“I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was.”
You know the opening of the song, don’t lie. If you're a '90s/'00s kid, we all grew up with Pokemon, whether that be through the trading cards, the games, or (in my case) the anime series. While I have been exploring the Pokemon games as I’ve gotten older and exposed to the whole culture, there was one part of it I always loved as a child, and that was the TV series. While 2023 TV releases are always fun to look forward to, sometimes, I like a blast from the past.
But Pokemon is great in so many ways, one of which being that they constantly update their regions, characters, stories, and new Pokemon with each new series that the game takes on, revolving around the corresponding game release. But, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t at all very different from each other. So here, we are going to rank all of the Pokemon anime series, worst to best, from the very beginning to the present.
8. Journeys Series
Something is just… off in Journeys.
I know that of course, they needed to come up with something for Generation 8, but this series doesn’t hit the mark for me in terms of greatness in the others. I do enjoy seeing the areas of the Galor region and exploring the new Pokemon, but honestly, it doesn’t feel the same. There are several callbacks to older regions – while it is welcome occasionally, it’s almost too much in Journeys.
And while I do know that Pokemon is meant for children, there were always moments in some of the earlier shows that crept more into adulthood and really taught kids valuable lessons. I don’t get that with this series. Maybe it’s because it’s on Netflix or maybe it’s something else but I’ll certainly skip on this one.
7. Black/White Series
Okay, admittedly, this was my least favorite before I watched all of Journeys. Black/White isn’t necessarily bad. But it’s not necessarily good either.
My favorite part about this series is the region, based on New York City. I think that’s such an interesting concept to use in a Pokemon series. But what really gets it to me is how unmemorable the Black/White series was. The games were fun, but when I think of the anime, I can’t recall any of the characters – even Ash’s new companions. That’s how you know it’s really just… meh.
6. Sun And Moon Series
I actually genuinely enjoyed the Sun and Moon series in Pokemon. The idea that the region was based around the Hawaiian islands really pulled me in, and the gorgeous scenery made plenty of the beautiful landscapes in this anime pop. Even the starters were absolutely adorable. I mean, who wouldn’t love Rowlet?
However, there’s one thing that stops me from putting it higher… the animation.
This is not the Ash that I grew up with. He just looks so strange. Even Pikachu doesn’t quite look the same. I can’t get past the uncanny look in their eyes and the weird facial expressions. It’s not normal. And for that reason, I find it very hard to go back to this series. Ash at least looks a little bit normal in Journeys. Here he looks… I don’t even know.
5. Johto Series
Johto is average in Pokemon. There, I said it.
It can never be as good as Indigo. But it’s nowhere near as bad as some of the lower entries on this list. It’s just sort of in the middle. I enjoyed the continued adventures of Brock, Misty, and Ash in their adventures in the Johto Region. I loved the Pokemon that were added to this generation – Cyndaquil is one of my favorites.
But it doesn’t really build on its previous series success. It feels a lot of the same as before and while yes, that does work for Pokemon, there are so many other episodes that really dig deep and give thought-provoking messages, but Johto didn’t really do that for me. I’m glad that they started to change things up in the next series after this.
4. Ruby And Saphire Series
Ah, Ruby & Saphire. I have a love/hate relationship with this series in Pokemon.
I did really like that in this series, they started to change up Ash’s companions a bit. While I did like Misty, it’s always nice for a change of heart and to have them do their own dreams instead of following Ash around for so long. The Pokemon in Generation 3 as well are great and classics for a reason.
But the main reason I put this series at number 4 is that while I do like that they started to make changes to Ash’s companions, I can’t get behind Max. May is fantastic. I loved her story and her character overall, but Max sort of just felt like a mini-Brock, and while it’s cute to have someone trying to follow in your footsteps, it almost felt too closely related to the already iconic character. They could have done more with him for sure. Other than that, the Hoenn region is amazing, and the battles are awesome. It’s certainly one of the better series.
3. XY Series
Ash and Serena have my whole heart. I will go down with this ship.
I loved XY compared to many of the other series in Pokemon. Not only were some of the Pokemon that were added in Generation 6 super epic – like Greninja, which became so popular it became a character to fight within Super Smash Bros Ultimate, but the story was fantastic in relation to some of the older seasons of the show. Serena is a big reason as to why.
We don’t learn much about Ash’s childhood. We know that he and Gary were friends and then rivals and that his mother had a Mr. Mime, and a couple of other fun facts, but we were never really given some heavy backstory as to who he was as a little kid. In comes Serena, this adorable companion who has a crush on Ash and has all these stories and character development, and really makes Ash a better person in the end, along with his other companions. It’s a fantastic addition to the Pokemon saga.
2. Diamond and Pearl Series
But as much as I love Serena, no one can beat Dawn. Or Diamond and Pearl.
Diamond and Pearl in the Pokemon series is iconic for so many reasons. The game it’s based on is fantastic, the anime is great with some deep episodes – like when Jessie lets go of Dustox for love, or Pikachu questions evolving again for the first time since Season 1 – and the companions are just outstanding.
Dawn herself is a fantastic addition to Ash’s team and a welcome change after May and Max, because while she’s still a trainer, her main dream is to be the best coordinator in the Pokemon league, and news flash – she’s not the best and makes mistakes just like normal heroes in fiction, and really shows how it’s okay to lose. She’s resilient, strong, and adorable and I’ll always love her for being one of my favorite role models as a child. Besides, who doesn’t love Piplup? Or Turtwig? Even Chimchar? They’re all so cute!
1. Indigo League Series
Even so, Indio League has to take the first spot. Come on, you knew it was coming. This was the series that started it all.
It’s hard to imagine that this series is more than twenty years old, considering the U.S. version came out in 1998, and the Tokyo version in 1997, but it’s iconic for so many reasons. It’s where we first meet Ash and Pikachu, the literal face of the whole franchise of Pokemon. It’s where we are introduced to complex storylines at such a young age, ones that show us that if we work hard and persevere, nothing can stop us from being the “very best.” We learn about friendship, hard work, and the beautiful world that is Pokemon.
It started a whole change in culture, and no matter what, we will always hold this series deep in our hearts. We were raised on Pokemon, and it all started between a young boy and his Pikachu.
What’s your favorite version of Pokemon? Which companion is your favorite? But let’s be honest – as long as Pikachu is still there, who cares who Ash travels with, am I right?
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A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Alexandra Ramos is a Content Producer at CinemaBlend. She first started off working in December 2020 as a Freelance Writer after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. She primarily works in features for movies, TV, and sometimes video games. (Please don't debate her on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!) She is also the main person who runs both our daily newsletter, The CinemaBlend Daily, and our ReelBlend newsletter.