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Ash Ketchum, the protagonist of the Pokémon anime since April of 1997, is hanging up his hat after 25 years.

The Pokémon Company announced that both Ash and Pikachu will appear in 11 more episodes to wrap up the iconic duo’s story. In a press release, Pokémon Company confirmed these episodes will feature fan-favorite Pokémon and characters, including Misty and Brock, in addition to giving fans a glimpse at Ash and his Pikachu’s future. These episodes will air in Japan starting January 13, 2023.

“The forthcoming special episodes not only celebrate Ash’s monumental achievement, but they also act as an expression of gratitude from Pokémon to all the fans who have joined him and his partner Pokémon Pikachu along the way,” the Pokémon Company said.

This move is somewhat surprising given just how iconic Ash is to Pokémon. However, there were hints. The last season of the anime — Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series — ended with Ash becoming world champion.

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It’s hard to over estimate how impactful the Pokémon anime was for the franchise. It served as a easy entry point and helped make Pokémon the most valuable media franchise in the world. It also introduced anime to many viewers outside of Japan. Especially for fans who grew up with Ash and Pikachu, this change will be emotional.

While details about what’s next for the series are scarce, the announcement did tease the new protagonists of the upcoming Pokémon Scarlet and Violet inspired chapter of the anime. The series will feature the region’s starters — Sprigatito, Fuecoco and Quaxly — as well as the legendary Rayquaza.

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