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Why was the Ash and Gary's rivalry so underdeveloped?

Discussion in 'Pokémon Animé Discussion' started by Jeal, Sep 7, 2019.

  1. Jeal

    Jeal Well-Known Member

    They didn't battled in the entire Kanto saga. Their first battle was in the Orange Islands final episode. His appearances were so far apart from each other(In Johto, he basically didn't exist). And he didn't even become the Viridian Gym Leader.

    Even in Hoenn, Ash had no rival. Why was rivalries in the early anime so lame?
    Togekiis, LilligantLewis and Emelie like this.
  2. Aduro

    Aduro Mt.BtlMaster

    There was generally very little emphasis on continuity in the anime. With nearly every episode being self-contained, with new and simple stock characters and new problems.. There was no binge watching or even Sky+ type stuff at the time so they couldn't rely on kids having seen the setup for each episode and the anime underestimated their audience. I think there was a worry about turning younger fans away by expecting them to have all the right information in the right order

    It was still very disappointing that they only had a few of battles, which were far apart from each other. Ash was still very much the up and coming trainer at the end of the Indigo League and wasn't ready to beat Gary yet. And he definitely should have gotten some close battles with Ash in Johto. I remember being confused as a kid as to why Gary was behaving like a totally different person before the Silver Conference.

    Ironically the first really decent consistent rival characters were May's and they were from contests, where there were no rivals in the games.
  3. satopi

    satopi SM Ash is best Ash! All hail Champion Ash!

    Underdeveloped... but still begging for more. I always loved their relationship even though they didn’t battle much. Whenever they did, it never cease to excite me!!
  4. Doppelgänger

    Doppelgänger Superancient Member

    It wasn't underdeveloped. Gary didn't need to battle Ash to show how much better he was, he proved it by beating the gyms faster, catching a wide number of Pokemon and fully evolving almost everything he caught. Gary's flashy privilege - his lineage, his connections, his entourage, and his car - were a complete foil to Ash. Ash was no match for Gary in Kanto, but him going further in the Pokemon League with an "inexperienced" team was meant to show to both Ash and Gary that there is more to being a trainer than privilege, and both had more to learn.

    The theme of Gary's character was he was always "ahead" of Ash, and I think if the anime failed to really clarify that character is following his seminal moment, battling Mewtwo. It and the Pokemon League defeat should have shown dramatic maturity that I wish was on better display when Ash meets him again. To further the "ahead" theme, Gary should have been the first to grow up, moving past the childish flaunting and motivating Ash to be a mature adult too. The loss to Umbreon should have been a metaphor that titles don't mean anything for personal growth.

    If anything, I think Ash beating Gary was less about Ash and more about Gary realizing his heart wasn't in battling anymore. Him becoming a researcher at the end was a great way to end the rivalry, it just needed to be better shown beyond just a single battle and then long absence leading into the Silver Conference.

    For the record, Unova tried to recreate this dynamic with Trip and Bianca, and failed miserably. Bianca was also ahead of Ash, evolving her Tepig quickly and beating Lenora's Gym despite being dumber and more immature than Ash. Trip caught a wide number of Pokemon and evolved them. But Trip lacked the childhood friend relationship that Gary had, and neither Bianca nor Trip having any kind of privilege beyond their own talents, made them more irritating and less motivating than Gary was.

    I think Gary was a good rival and the OS handled him surprisingly well.
  5. The sparsity of their battles is what makes their big battle at the Silver Conference so special. It was a rare event with a lot of personal stakes that had been built up throughout the show, had a great climax and pay-off, and continues to live long in the memories of viewers.

