"Smell ya later!”
Ah, such a simple phrase, but one that can instill a level of rage and fury that is still unprecedented.
The iconic quote above is delivered by the insufferable Gary Oak, who acts as the major rival for Ash Ketchum during a good chunk of the Pokémon anime.
From the very first episode, both Gary and Ash were unable to stand the sight of one another, and the ensuing squabbles between the two became the stuff of Saturday morning cartoon legends. Of course, we were happy to support our main man Ash, but there was always a part of us that appreciated Gary for being “too cool for school,” so their encounters were even more appealing.
Despite the obvious set-up of two paper-thin characters poised to compete with each other (which is one of the oldest tropes in the book), there’s actually a lot more going on with the two Pokémon Trainers than you might think… and it goes well beyond the realm of a mere rivalry.
In fact, there’s so many weird and unexpected elements about the relationship between these two characters that we’ve compiled them into this list, fittingly titled Pokémon: 25 Wild Revelations About Ash And Gary's Rivalry.
Some of these revelations are minor (but bizarre), some are earth-shattering and groundbreaking, while others deal less with the in-universe world and more with real life, such as unexpected origins for the ever-competitive duo.
Oh, and fair warning: we are going to tackle one specific theory that isn’t exactly confirmed, but has enough supporting evidence that it may as well be.
25 Their Wildly Different Badge Collections
A theme we’ll be seeing a lot on this list is the sort of yin-and-yang relationship that Ash and Gary have. Both are vastly different in many ways, and their ability to collect Badges, along with the types of Badges they get, are an example of this.
Early on in Ash’s journey, he struggled to collect a measly few Kanto Badges, but when he came across Gary, he already had an enormous amount, many of which were from Gyms that Ash hadn’t even heard of!
24 Gary Has A Fruitful Love Life… While Ash Has Misty
Ash can’t seem to find luck in Pokémon or love. Sure, he’s a prophesied chosen one and rediscovered prehistoric Pokémon, but this poor kid can’t seem to find a date, even when Misty is clearly pining for one.
Gary, on the other hand, has his hands full with an entire group of women he considers to be his “girlfriends.” Yes, every last one of his cheerleaders are apparently in a relationship with him.
We’re not here to debate the ethics of the situation, but it’s safe to say that Ash lacks game.
23 Gary Might Actually Be Canon To The Games (But Not Ash)
This is a bit of a fuzzy situation, but Gary and Ash have debatable levels of canonicity within the games.
Red isn't Ash, that much is clear. But Blue, on the other hand, has a multitude of similarities to Gary, some of which are hard to ignore, chiefly that they’re both Professor Oak’s grandchild.
Not only is Ash beaten every step of the way by Gary, he’s not even canon when compared to Gary. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but it is what it is.
22 Gary Has A LOT More Pokémon
Ash is supposedly aiming to become a Pokémon Master, but he could have fooled us. His collection of Pocket Monsters is bizarrely small, and he doesn’t seem all that interested in catching more.
This is in stark contrast to Gary, whose collection of Pokémon is staggeringly large, going so far as to have 200 of them early on in the series.
How is it that Ash is so feeble and disinterested in his supposed goal while Gary is almost supernaturally gifted in the art?
21 Gary Can Drive, Ash Can Barely Ride A Bike
On one’s quest to become a Pokémon Master, there’s a lot of travel and transit. In the games, you’ll mostly be using a bicycle and your Pokémon to efficiently travel, but in the series, Ash and his crew tend to walk.
That’s fine, but why don’t they just drive like Gary?
Not only is Gary a skilled Trainer, but he’s also got a license and a car, which exponentially speeds up his quest, literally leaving Ash behind in the dust.
20 Gary Took Ash's Starter Pokémon
We’ve mostly been discussing how Ash and Gary are absurdly opposite through this list so far, but here’s a revelation that focuses on something that share in common: both of them wanted Squirtle.
We’re not sure what appealed to them about the Tiny Turtle Pokémon, but it clearly resonated with both of the boys.
Unfortunately for Ash, he was too late to pick his prize and Gary beat him to it. Perhaps this is the moment that caused the duo to forever go in opposite directions?
19 Gary Has A Bad History With Stickers
Imagine this: Pokéfever is in full swing. You’re a kid and you consume all things Pokémon. On a routine trip to the store, you see some Pokémon stickers and absolutely must have them. Upon the purchase, you gleefully inspect your newfound treasure and see that Gary (your favorite!) is one of the stickers… except his name is Bailey? What?
Yep, for whatever reason, Gary was known as “Bailey” on some early Pokémon stickers.
