good enough managed to do everything right and surprisingly won. That does not mean it was necessary the best overall, or that they could repeat it 9 times out of 10. But it also does not mean it was pure luck or unrealistic. And we are setting Charizard here in similar way, he may not be better, but he is very very strong and capable enough to upset Cynthia’s Garchomp with right circumstances. Finally, duel of these two is I think very good tribute to them, representing powerhouses of older Anime Times, without any gimmicks, templates of how ace pokémon should look like.

Kommo-o and Lucario are nice mirror, newest additions, aces in the making with gimmicks. It also serves as irony, that Cynthia would be using Alolan Pokémon and even Z-Move, while Ash is using Sinnoh-based Pokémon. Flying-Fighting mirroring also works (although Garchomp is not flying type, I know)

What else is there to explain, although I would like to use Sceptile, Melmetal works better with typing, durability and surprise factor. Could not reasonably squeeze in wins for both Dracovish and Sirfetch’d, so the first one takes the victory, but I would urge directors to make Sirfetch’d effort valiant, Roserade is no joke and he is at disadvantage. Pikachu takes his usual win, it would not be reasonable not to give him one, but he does not steal the spotlight.


After-match thoughts and tidbits​

Obviously, Cynthia is a little bit sad and very impressed, she turns serious for one moment and reminds Ash how far has he progressed and to give it his best to win it all. Then smiles and goes for ice-cream.

Ash would be processing what he has just achieved, but also more practical problems. The victory had cost him dearly and Charizard would be recovering for some time and Pikachu with Lucario does not seem in the best shape. Seeing he will be facing Alain, and getting very close to challenging Leon, he must get it together against him. Fortunately, Gengar and Dragonite seem to be back in form and ready to fight. And there is one more visit coming…

Explanation and Alternatives​

Nothing too fancy here, Cynthia is in her character, just reminding us what Ash has achieved before taking it lightly. To provide us with some moments to savour victory.

Then we are again drawing on sports parable (A09), to free up roster against Alain and justify rotation of Pokémon. But it also underlines the sheer difficulty of victory against one of the world’s top trainers. Aces unable to battle right-away is testament to cost that must paid to advance so high. Luckily for Ash, as we were mentioning, he has Pokémons and resources to manage it.


VIII.b Alain​

Change of pace after Cynthia. As mentioned, with Cynthia we were “how on earth will Ash pull it off?” territory. With Alain, it’s more like “he’s strong, but this time better Ash win”. It is not precise to say that Ash enters the match as favourite, but expectations are up there. And it would provide much needed tone-alteration, having all matches be “impossible tasks against legendary champions” would probably be boring. Still, we some mons including his Pikachu unavailable for this match, it should not be too complicated to convey uncertainty and worry that Ash will not make it.

Teams​

First of all, I would prefer some changes to Alain’s Kalos League line up to introduce and show more Galar Pokémon. It also should be step up. Frankly, I would say Grimmsnarl is ideal, but since that is Marnie’s top Pokémon, we are settling with switching Unfezant and Weavile for Corviknight and Urshifu - Rapid Strike Style. Corviknight could obviously work with Leon also, but he does not have him in games and I think it is a neat twist, to give Alain the most imposing and menacing bird so far.

So Alain brings Corviknight, Tyranitar, Metagross, Bisharp, Urshifu - Rapid Strike Style and obviously Charizard, who would be Mega-Evolving again.

As for Ash’s team, Gengar and Dragonite are returning, Dracovish and Sirfetch’d are healed enough to continue and obviously Greninja would be coming for re-match and using Bond Phenomenon. That realistically leaves us with one free spot. And that would be filled with Incineroar.

Explanation and Alternatives​

Maybe not everyone would be comfortable with Alain having some Galar Pokémon, but I think those fit nicely and are improving his team. With those two on board, it is even more believable he is Champion of Kalos and managed to defeat Steven Stone.

In regards to Ash, there is obviously only one spot left in system we provided and Greninja being must for this battle. This maybe a bit of let down for some Greninja fans to have Gekkouga battle Alain and his Charizard again - although some others are cheering for it. Nonetheless, it is a little bit of compromise, but again makes also narrative sense. As we discussed, there are not that many spots left for reserves, so we cannot have Greninja everywhere. And most importantly, we have to remember Greninja left Ash, although heavy-hearted for what he considered more important calling. If he (in-universe) would have preferred to stay with Ash and grow stronger and win battles, he could have turned down Zygarde’s offer. So, it sort of makes sense for him, to return just to fight Alain, to see it as something that bothers him, unresolved rivalry, especially when today stakes are even higher and it would mean for Ash to achieve his biggest dream of challenging Leon. And that he owes it to Ash to come back and finish the job.