    Ash and Gary's lack of battles is a common criticism, but did they need to fight each other more? The show made it clear why they disliked each other and what was at stake for both of them. Their rivalry is the most personal one in the whole series, going back to when they were kids fighting over a single Pokeball. Gary was always the talented one with the famous family lineage, while Ash was the bumbling idiot living with a single parent. Gary starts his adventure being chauffeured around with a posse of cheerleaders, while Ash starts his with a crowd gathered by his mother. Both wanted the same thing - to be the best trainer around - but Gary has all the advantages and is so far ahead of Ash we've no reason to believe Ash could actually win that race. Gary catches more Pokemon, he raises them better, and even collects 10 gym badges well before Ash even gets his 8th; Gary doesn't need to battle Ash to prove how much better he is.

    But then comes the clever twist at the Indigo Plateau. Gary exits the tournament early and Ash places better. Now all of a sudden, the gap between them doesn't seem so wide. Gary is still better, as he proves in their battle during the Orange Islands saga, but we're seeing Ash get better while Gary stagnates. By the time the Silver Conferences comes around, Ash is Gary's equal. The key thing here is that Gary was an established benchmark for Ash throughout the whole series. The rivalry was all about Ash catching-up to Gary's level, which we see throughout his journey.

    The one thing they could have done better was follow-up on Gary post Indigo Plateau. We see he changes his ways, becoming less arrogant, ditching his car and cheerleaders, and becoming friendlier with Ash, but more reflection from the character would have helped sell that change better.
  6. Jeal

    Jeal Well-Known Member

    Both make good points, but couldn't they have done it through battles too? Ash being completely defeated in the first battle, then slowly getting better, reaching Gary's level?
    Lunalah likes this.
  7. They could do, but repeated battles between the same trainers will eventually bore the audience. By the time the big final battle comes around, they already know what to expect. It's not a definitive rule or anything, but keeping two rivals apart until when it actually matters is a good way of making that encounter feel special.
  8. Doppelgänger

    Doppelgänger Superancient Member

    There's no point to any further battles except the one where Ash wins. The loss was to show that Ash still had work to do, while also humbling him off his Orange League championship. The win symbolized that he had surpassed Gary when it counted. It was also a swan song for Gary who, while a talented trainer, had clearly lost something after Indigo that led to his career change.

    Blue in the games was also humbled by his final loss to Red...except in GS, and I think this is what most people find endearing/nostalgic and wanted it out of the anime. That Blue could mature a bit, but still had some "Johto Boy" arrogance to him. Compared to Paul, Alain and Gladion (three different flavours of edgelord), Gary had a more unique, iconic personality.
  9. Jeal

    Jeal Well-Known Member

    I don't think so. Ash and Paul's rivalry is considered the best in the anime and they battled 6 times. They don't need to use the same pokémon in every battle.
    Lunalah and Emelie like this.
  10. Leonhart

    Leonhart Imagineer

    Shigeru's rivalry with Satoshi was a lot of wasted potential from my perspective. It could've been so much better if the writers had tried to give them a valid reason to dislike each other from the start, yet we didn't get enough insight on why they became rivals until the end of the Jouto saga. I felt that Shigeru losing at the Sekiei Conference was the turning point in his rivalry with Satoshi since his loss humbled him and made him mature, which I disliked since I preferred Shigeru when he was arrogant and immature.
    MockingJ, Lunalah and maartjeverhoef like this.
  11. Emelie

    Emelie Bookworm

    Shigeru's loss in the Indigo league always felt weird to me. He was built up to be this super amazing trainer who had one million badges, a fully evolved team and most importantly was based of Green from the games who was basically the final boss.

    But then he goes and loses way before Satoshi does. To add insult to injury Mewtwo randomly shows up in the anime despite being a movie character and beats him until he is unconscious for no reason. o_O

    Mabye this plot could have been done better. If Mewtwo had some kind of motivation for attacking him. Mabye if he was too harsh towards his Pokémon and Mewtwo saw this as confirmation that humans were bad. Mabye he gets some character development and starts questioning himself. They could even have used Shigeru instead of the Blastoise trainer and included him in the Mewtwo movie.