While both Ash and Gary have appeared as stickers, their paths deviate once again in terms who gets named accurately and who doesn’t.
18 Ash Isn't The Only One To Have Legendary Encounters
Despite the fact that we’ve done little to hide our disappointment in Ash as a Trainer and a person, we do have to give him credit for the amount of times he prevented various apocalypses, or how lucky he is when he has multiple once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as seeing one-of-a-kind Pokémon like Ho-Oh.
Gary DID have his own special experience, though, and quite awhile before Ash did. We’re of course talking about his battle and meeting with Mewtwo.
Before the Genetic Pokémon broke free of his bonds, Gary encountered it at Viridian Gym before the events of the film.
17 Gary Has Never Battled A Champion
Gary is a superior Pokémon Trainer, and a skilled battler, that much is certain. Ash generally pales in comparison when it comes to catching, training and even battling, but he’s somehow battled multiple Champions… something that Gary never has.
This is yet another case of the rivals being opposites, but what makes it so weird is that this is like an opposite of an opposite. Shouldn’t the most gifted Trainer, and not the small fry, be the one to encounter Champions?
16 Gary And Ash's Social Class Warfare
Ash doesn’t seem to be poor, but he has an apparently single parent and seemingly no other family (minus a one-time mention of a Grandfather in Japanese.)
Gary, on the other hand, is not only directly related to the incredibly prominent Professor Oak, but he’s also the grandnephew of Pallet Town’s mayor, according to the novelization.
So while Ash has minimal family, and struggles to fight for everything he has, Gary basically has everything handed to him (including his “girlfriends,” as they are apparently the mayoral staff!)
15 They Both Have Puntastic Names
The dub name of Ash Ketchum is an obvious pun, with “Ketchum” being a play on words regarding the series slogan “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.” Pretty much everyone knows that, right?
What you might not know, however, is that “Gary Oak” is a pun as well. Obviously, all of the Professors in the various games are named after trees, but the “Gary” portion is part of the equation, too!
There’s actually a tree called a “Garry Oak,” so Gary’s name is really a double-duty pun, and we love it.
14 Gary And Ash Have Shared The Silver Screen
This isn’t exactly impressive, but it’s nice to know that, despite their differences in personality and skill, Gary and Ash have both appeared on the silver screen together.
When it comes to theatrical versions of television shows, there’s always a risk that certain characters won’t appear (like Krillin and basically the majority of the Dragon Ball cast in Broly), but that fate didn’t occur for Gary in the first film.
We remember being ridiculously excited to see Gary make his appearance, despite it being an incredibly brief cameo, but still, he was there and that’s all that mattered to us.
13 Gary One Ups Ash On Film
Gary basically does nothing else but one up Ash at every chance he gets and in essentially every category, from Pokémon, relationships, transportation and much more.
Gary also manages to one up Ash in Pokémon: The First Movie, despite his miniscule role.
Discounting the Pikachu’s Vacation short, Gary appears well before Ash does during the actual main feature.
That might not seem like much of a big deal, and maybe it’s not, but it’s hilarious to consider that even in the movie, Gary manages to show up before Ash does, just like he does everywhere else.
12 Both Come From Arguably Broken Homes
We’ve already mentioned that Ash seemingly has no family other than his Mother, and that Gary is part of some upper class family/cabal with Professor Oak and Pallet Town’s mayor.
The two boys do have something in common, though, and that’s the absence of a parent or, in Gary’s case, both parents.
Gary’s mother and father were tragically lost in a car crash before the series, but we don’t know for sure what happened to Ash’s father, as there are conflicting explanations about him.
11 Gary Ends Up With A Real Job
One of the explanations for the absence of Ash’s father is that he set out to be a Pokémon Trainer and never came back. That’s… honestly pretty terrible, but even worse if we consider the information from the decidedly dark novelization of the anime.
In short, becoming a Trainer, or even a Gym Leader, is extremely dangerous, and even if you do succeed, there’s very little money to be made with it. Why Ash would go on the same destructive path as his father is unknown to us, but at least Gary has better sense, becoming a Pokémon Researcher.
10 Gary Maintained His Voice Actor
Ash’s voice actor has changed multiple times throughout the incredibly (and absurdly) long-running series of shows. It’s not exactly a crime, though, when you consider just how long it’s been going on and how many times its changed hands with various companies.
That said, Gary has managed to retain his original voice actor throughout every iteration of the series.
So not only do Ash and Gary deviate in a variety of ways within the show, but they even do so in a real-world, meta sense.