For the second spot, again, I was considering Sceptile or maybe Krookodile, but Incineroar is quite universal with his dark typing against many dark-typed Pokémon Alain prefers and obviously has not battled in his final evolution form yet.


Pre-match development​

First of all, let’s tease Greninja return a little bit on-screen. Since the exact reason why he would come would probably correlate with other plots - maybe Bonnie and Squishy or Serena, I would not be dealing with this arc, he comes back, matter settled. But before it is shown on-screen, it could be interesting to utilise his ninja part - maybe show some shadow stealthily entering Cerise park - some Pokémon being unnerved and trying to stop him before being overpowered. And only after then revealing Greninja has returned.

Obviously we would also need another pre-match confrontation between Alain and Ash, joyful that they battle each other again but adamant to win as stakes are even higher than last time. It could be similar to pre-Bea match with some old gathering.

As for Ash’s Pokémon united struggle, this match offers probably the best opportunities - Swellow could be teaching Dragonite how to meet tough and durable opponent high in the air, Sceptile could teach Sirfetch’d his iconic Leaf Blade, Pikachu could be helping Incineroar to master Thunder Punch and Krookodile (maybe even let them have a little skirmish to kick their relationship) teaches Greninja Dig as he could use some powerful ground move in rematch against Charizard.

Explanation and Alternatives​

Nothing that comes to mind.

How could the match unfold​

Oh boy, how would we tackle this one and not make it too similar to their previous encounter. Let’s try.

Alain would be starting with his Urshifu, coming out of the gates blazing. Ash therefore starts with Dracovish, typing-wise most resilient Pokémon, Ash trusts Dracovish’s fighting spirit and strong jaw, but Alain’s new pseudo-legendary turns out to be very powerful and wins.

Ash knows he must turn the tide quickly and bring out Pokémon durable enough to eventually defeat Urshifu or take on anything Alain may have next. So he chooses Dragonite. That stalls Alain, who does not risk and brings out his resilient Galar flier - Corvinknight. Epic aerial battle ensues, where Dragonite grinds through disadvantage and brings down Corviknight.

Alain has the same dilemma as Ash previously and tries to lure him into trying to snatch defeat with Dragonite and brings out Bisharp, despite knowing that Ash has fighting heavy team. Ash does remember this Bisharp and stalls too, does not switch, trusting his Dragonite. Bisharp yet again proves resilient and finishes Dragonite with his marked move Guollitine.

Ash is fed up with and brings out another pure strength Pokémon, who he knows could rival type-wise any of other Alain’s remianing Pokémon, but Urshifu - Incineroar. And Alain tactically switches Bisharp for him exactly. This becomes highlight of the first half of their match and Incineroar prevails with his fighting spirit and despite heavy damage finishes Urshifu with Thunder Punch. That means turning tide and Alain reacts usually with bait of his trusted Bisharp. This time Ash does not take it and switches for Sirfetch’d. And resilient bird-fighter wins his toughest match yet.

Seeing variety of Dark type moves, Alain brings out Tyranitar despite his fighting disavantage, hoping for size and power to prevail. Ash wants Sirfetch’d not to overextend himself and brings back Incineroar. He struggles with Sand Stream, with Stone Edge and Tyranitar’s new move of Earthquake and after over-exhausting himself previously against Urshifu, loses. Ash wants to bring out new blood and chooses Gengar. Betting that Alain would not want to overexpose Tyranitar who has clear advantage. He is right and Alain switches to still quite fitting Metagross, who he was reluctant to bring with Incineroar still around. But luckily for Ash, Gengar manages to edge out Metragross.

Not wanting to damage Charizard yet, Alain realises his mistakes and returns Tyranitar. Gengar tries, but is outmatched. Ash similarly does not want to expose Greninja yet and trust Sirfetch’d . He valiantly battles against bigger oponent, trying to use his type advantage and finally uses Leaf Blade to stalemate.

So now are both trainer down to their long-awaited Aces - Charizard and Greninja for rematch of lifetime. Picture anything you could imagine, but newly learned surprising Dig move and super-powered Water Shuriken which absorbs Blast Burn and adds its energy after Greninja leaping forward like blasted arrowed to finish Charizard is crucial to his win.

Ash has done it, he will be facing Leon.