    It would have made the plot a little more consistent and been good character development. After having solved the Mewtwo issue together Shigeru and Satoshi could have had one last fight at the Indigo league before he gets written out of the show and replaced with a new rival in Johto (Silver?).
    MockingJ and Lunalah like this.
  12. TheWanderingMist

    TheWanderingMist Kanae, Keeper of the Gates Emblazoned

    That's the whole point. He was stronger than Ash but still lost before Ash did. And it's not way before Ash does, it's 1 round of difference. And for the first time, Ash came out ahead of Gary at something. It's also unique in that the rival and hero don't get to settle their battle at a big tournament. It's the only region to date to have this dynamic between rival and hero.

    Mewtwo showing up in the anime isn't random, it's what sets up the movie in the first place. It also shows that Gary isn't some unbeatable force.

    Gary isn't the type to be harsh to his Pokemon. He may send the weaker ones back to his grandfather, but he won't spew hatred and anger at them simply for losing.
  13. MockingJ

    MockingJ Banned

    The writers seemed to give up on the whole Ash and Gary rivalry/friendship pretty fast for whatever reason in Kanto, but in their defense they at least got back into it at the very end of the Orange Islands. I wish Gary had appeared in the islands themselves though.
    EmberFireTrainer, Emelie and Leonhart like this.
  14. Emelie

    Emelie Bookworm

    I still think it was a little weird that Giovanni and/or Mewtwo attacked him. Sure, he is a crime lord so it's not out of character for him to do that but why make himself look suspicious on purpose when he's supposed to hide his true identity? Especially since there were witnesses (the cheerleaders).

    Mabye it was Mewtwo who attacked him but what caused him to lash out on Gary specifically? I guess mabye he is just violent in general but that is a little boring.

    It also feels like a huge missed opportunity to tie this together with the Mewtwo movie. Wouldn't it have been cooler to see Gary fight Mewtwo instead of a random trainer who didn't get any character development anyway?
    Leonhart likes this.
  15. Leonhart

    Leonhart Imagineer

    Speaking of Mewtwo, I did wonder why Shigeru wasn't permanently shaken by his encounter with it. You'd think that him meeting a Pokemon that swept his team effortlessly would've changed his behavior and made him realize that he wasn't such a hot-shot trainer, yet his personality was kept the same until the end of the Orange Archipelago arc.
    HoundoomFan, MockingJ and Emelie like this.
  16. RedJirachi

    RedJirachi Veteran member

    I suspect one of two things why the kibosh was put on it
    • 1: Because money kept the series afloat, the end in sight got the kibosh along with resolving the Ash-Gary rivalry
    • 2: Ash's father was supposed to be the surprise challenger in an early draft who'd displace Gary, but that never went anywhere so they just got some random Ash clone in Ritchie to fill the role anyway
    JLK2707 likes this.
  17. JLK2707

    JLK2707 Well-Known Member

    Fair enough.
  18. MockingJ

    MockingJ Banned

    I don't think that Ash's dad was supposed to replace Gary, but you might have a point about Ritchie since he did kind of replace Gary as Ash's Indigo League rival.
    Emelie likes this.
  19. game3524

    game3524 Well-Known Member


    The writers never did this. Even when Gary doesn't appear, his presence loomed large over the series. The Ash/Gary rivalry was actually handled fairly well. They established Gary being ahead/better then Ash without having them have to battle all-time, which would just devalue the final battle. It is one reason why I find Ash/Paul slightly overrated, they fought too much.
  20. Doppelgänger

    Doppelgänger Superancient Member

    Battling was fine with Paul because their dynamic was a contrast of philosophy/training style, and Paul's repeated wins hammered home the message that he was right and Ash was wrong. The character test came about from Ash having to stand firm in his beliefs on raising Pokemon that brought him the win over Brandon that Paul couldn't reach.

    With Gary, catching more Pokemon and evolving them was more to show that Gary was ahead, and that Ash would eventually reach that stage given enough time. Sure enough, the team he used against Gary in the Silver Conference were almost all fully evolved. The only one who wasn't, Bayleef, ended up losing without a KO.
    Emelie likes this.

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