The Hoenn region is where the Pokémon anime and Ash really start to hit their respective strides, despite the first two generations generally being more popular with casual followers of the franchise. Not a retread of the Orange Islands arc, the Ruby & Sapphire series of the anime explores a different dynamic in traveling companions for Ash, replacing Misty with siblings May and Max.
Ash is also growing as a Pokémon Trainer, albeit slowly, still with some glaring inconsistencies and ignorance surrounding past mistakes, but his battles appear to be improving overall. With battles against wild Pokémon and Team Rocket not counting as official battles (as they never have concrete rules and often deviate into chaos), Ash’s first batch of battles in this new region go rather well, with him only losing against Gym Leaders.
10Norman Showcased Why The Petalburg Gym Isn’t Suitable For Newcomers (Result: Loss)
After discovering that May’s father Norman is the Petalburg City Gym Leader, an excited Ash challenges him, despite only having one Pokémon to his name, which means it has to be an unofficial match by the Gym’s rules. Pikachu faces off against Norman’s intimidating Vigoroth and although Pikachu shows promising signs of speed and agility, he is ultimately no match for Vigoroth and is defeated rather easily.
A classic Team Rocket interruption immediately after the climax of the battle ruins any chance of reflection or advice from Norman, thrusting Ash and Pikachu straight into another conflict. However, when the dust settles, this defeat doesn’t dishearten Ash, it instead fires him up for the rest of his Hoenn Campaign.
9Ash Picked Up Momentum With A Victory Over A Random Trainer (Result: Win)
As Ash and friends get started with their Hoenn adventures, now with Brock in tow, Ash has his first battle on the road, against an unnamed trainer with a Beedrill. Ash now has more than just Pikachu, having caught Taillow in the previous episode, but uses his best buddy anyway.
Pikachu is hit by Beedrill’s Twineedle but is ultimately able to pick up a win for Ash, giving him momentum to build upon as he nears his first official Gym challenge of the Hoenn region. Max criticizes Ash for not having Pikachu dodge the opposing Twineedle, establishing an interesting dynamic between the two.
8Anthony Adopted A Bizarre, Winning Strategy (Result: Draw)
On his way to take on the first Gym challenge of Hoenn, Ash stumbles across a trainer named Anthony, who hosts an unofficial Gym and claims that Pelipper is the world’s most powerful Pokémon. When they battle, Anthony’s Pelipper comes under scrutiny when it is seen using Vine Whip, Flamethrower, and Thunder – moves that it should not be able to use – to defeat Treecko, Taillow, and Pikachu.
Pelipper does take super-effective damage from Pikachu’s attack, however, resulting in a double knockout, and ending the battle as an unofficial draw. Anthony is later exposed by Team Rocket, who discover that Pelipper simply carries other Pokémon in its mouth and has them use the various moves from a hidden vantage point.
7Franklin Introduced Ash To Double Battles (Result: Win)
“All in a Day’s Wurmple” sees the introduction of Double Battles to the anime, with a trainer named Franklin telling Ash how it is an accepted form of battling in Hoenn. With Brock refereeing, Ash calls upon Treecko and Pikachu while Franklin uses Yanma and Ariados.
Ash discovers a new sensation with the intensity of Double Battles, understanding the need for concentration and team synergy. Pikachu and Treecko are able to secure the win for Ash, after dodging several attacks and launching a counterattack of their own. This battle also serves as a chance for Pikachu to practice its newly-learned Iron Tail, with varying levels of success.
6Pikachu Was Able To Make Use Of Iron Tail (Result: Win)
In “The Winner by a Nosepass,” Ash faces off against Rustboro’s Roxanne in his first official Gym battle in the Hoenn region. The 2-on-2 bout does not start particularly well for Ash, however, with him losing Treecko early on to Roxanne’s Geodude, and Pikachu uses up a lot of energy in getting past the Rock Pokémon.
Pikachu versus Nosepass is the showdown to determine whether Ash can earn the Stone Badge or not, and in several moments, it looks like Nosepass is too much for Pikachu, despite their extensive Iron Tail training beforehand. In the end, Pikachu digs deep and emerges victorious, earning Ash the badge.
5Ash Lost His Cool Against Brawly In Their First Battle (Result: Loss)
Aside from battling wild Pokémon and having scuffles with Team Rocket and Team Aqua, Ash has very little practice in between earning his first Gym Badge of Hoenn and attempting to win his second. In “Brave the Wave,” Ash and company arrive in Dewford City, meeting the Gym Leader Brawly almost immediately.
After some persistent pestering, Ash convinces Brawly to accept his challenge and the two square of in a 2-on-2 battle. Brawly’s Machop quickly defeats Taillow and tires out Ash’s Treecko before falling itself. Treecko puts up a valiant effort against Brawly’s Makuhita, but after it evolves into Hariyama mid-battle, the tired Treecko doesn’t stand a chance and is knocked out, leaving Brawly as the winner.
4Shauna Was The Ideal Opponent For Ash (Result: Win)
“A Meditite Fight!” sees Ash almost ready to initiate his rematch with Brawly, having been constantly training in a bid to improve. One such session is interrupted by a trainer named Shauna, claiming to be a student of Brawly’s, and, after some Ash-like nagging, they have their battle. Pikachu versus Meditite is quickly interrupted when Brawly arrives, but after a scuffle with Team Rocket, they decide to resume their battle. Pikachu shines and manages to avoid Meditite’s devastating High Jump Kick, leaving it vulnerable to one last Thunderbolt that finishes it off, securing the victory for Ash.
3Treecko Was Better Against Hariyama The Second Time (Result: Win)
Despite Pikachu’s impressive victory over Shauna just moments earlier, Ash opts to use his recently-caught Corphish and Treecko against Brawly’s Machop and Hariyama. Corphish is able to knock out the Machop before falling to Hariyama, setting up the same finale as the first bout, Treecko versus Hariyama.
Treecko and Hariyama have another fiercely fought contest, this time with Ash keeping his cool and not ordering full-blown offense. Treecko is eventually able to pick up the victory by the narrowest of margins, earning Ash the Knuckle Badge.
2Ash’s Taillow Battled May’s Beautifly In A Practice Bout (Result: Brock Called Off The Battle)
Ash and May have a practice battle in “Now That’s Flower Power” to get May ready for her upcoming Pokémon Contest, with Beautifly going up against Ash’s Taillow. Brock oversees the match as its referee and decides to call it after Taillow lands a hard hit on Beautifly, appearing to deal quite a bit of damage.
Beautifly showcases an impressive String Shot but May’s nerves and hesitation ultimately cost her making any further headway in this practice battle.
1Ash Had The Easiest Gym Battle Win Of His Life Against Wattson (Result: Win)
Having had plenty of practice in battling and dealing with Team Rocket since his last Gym battle, Ash feels ready for his third Hoenn Gym challenge, against Mauville City’s Wattson. In an unprecedented turn of events, one of Wattson’s traps at the Gym inadvertently supercharges Ash’s Pikachu, making it incredibly powerful in time for their battle. Pikachu hits three powerful electric-type moves on Wattson’s own three Electric types, knocking Magnemite, Magneton, and Voltorb out with relative ease.