9 Only One Of Them Does Evolution Right
Gary and Ash both raise their Pokémon in different ways, but one particular way in which they distinctly differ is how they incorporate evolution into their teams. Spoiler alert: Ash basically doesn’t.
Gary’s team, and overall collection, of Pokémon have all reached their final evolutions, while Ash and his meager few Pocket Monsters seem to avoid the practice all together, at least for the most part.
In truth, we’ve never really understood why Ash was so opposed to evolution (aside from the obvious marketing implications of the cute Squirtle mutating into an titanic behemoth) but at least Gary forged ahead.
8 Powerful Versus Puny Pokémon
We already know that Gary is keen on evolving his enormous collection of creatures (as most people, aside from Ash, tend to be), but his Pokémon are also extremely powerful in their own right.
Ash’s collection tends to have strange quirks or unusual chips on their shoulders, but the majority of Gary’s Pokémon don’t seem to have that weakness.
Gary is excellent at catching Pokémon, and apparently has an eye for picking out the cream of the crop. For example, his Krabby towers over Ash’s!
7 They Aren’t Quite Rivals
Ash has his moments when it comes to strategy in battles, or even when catching Pokémon, but like most things, he and Gary deviate almost entirely when it comes to their actual skills.
Despite being “rivals,” it’s hard to consider Ash as worthwhile competition for Gary because of their skill discrepancy.
It’s almost like Gary is Ash’s self-manufactured rival borne from envy and unattainable goals, while Gary just sort of views Ash as a dumb kid he likes to bully who only occasionally causes trouble.
6 Both Were Based On Game Designers
The Westernized version of the Pokémon anime’s protagonist was given the punny name of “Ash Ketchum,” but his Japanese name, Satoshi, also contains a special meaning. In fact, Satoshi is the name of creator of the Pokémon franchise, Satoshi Tajiri.
Gary’s original Japanese name, Shigeru, also has a curious origin, and much like Satoshi, it’s directly lifted from a game designer. In this case, it’s taken from the legendary creator of Mario, Shigeru Miyamoto.
So not only do the Western names of Ash and Gary have double-meanings, but their original Japanese ones do, too!
5 They Used To Be Friends…
While Ash and Gary are predominantly known as bitter rivals who can barely stand the sight of one another, it appears that their shared hatred and distaste wasn’t always this strong. In fact, they may have actually been childhood friends.
Within the Advanced Generation episode “Lights, Camerupt, Action!,” a flashback shows much younger versions of Ash and Gary, not as competitive enemies, but legitimate friends.
This scene makes us wonder when their friendship was poisoned enough to plant the seeds of the rivalry that we see them share today.
4 … But They Never Met?
There’s one problem with “Lights, Camerupt, Action!” and its flashback of Ash and Gary as children being friends with each other… and that’s the fact that they apparently didn’t meet until they set off to become Pokémon Trainers.
In the very first episode of the original series, Gary makes it pretty clear that he and Ash are meeting for the first time.
So what’s true here? Were they childhood friends turned bitter rivals, or just two kids meeting for the first time who immediately despised each other?
3 They Embody A Real-Life Rivalry
We’ve already mentioned that the names “Ash” and “Gary” are puns in the dub of the series, and that the Japanese names of the characters, Satoshi and Shigeru, are lifted from Satoshi Tajiri (Pokémon’s creator) and Shigeru Miyamoto (Nintendo’s Disney), but there’s even more to the story.
The Game Boy game characters Red and Blue, whom Ash and Gary were based on, had rather conspicuous names during development, with Red being known as Ninten and Blue being called Sony, a callback to the real-life rivalry between the two companies.
2 They Both Share The Gift of Reanimation
One of the most surprising moments of Pokémon: The First Movie was Ash being struck by the beams of the battling Mew and Mewtwo, which turned him to stone and, for all intents and purposes, essentially put him in his grave.
With the magic tears of nearby Pokémon, Ash would return to the land of the living and go on to have many more adventures.
While Gary never met a fate like Ash’s, he does have experience in reanimating the long-deceased.
In his case, Gary was able to resurrect an Aerodactyl from a fossil, which is still pretty cool.
1 They Might Literally Be Related...
To be fair, this is more of a theory than a confirmed “revelation,” but the provocative evidence is sizable.
In short, Ash’s mom, Delia, and Gary’s grandfather, Professor Oak, seem to spend a lot of time together. Like, a lot of time together.
This has caused speculation that the two might be involved in some capacity, but some have gone even further, suggesting that Oak might actually be Ash’s father.
If that’s true, then Ash is Gary’s… uncle?
That’d be one heck of a twist.