Explanation and Alternatives​

Obviously we want to have highs and lows and interesting battles even before the pinnacle of Ash-Greninja. Maybe the most important was to give Sirfetch’d truly spectacular battle and make him almost MVP, also being Pokémon who finally stops Bisharp. Incineroar vs Urshifu should be spectacle as well, similarly to Dragonite vs Corviknight and Gengar vs Metagross.

After-match thoughts and tidbits​

Nothing interesting here probably, the usual stuff of congratulating, Pokémon showing respect to each other, wishing good luck. It would be probably more tied to another story lines, so I would not extend already great length of this blueprint.

Explanation and Alternatives​

Nothing of note.

IX. Ash vs Leon​

So, we have finally arrived at the end - Ash is facing Monarch. Frankly, it would not be good to “over-engineer” this match. As I mentioned previously, nothing like 6 Aces or anything we have not seen before. The crux of the matter must be done in pre-match and with perspective of the both finalists. There is only so much you can do with 6 Pokémon and again calling out professional sports parable - the final matches may be not the most interesting ones, but the sheer weight of the moment adds to their greatness. So let us hope, that Journeys would continue with Leon’s character development and that energy of the match would be palpable because of who is Ash facing and what is at stake.

I would comment that 100th episode has done quite good job at that, unveiling similarities between Leon and Ash, both are a little bit quirky boys, who simply fell in love with Pokémon and training them. That makes sense and is IMHO narratively good choice.

Pokémon-wise and strategy-wise we would obviously want this match be entertaining similarly to Cynthia’s, not making boring on other hand, just to state again - no unnecessary and impossible goals.

Teams​

So looking who have both trainers at hand, these rosters could make sense.

In regards to Leon I would propose following line-up: Aegislash, Haxorus, Rhyperior, Rillaboom, Dragapult and Charizard (G-Maxing of course).

Moving to Ash, there maybe some surprise, but if one lineup had to proposed, I would give: Torterra, Infernape, Gengar, Dragonite, Lucario and Pikachu using his signature Z-Move

Explanation and Alternatives​

How to explain all of this? First of all, Leon’s roster. The approach was quite simple, taking the most menacing looking Pokémon he has. Since Charizard and Dragapult are set, I moved to more imposing ones, than for example Mr. Rime (better used with his Ice attacks in semi-finals against Raihan) or Seismitoad. There is leeway in terms of Galar starter, I think he should be employing one, and since Goh has Cinderace and Inteleon who are shown plenty, I am going with Rillaboom who we have just seen in passing.

Now Ash’s team. Obviously the most surprising is Torterra. The reasoning behind it is two-fold. One is sports parable (A09) - usually you want to surprise your opponent with some tactical move in your roster (team sports) to shake up his strategy a little bit and bring out unexpected heroes. The second one is that I did not want to have just the top stars. Since we have 3 members of All Stars here (Pikachu, Lucario, Infernape), as I mentioned, I did not want to overexpose roster with Charizard or Greninja, who had their spotlight previously and are probably banged up after effort to get Ash here. Sceptile would be the most safe choice and who does not mind it, could change him for Torterra, it would not make mess and lineup of Sceptile, Infernape, Gengar, Dragonite, Lucario and Pikachu does look like team to beat Leon. In case “just 3 of stars” rule, then also Snorlax or Krookodile work as replacement (both have not fought so far). And also switching it with another above-the-weight puncher - Bulbasaur or Bayleef (but in that case it almost must entail her evolving to Meganium). So plenty of choices that work, but since I wanted to propose one solution that I think works best - I choose Torterra. As he as Turtwig supported Chimcar, now Infernape could support him to reach new heights and be not necessarily the most powerful mon in this match, but surprise that would turn the tide. But just to repeat - Sceptile, Snorlax, Krookodile, Bulbasaur or Bayleef/Meganium work also quite nicely if you prefer.

