What if Ash evolved Pikachu?

Pikachu has become one of the most iconic Pokémon of all time, being the mascot for the Pokémon franchise and Ash’s faithful companion throughout the Pokémon anime series. However, Ash has never evolved Pikachu into its final evolution, Raichu. This leads to the question: What if Ash had decided to evolve Pikachu into Raichu? How would this have changed the story and perception of the iconic Electric-type Pokémon?

In the anime, Ash expresses his desire to keep Pikachu unevolved as a symbol of their strong bond and friendship. However, evolving Pikachu could have provided a number of potential benefits in battle. As a Raichu, Pikachu would have much greater speed, special attack, and access to more powerful Electric-type moves. This could have led to Ash winning many major battles he lost with Pikachu. On the other hand, the evolution may have changed the personality and close relationship between Ash and Pikachu.

How Does Evolution Work in Pokémon?

In the Pokémon games and anime, evolution is a key process that allows Pokémon to transform into new and more powerful forms. When a Pokémon reaches a certain level or is exposed to specific evolution triggers like evolutionary stones, they begin to evolve. The evolution causes the Pokémon to physically change shape and take on a new appearance. It also typically boosts their stats like HP, Attack, Defense, making them stronger in battle.

For example, the iconic starter Pokémon Bulbasaur evolves into Ivysaur at level 16, then into Venusaur at level 32. With each evolution, its physical form changes and it becomes larger and more formidable. A major goal for Trainers is deciding when and how to evolve their Pokémon to create the strongest possible team.

Pikachu’s Evolutionary Line

Pikachu actually has two evolutionary forms it can take:

  • Pikachu – The initial Electric Pokémon Ash started with and has never evolved.
  • Raichu – The evolved form of Pikachu after being exposed to a Thunder Stone. Raichu is larger, orange and yellow, and can floating on its tail.

In the anime, Ash receives Pikachu as his starter Pokémon early on their journey. Traditionally, Trainers use evolution to amplify their starters’ power. But for whatever reason, Ash chooses not to evolve Pikachu for the entire span of the anime so far.

Why Didn’t Ash Evolve Pikachu?

Ash likely had several reasons for not evolving his Pikachu:

  • Wanted to keep its speed and agility – Raichu gains additional power, but at the cost of reduced speed which can make it less useful against faster foes.
  • Prefer its personality – Pikachu is smart, feisty, and energetic. Ash may have wanted to preserve these traits.
  • No access to a Thunder Stone – Early on in their travels, finding a Thunder Stone to trigger evolution may have been challenging.
  • Bonding experience – Ash and Pikachu share a close, unbreakable friendship. Keeping Pikachu unevolved strengthens this over time.

Still, there are definite benefits he passed up that require exploration.

Benefits of Evolving Pikachu

If Ash had evolved Pikachu into Raichu, there could have been several advantages:

  • Increased stats – Raichu has much higher Special Attack and Speed compared to Pikachu. This boost could have decimated many opponents.
  • New moves – Raichu learns moves Pikachu can’t like Hyper Beam and Thunderbolt providing more type coverage.
  • Changing strategies – A Raichu may have altered Ash’s battle style and approach against Gym Leaders forcing him to raise new Pokémon.
  • Help winning leagues – The stat increases and moveset could have helped Ash perform better in Pokémon League tournaments.

Raising a Raichu from the start likely would have made Ash’s Kanto journey significantly easier. It’s possible he could have defeated his long-time rival Gary Oak much earlier as well.

How Evolving Pikachu Could Change Ash’s Journey

If Ash had evolved Pikachu into Raichu from the beginning, it could have major ripple effects on his Pokémon journey including:

  • Defeating Gym Leaders much faster with Raichu’s greater power.
  • Filling his team with new Pokémon he never originally caught since Raichu would be his powerhouse.
  • Altering his battle strategies to rely more on Raichu’s Electric attacks.
  • Possibly placing higher in Pokémon League tournaments with Raichu’s stats.
  • Not learning lessons about bonding and raising Pokémon without evolving them.
  • Changing his relationships and interactions with other characters who may view Raichu differently.

A Raichu would make Ash’s Kanto journey simpler, but also remove opportunities for catching other Pokémon and forming close friendships outside of battle.

