Pokémon at 25: The Anime’s Best Additions to the Franchise

The Pokémon franchise is no stranger to the concept of inter-franchise crossovers -- whether it's adapting the games to a manga or bringing older Pokémon to newer games. Pokémon is always using every outlet available to improve upon its core mechanics and narrative. This sort of interconnectivity allows great ideas and concepts to come from (and be used in) any of the franchise's merchandise.

Following Pokémon Red and Green's 1996 release, the on-going anime initially aired in 1997 and continues to add its own unique elements to the growing world. Here, in chronological order, are some of the anime's best additions to the Pokémon franchise.

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Ash And Pikachu From Pokemon

While the prospect of choosing your favorite Pokémon to journey the world with is already something fans adore, Ash's Pikachu was the first with a hatred of being cooped up in a Poké Ball. The idea of walking with Pikachu was so iconic that Pokémon Yellow was released to emulate the anime, with Pikachu following the protagonist everywhere. While the concept would appear in HeartGold, SoulSilver, Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee, and Sword and Shield, most games keep their Pokémon pals in their Poké Balls at all times -- much to the disappointment of many who like walking with their partners.

Similarly, the concept of giving Pokémon personalities -- while it makes sense from a narrative perspective -- was initially unique to the anime. The Nature mechanic wasn't introduced until Ruby and Sapphire and influenced Pokémon's stats. The titles of the Natures -- Lonely, Hardy, Timid, and Jolly (to name a few) -- all served to give a personality to the pixels. It even touched on favorite and disliked flavors, potentially another nod to the anime, referencing Pikachu's love of ketchup.

Thanks to the anime's Pokémon being treated as living breathing creatures, playing with and petting your powerful pals was commonplace in that world. However, the ability to pet any Pokémon you catch wouldn't be implemented into the main series games until Pokémon-Amie in X and and has remained to this day. Other games, such as Hey You, Pikachu! and the Pokémon Pikachu step-counter, based their entire concepts around the idea of interacting with your companions. Playing with your Pokémon changes their affection and allows them to earn more experience in battle, and even tough out otherwise devastating attacks.

Team Rocket & Ash Team Ups, Featured

Perhaps one of the most iconic additions from the anime franchise is the Team Rocket trio of Jessie, James and Meowth. While they were originally unique to the anime, they've shown up in games from Yellow to Masters EX, bringing a unique comedic flair and challenge with their scheming, conniving ways. Team Rocket is a set of characters that we enjoy watching lose, panic or breaking the fourth wall for a joke. The comedy they add to the series and general incompetence -- yet strangely noble nature, given their love of evil -- has made them an unforgettable inclusion.

With Team Rocket also comes the double battle. While now a staple of the games, Team Rocket introduced the concept during Season 1, Episode 3, "Ash Catches a Pokémon," where they sent out both Ekans and Koffing to battle Ash, despite his protest that "the Pokémon League rules say only one at a time." Thanks to Misty's prompting, and a well-placed sludge attack incapacitating Pikachu, Ash does bring out his newly-caught Pidgeotto and participates in the franchise's first double battle -- although a relatively unorthodox one.

Ash's Butterfree and his mate from Pokémon

The anime also was the first to introduce Shiny or alternately colored Pokémon with the female Butterfree in Season 1, Episode 20, "Bye, Bye Butterfree." While a more standard shiny would be added to Ash's team in the form of Noctowl during the Johto saga (complete with sparkles), the fact remains that odd-colored Pokémon were once unique to the show.

The anime also introduced Poké Ride ages before Sun and Moon's release, with Ash entering a race riding a Ponyta back in Season 1, Episode 33, "The Flame Pokémon-athon!" While Ponyta would not become an official ride Pokémon, Charizard certainly would, and it's difficult to forget the many times that Ash rode his Charizard throughout the series.

Despite being a more recent development, the anime also had plenty of giant Pokémon, with some even having unique never-before-seen forms, such as in Season 2, Episode 18, "The Ancient Puzzle of Pokémopolis." At that time, "unique form" translated to "has stripes," but they could still be seen as early forms of Dynamax and Gigantamax.

Thanks to a relatively recent translation of a blog post from one of Pokémon's head writers, the late Takeshi Shudo, we now know that Lugia -- yes, the Pokémon Silver mascot -- was explicitly created for the second Pokémon movie. The powerful Psychic-Flying type legendary is the prize of many trainers, even featured in the GameCube game Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness with a unique shadow form.

Finally, while it has yet to be implemented into the games, Contest Battles remain some of the most ingenious and imaginative battles the franchise has ever seen. In the games, contests are a simple matter of using the right moves at the right time. In the show, the battle round is where things heat up by creating unique combinations of moves while remembering that you aren't trying to beat your opponent but outperform them. It left many would-be coordinators eager to try out combinations for themselves -- but unfortunately, it may be sometime before contest battles are integrated into the games.

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