With second spot from reserves, there is not much to decide, although I take many would like to see for example Greninja here. But since we are rotating them and Infernape has waited probably the longest. To better explain, this is the prime example what I deem compromises in Pokémon Anime regarding character’s of individual mons. And one reason, why I deem Ash releasing his mons more fair way narratively, although do not like it as fan. Game Freak wants Anime to promote new generation of Pokémon and also narratively, it is interesting to see new mons, form bonds and let them battle and progress. Fair enough. But that also means leaving older Pokémon behind, despite them clearly eager to continue getting better - the best ones essentially have this quality ingrained in their character. But Anime ceases to show this and allow further development. Sometimes even limited would be enough, but even that is not guaranteed. Regarding Ash’s “Legendaries”, Pikachu is always on hand. Lucario, we maybe will not even know with Ash probably leaving. Sceptile is more rounded character, with his flegmatic nature, romantic interests and also he is literally shepherd of forest, so there is plenty for him to do at Oak’s Lab. Charizard was handled gracefully with him returning to Charicific Valley to train and after staying at Oak’s we have seen him matured and taking on more mentoring role perhaps? And Greninja left for higher calling of keeping world safe. That leaves Infernape sticking as probably the most sore thumb, training and waiting for decade (real-world), not been called upon or addressed until now. In that sense he is the most dedicated to train, remains with Ash in purest sense and pushes himself, we are choosing him to be instrumental in Ash’s biggest match. It is well deserved reward for him as character.

Since Journeys’ Team is also on rotation, that means Sirfetch’d and Dracovish will be resting after their impressive matches. There maybe some narrative sense to it, as not facing superstar of Galar with Galar Pokémon. But also performance based - I did my best to get them good wins, but they are also the weakest link there and most recently evolved Pokémon. So changing them, especially for Infernape and other more experienced Pokémon, boost team’s strength.

Which brings us to gimmicks. Leon would obviously use his Gigantamaxing, which he is king of. This is no time to be subverting expectations. But Ash should use Z-Move and 10,000,000 Volt Thunderbolt. Like seriously, first of all, Gigantamaxed Pikachu looks silly and Ash has not trained in this form since. And as said previously, Ash should bring what makes him Ash to this battle. He represents Alola, he is champion there, it is his second home. And this mechanics fits him the best. Leon represents Galar and whole panache of Gigantamaxing with all-matches-ending G-Max Wildfire is his domain.


Pre-match development​

There is not much that I deem important here, it would probably be filled with Ash’s mum Delia and Oak coming, as well as Kukui and Burnet and all the friends/companions, if they are not present already. Ash meeting Leon before match and having conversation as they are looking forward to it and remain friends no matter what. Also Ash reminiscing about his whole Journey with his Pokémon.

In regards to training, there maybe something like finally seeing Infernape training with Charizard if he is fit enough or Lucario with Greninja.

One thing should be there nonetheless, and that is Torterra training with Lycanroc to boost agility and learn Stone Edge.

Explanation and Alternatives​

Torterra’s inability use speed after evolving was arc in Diamond and Pearl and had obviously hurt his fighting abilities. There is not way to regain whole of it regarding his stature, but recovering what he could with learning some powerful other-type moves could serve him well in match.

How could the match unfold​

Leon would start with is Rhyperior and Ash would surprise by choosing Torterra and he would take the first win for team Ketchum. Torterra previously battled against another Rhyperior, so I leave choreography to your imagination. Leon counter with Rillaboomand Ash chooses Gengar hoping he could spare Infernape not entering match against obvious matchup. The match is quite tight with Gengar making some effective moves, but at the end Rillaboom takes one for Galar and narrowly wins.

Ash then makes tactical move and brings out Infernape, trusting him to defeat any opponent Leon may bring except maybe Charizard. Leon obviously does not leave Rillaboom at disadvantage there and chooses Haxorus as well rounded dragon with resistance to fire moves. Despite fighting valiantly, Infernape is simply too much for Haxorus and wins even without Blaze.

Leon then brings Dragapult knowing Ash does not have Pokémon with any particular advantage and hoping for win. Ash switches Infernape for Dragonite and big aerial battle ensues between two dragons, Dragonite evading projectiles and eventually wins with Dragon Claw.

With three Pokémons down, Leon does not wait and brings out Charizard to astonishment of all spectators. Ash is hyped up and brings back Infernape. Big battle begins and we could picture various moves when Infernape’s experience fighting powerful Charizard shows, putting doubt into Charizard and Leon. Inferanpe is obviously at disadvantage having battled Haxorus previously, so Leon and Charizard hope to get rid of him quickly, but they are unable. When it finally seems they have won, Infernape stands out with his Blaze and slightly overpowers Charizard with is Flare Blitz. Leon knows that this may hunt him, but cannot lose here - so he G-Max already. Despite his Blaze, Infernape is too hurt so he deals some damage and Charizard is scared and breathing heavily, but eventually wins. But also Leon wastes his gimmick, and tells Ash that no one ever had him waste G-Max so early.

