The Pokémon anime has seen its singular hero Ash travel across the decades throughout the various regions of the Pokémon world. However, his travel companions often hop off his voyage in pursuit of their own goals. However, some teams brought a unique, special dynamic, while others lacked an essential spark to keep the arc alive.
The following teams are the various core companions Ash has traveled with, ranked from the weakest to the greatest. These are not necessarily the individual companions but rather how the team dynamic worked together. So, taking a look at how they grew, their teamwork and Ash's growth with them -- let's see where his various companions rank.
9. Verity and Sorrel
In the film Pokémon: I Choose You, Ash embarks on a retread of his original quest, though not with Misty and Brock. Instead, he encounters Verity and Sorrel, two relatively underdeveloped companions who end up stuck with Ash after a chance encounter with an Entei. Verity is the daughter of a competitive Sinnoh trainer, while Sorrel wants to be a Pokémon Professor.
Verity and Sorrel leave Ash to pursue their journeys, making their fellowship relatively brief. They are a decent duo for movie characters, but when ranked alongside the other companions, it's clear they never had an opportunity to grow as the others did.
8. Misty and Tracey
The Orange Islands missed that dynamic Brock brought to the team. While Misty is a great companion for Ash, Tracey -- a Pokémon sketcher -- could not fill the huge shoes left behind by Brock. Tracey is a hollow gap of charisma, made all the more difficult by his lack of genuine ambition. Tracey has ultimately been forgotten by the anime since his arc felt pretty much fulfilled when he decided to study Pokémon with Professor Oak.
To make matters worse, the Orange Islands didn't serve to develop Ash all that much, especially when compared to how he'd grow in Johto afterward. Ultimately, the team dynamic Tracey brought is easily lost due to being sandwiched between Misty and Brock.
7. May, Max and Brock
Brock returned for Hoenn, but thankfully Pokémon had more luck filling the hole Misty left behind with May. May managed to be her own character with unique interests in becoming a coordinator -- with goals and rivals. While May, at times, did feel like a replacement for Misty in many ways, she was distinct enough to stand apart, even if her relationship with Ash was similar.
The weak link in this team is Max -- May's brother -- who proved to be more of a hindrance to the team dynamic than anything else. He could cause problems or feel like a big know-it-all to the group. He was May's annoying younger brother, but that didn't mean he had to annoy the audience as well. His arc showed him mature, but for many, the maturity came too late to redeem him as a character.
6. Clemont, Bonnie and Serena
Ash's Kalos companions were a remarkably different trio than anyone else he'd adventure with before. Serena's relationship with Ash was far more overtly romantic. On the other hand, Clemont is an inventor, while his sister, Bonnie, managed to improve on everything Max tried to do. Bonnie is supportive of her brother but willing to tease him.
However, while they're all fun characters, something is missing here. Ash doesn't evolve as a person with Clemont, Bonnie and Serena the way he does with latter companions. They're good characters, but not perfect ones.
5. The Sun & Moon Classmates
The various classmates Ash encountered in Alola are a colorful group of characters who don't always leave the strongest impression individually. Of course, Ash ultimately became a Pokémon Champion while with his classmates, learning everything he needed to become a master. However, the way Ash trained with his classmates diverged from the typical formula -- seeing him become a student.
This expanded training team resulted in Ash never having that close bond with two or three characters as he did with his original traveling companions. However, Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon wasn't focused on that dynamic, which, in turn, resulted in an expansive cast that never hit that perfect mark.
4. Iris and Cilan
The first squad since the Orange Islands to lack Brock, Ash's team traveling through Unova had the deck stacked against it. Still, Iris and Cilan were solid and exciting characters who managed to add a layer of freshness to Ash's team.
While Cilan brought a degree of maturity that Brock had previously brought, Iris's brash and intense presence brought life that energized the Pokémon saga in its later stages. She also had a good relationship with Ash and drama that fed into her arc throughout her tenure. Plus, it is telling that fans were excited to see Iris reunited with Ash in Pokémon Journeys.
Goh is the newest companion Ash has traveled alongside, one who almost feels like a student to Ash as much as a partner. In some ways, Pokémon Journeys has made Ash a secondary protagonist alongside Goh, completely altering the standard dynamic Ash has enjoyed with his companions.
Goh is also an interesting character. He's particular, almost meticulous, but equally passionate about his goals. He makes for a protagonist nearly as compelling as Ash, and the two work as foils to one another.
2. Dawn and Brock
By his final time as Ash's traveling companion, Brock had become an established fixture in Ash's life, one that, throughout the arc, began to move onto his own pasture. Dawn, however, brought something unique to the table: genuine insecurities.
Most of Ash's other companions were confident or self-assured in some way. Dawn wasn't, and over the course of her journey, she had to grow up -- and fast. Dawn's development proved instrumental to the Sinnoh arc's focus on personal growth. While she occasionally grated on fan nerves, that was part of her messy development, one reflected in Ash as he rose to challenge his rival, Paul. The result is a perfect balance between maturity and immaturity.
1. Misty and Brock
The original team is the best team. Misty and Brock were there when Ash was a new trainer, seeing him develop from his early beginnings to his eventual growth into maturity. This team saw Ash through both the Kanto and Johto Leagues and proved so popular that Brock remained around for years later, and Misty's return to the franchise would spark excitement even over a decade after her departure.
Why do they work? Brock is both a mature role model for Ash to follow as well as an immature flirt. On the other hand, Misty is an experienced, sassy girl who is still trying to find her way after growing up in a household where she wasn't valued. The team helped Ash mature from an ambitious child to a potential Pokémon Master. For that reason alone, no other team has had as significant an impact on Ash's development as Misty and Brock.