It's a question that has plagued us for years. You've probably woken up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, mind wandering back and forth over the possible answer to this Rubik's Cube of a conundrum. How can we ever get to the bottom of it?
That question, of course, is how come Ash never seems to age in the entire duration of the Pokémon TV show. Well, if you're prepared for an entirely new way of looking at one of your childhood favorites, check out this fan theory that suggests the whole story gets a lot deeper than the main character's age.
In the first episode, Ash is getting to know his newfound friend Pikachu as he starts his adventures through Kanto
The theory argues that the tone, pacing, and story development of the entire series differs wildly from its opening episode. At this point, everything is a little more realistic and grounded than later episodes, and Pikachu and Ash have a strained, even antagonistic relationship.
Everything changes when Ash pisses off a flock of Spearrows
Without Pikachu under control, Ash is helpless and can do nothing but flee.
When the weather turns nasty, it looks like Ash gets struck by lightning
At the very least, he and Pikachu are knocked out after the Pokémon electrocutes the flock to protect his new companion.
The next scene shows Ash waking up, but this theory asserts that this is the start of his comatose state
And what we see from here on out is Ash trying to escape his coma, with all resulting characters and places representing some aspect of his personality and growth. The gyms, legendary Pokémon, and rivals that he encounters are the mental barriers he needs to demolish before he can finally wake up.
The coma theory explains why Ash never appears to age
The long-running joke about Ash's permanent Peter Pan-syndrome gets an explanation with this theory. While his body lays dormant, his mental vision of himself remains the same, and the story we see is the one inside his head.
And why every Pokemon Center attendant is Nurse Joy
She was a friend of Ash's from Pallet Town, so he reproduces her likeness in every new town he visits.
Same goes for Officer Jenny
Both Jenny and Joy represent the support and stability from his childhood, so they allow him to feel safe on his adventures despite traveling to strange places regularly.
Brock is a projection of Ash's repressed sexuality
As a pubescent kid, Ash never really got to explore any sexual outlets, which is where Brock comes in. His overzealous hunger for women is childish, and he appropriately fails to ever maintain a significant relationship. The theory argues that Brock represents a paternal aspect of Ash as well, i.e. the need to take care of his family and friends.
Having met Misty before the accident, she represents his resistance to maturity
She's constantly pushing him to grow up, but when she actually becomes more adult (when she wants to keep Togepi), Ash can't handle it. As a result, she eventually fades into the background.
Lastly, Pikachu is Ash's remaining humanity, which he must protect at all costs
Team Rocket represent his internal negative qualities that could lead to his downfall if he gives in to them. They are constantly pursuing Pikachu, but Ash is staunchly opposed to letting them take away this most fundamental aspect of himself. This is also why he refuses to evolve Pikachu, as that would mean coming face-to-face with his own growth and need for maturing.
If you've read some of my previous posts on fan theories, you probably know that I'm really not a huge fan of "the coma theory." It's a variation of the "it was all a dream" angle and often feels like a major cop-out. However, this one doesn't take away too much from the story, it just adds another layer to thinking about Pokémon in a new way.
It was always a fun show for a quick escape, but maybe there was always a deeper message lurking below the surface.