Ash is thrilled by knows that match is far from over, so brings back Dragonite, this time him daring Leon to leave Charizard there. Leon calculates, that although Dragonite had already taken damage against Dragapult, Charizard has also taken considerable damage and that it maybe too much with Lucario and Pikachu not even battling already. So he turns to his last fresh mon - Aegislash. Dragonite manages to land some good hits, but is eventually too exhausted and Aegislash’s King Shield is very effective defense, so he wins.

Since Ash now knows every Pokémon Leon has remaining on hand, he brings out Lucario hoping Leon would bring back Charizard, but Leon rather risks with Rillaboom, not leaving Aegislash despite strong advantage as he suffered quite from Dragonite and does suspect that Ash has something upon his sleeve with Lucario. For first few round Rillaboom has an upper hand with Lucario having problem closing distance, but Ash finds a way to land some effective hits and at the end Lucario wins. Leon still does not want to expose Charizard more and brings back Aegislash, so Ash switches Lucario for Torterra. Unfortunately it is not enough for Ash, as Aegislash is more tough than one expected.

That leaves Ash at disadvantage, since Lucario’s moveset would be hardly effective, so he finally chooses Pikachu. Despite Aegislash being tenderised by previous battles, it is still one hell of the fight for Pikachu, but he manages to finish him off. So Leon is down only to Charizard. Ash still switches for Lucario to leave Pikachu with some rest, despite Lucario still being at disadvantage just typing-wise. But he puts quite an effort and with over-powered Aura Sphere and Steel Beam manages to hurt Charizard, so his ability to fly is diminished.

So for Ash’s team only “now it’s up to you buddy” Pikachu remains. Knowing Charizard is very durable, they land some hits with Quick Attack and Iron Tail and exchange Thunderbolt vs Flamethrower, and after some ingenious use of Electroweb Ash sees opportunity, takes his Z-Ring, puts his hat on Pikachu and together they conjure the 10,000,000 Volt Thunderbolt…

Explanation and Alternatives​

Before we discuss how it will end, some explaining.

Torterra’s final important win against Rhyperior is probably self-explanatory and works experience-wise and typing-wise. Hard to give Gengar a L here, but he battled great in previous match and Rillaboom should be imposing as Galar starter under Leon.

This is also not extra good day for Lucario, but he would realistically be quite tactical burden, since the only one from Leon’s Pokémon he is really effective against is Rhyperior. Haxorus and Rillaboom are OK, so therefore one of them is met in battle, but Charizard, Aegislash and Dragapult are horrible matches and Leon would be trying to get Lucario matched against them. And there is the fact Lucario is ace, so I opted for one good win and hurting the main star.

Dragonite is better off, edging out the fellow pseudo-legendary dragon a supposedly n. 2 in Leon’s team.


But this match is mainly about Infernape and Pikachu. It all practically boils down to defeating probably the most broken Pokémon in Anime - Leon’s Charizard. So in order to do it properly, we are little bit mimicking wearing down Drake’s Dragonite eons ago in Orange League, but as Cortana from Halo would have said “not very original plan, but we know it will work”. All three stars put the work together, in order not to have it unreasonably disproportional (like it takes 3 fresh stars to defeat Leonzard) - they are all winning against other Pokémon previously and then Infernape takes out G-Max, Lucario flying and Pikachu is there to finish the job.


X. Conclusion and what could happen next​

...and how it would all end?

Unfortunately, this is not very solvable without producers having their say. This time not because they are paying for everything, but because we have to know if they will continue Anime with Ash.

If this is really end of his journey, then he obviously wins and hopefully this blueprint provided way to do it in most believable and satisfying way.

But in my assumptions I expect they will want to keep Ash, too iconic with his buddy Pikachu (A07). There is also risk, that they will try to move on from him, but it is quite realistic the popularity of Anime will suffer and then they will be forced to bring him back. And that means usually very cheap deus-ex machina reason and cheap writing, we have seen it in many franchises when characters returned more because of desperation than strong narrative reasons. So I would infer, that it is better to have solid option of Ash returning in the future and not making it cheap plot-wise.

In that case, my final say of preference is:

DRAW

It is quite simple actually, when Ash wins and even then continues journey, anything that follows would be somehow lacking. Not mentioning him being unrecognised would be soon becoming silly. If he loses, then everything that follows will have that shade of being just way of how to get back to Leon soon and win finally.