Could Raichu Have Defeated Legendaries and Rivals?

In addition to Gym Leaders, Ash faces challenging Legendary Pokémon and tough Trainer rivals like Gary Oak throughout the anime. Could evolving Pikachu into Raichu have helped Ash perform better against these powerful foes?

Legendary Pokémon

Against Legendary Pokémon like Mewtwo, Raikou, and Regice, Raichu’s increased special attack could have given Ash a better chance. Its evolved stats would let it withstand Legendary attacks better and dish out more damage. However, Legendaries are designed to be incredibly powerful. A Raichu alone may not have been enough for Ash to defeat ones like Ho-Oh or Lugia. He likely would need to raise a full, balanced team of evolved Pokémon.


A Raichu could have potentially given Ash an edge over rivals like Gary Oak early on. In the anime, Gary’s starter Eevee evolves into a variety of powerful forms like Flareon. With a Raichu, Ash could have had the power to defeat Gary in key battles including the Indigo League. This would fundamentally change their dynamic and rivalry across regions. However, rivals like Paul trained highly skilled teams, so solely relying on Raichu would likely not be enough to defeat them.

How Would Raichu Change the Anime’s Plot?

If Ash evolved Pikachu into Raichu, it could significantly change parts of the anime’s overarching plot:

  • Team Rocket likely has a much harder time stealing a powerful Raichu, changing their schemes.
  • Raichu beating Giovanni’s Pokémon could thwart Team Rocket’s plans earlier.
  • Ash relies less on befriending Pokémon, instead battling with brute force.
  • Fans potentially complain about “boring” Raichu after decades with Pikachu.
  • Replaces touching Pikachu moments with less emotive Raichu.

A Raichu would make Ash’s initial Kanto journey simpler. But it may undermine key themes of friendship and bonding which are central to the anime. Much of Pikachu’s ongoing popularity comes from its expressions, close bond with Ash, and refusal to evolve. Raichu could feel less emotional or expressive as a constant brute force winning battles.

How An Evolved Pikachu Could Change Ash’s Legacy

As an unevolved Pokémon, Pikachu has become a central part of Ash’s legacy and persona:

  • Pikachu is Ash’s signature Pokémon, always by his side and representing him.
  • Both are recognized for preferring skill and heart over sheer power.
  • Pikachu reflects Ash’s growth across regions beginning as inexperienced but improving.
  • Their close friendship demonstrates Ash’s care for Pokémon beyond battling.

If Pikachu stayed a Raichu, this could alter Ash’s legacy:

  • Ash becomes known for brute strength over building bonds.
  • Lacks a clear unique starter Pokémon mascot.
  • Character development focuses on assembling strong teams rather than personal growth.
  • Perceived as a winning Trainer but less emphasis on friendships.

Ash’s legacy centers around Pikachu representing unrealized potential, trust and friendship. Trading this for a forcibly overpowered Raichu could change how fans view his journey and character forever.

How Would the Anime Change If Ash Had a Raichu?

Here are some potential implications if Ash evolved Pikachu into Raichu early on:

  • Pikachu’s iconic design is replaced on tons of merchandise.
  • Opening songs don’t feature Pikachu, changing the nostalgic tunes.
  • Team Rocket likely alters schemes to steal a Raichu instead.
  • Ash relies more on Raichu reducing team diversity.
  • Less touching Pikachu moments impact iconic episodes.
  • Ash develops a reputation for overwhelming force over strategy.
  • Fans complain about the lack of expressive Pikachu.

Evolving such an iconic Pokémon could radically reshape the anime. As the mascot, Pikachu has become intrinsically tied to the spirit and tone of the long-running series. Losing Pikachu fundamentally alters Ash’s story and journey through each region.


Despite the potential battle advantages, Ash likely made the right choice not evolving Pikachu. Their resulting friendship and small victories demonstrate that skillful training can surpass sheer power. Keeping Pikachu unevolved preserves its energetic personality and the engaging underdog narrative. Ash’s legacy is shaped by growth and bonds – not brute strength. Beyond stats, Pikachu represents unrealized potential and heart. Evolving it may have diminished the anime’s most touching qualities and character growth moments. For longtime fans, Pokémon represents more than just winning battles.

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