Having them tie brings much needed lack of haste. We could pounder with Ash and Leon what that means. He has not defeated him, but also for the first time Leon didn’t win. Came closer than legends like Lance, Cynthia or Raihan. Are there two Monarchs now or none? (Based on preference that PWC works more like professional boxing ranking or more like classic yearly world championships) They could make an arrangement, that this is reminder for both of them to continue on their journey and become even stronger and then maybe one good day they will fight again.

But there would be no haste and no bitter feelings, they could take their time because it will be not about “just closely” losing, but about realising how far they have both come. How are they in their league of their own to some degree, but also have still much to learn and discover in the world of Pokémon.

And if there is some next game in the works - and we know it is, Ash may continue in Anime visiting other region yet again and continue his journey of becoming Pokémon Master. This time not winning league or becoming Champion being primary target, he has already achieved that. But becoming even stronger as he has been so far. Maybe by becoming full-fledged mentor or even bringing concept of gyms and league to some region not yet having that tradition.

Or we would bid farewell to one of the longest and most developed hero’s journeys in existence.

But that is story for another time.

Concluding Remarks​

So there you have it.

I will naturally have others think about this, expecting also harsh criticism. And even that would be good news that someone deemed it rewarding enough to read this whole Blueprint.

It would be probably also good to state what I - somehow pessimistically - consider most probable ending of PWC. What I expect Anime writers to really do. Quite simply - 1v1, before lastintro I was expecting
  1. Ash vs Lance - Dragonite vs Gyarados
  2. Ash vs Raihan - Infernape vs Duralodon
  3. Ash vs Cynthia - Lucario vs Garchomp
  4. Ash vs Leon - Pikachu vs Charizard
With new Intro maybe to squeeze Ash vs Alain - Greninja vs Charizard there, but we will see. To be frank, I maybe capable of envisioning even worse ending, but sort of trust Anime writers and producers enough to have these 4 matches be sort of the baseline - we would be getting at least that and maybe even more.

But, as is evident from this whole post - I think we should aim far higher.

I am fully aware that in 2022, making this as YouTube video would be preferable. But I simply lack means and time, but in case anybody is interested, feel free to make video out of this, I would welcome it.

Maybe it could use some tweaking in the debate. We will see.

Finally, anybody who made it this far has my gratitude, hoping it was worthwhile. :giggle:
 

cricketlaxwolvesbandy

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Ash-Greninja gets revenge on Alain?
TORTERRA GETS THE ULTIMATE REDEMPTION BY GETTING USED AGAINST LEON?
IM IN HEAVEN!!!!
 

Nicolas721

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Wow, you really think about everything. Your stories must be very well planned!

I agree that it would have been fun if the Ultra Class would have focused on trainers without type specialties with multi region teams, but alas, at least they're using Elite Four members now.

I think Ritchie could still appear if Ash somehow regresses, but if he does I hope his team is only Ash-inspired rather than Ash-plagiarized. I'd also hope he gives some screentime to cute or gimmicky Johto and Unova mons.

Alain....mmmmm...Him taking Diantha's spot is the kind of thing the anime would do, but if they respected Gary's researcher arc I don't see why they wouldn't do the same with him, and it would feel more like a fanservice appeareance to XY fans who want to see Charizard losing. It could go either way, but I don't see a full battle between Ash and him, just a 3vs3.

I've thought for a while about the draw too. It would make both Ash and Leon feel fulfilled, but the problem is that it still wouldn't answer the question of "How the hell are they gonna introduce trainers stronger than both of them?". I'm really curious about what the writers will do.
 

DuskAstral

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You have my respect for wanting to write so much.
As for my thoughts on your article:
1) I don't think Satoshi is using Torterra and Infernape when fighting Leon. If the opening guide implies, Dracovish and Sirfetch'd are still included in this match.

2) I somehow doubt that everyone to whom Satoshi is important could come to Galar to watch the clash. Not all can have time.

3) I think Satoshi will stay. His journey won't end until he becomes a Pokémon Master.
In addition, becoming a Monarch (i.e. the strongest coach in the world) does not matter, because there may still be people stronger than him.
 

Cruxificio

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Hello is is I, Gruntyboi....oh wait I'm on media platform...ahem anyway hello from 2 months in the future. Besides Brandon and Ritchie being replaced with Diantha and Iris I agree with the breakdown for the most part. Only change I'd make would be Leon vs Cythia in the semifinals (as I've made in my own post about my ideal Masters 8 bracket breakdown). Other than that excellent job creating this from a writer's and producer's point of view. You've got a good mind for this kind of stuff. Hope to see more of your thoughts via posts in the future. Thanks again for the brilliant post!
 
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