Who is Ash Ketchum’s father?
There’s been a mystery plaguing the Pokemon anime since its beginning: Who is Ash Ketchum’s father?
He must have one — I mean, everyone has one (it’s, like, the thing to do these days, right?)
Well, the answer is yes. We do, in fact, know that Ash has a father. Ash’s mother, Delia, confirms it in one of the early episodes when she exclaims, “Your father would be so proud!”
But I’m going to throw something out there: it doesn’t matter who Ash’s father is. In fact, I’m willing to bet the anime’s writers don’t have a solid answer to this question (they do have an answer — as you’ll see below). It’s one of those things that’s unimportant to the story.
And yet that doesn’t stop fans from coming up with some outrageous theories.
Theory #1: It’s Giovanni
It’s not, btw. But some fans think it is.
“But you just said it doesn’t matter!”
Yeah, but it’s just not Giovanni. FireRed and LeafGreen hinted at the identity of Giovanni’s true son for years — and HeartGold and SoulSilver confirmed it.
Giovanni’s son is Silver, the antagonist heavily featured in the Gold and Silver plotlines. We first get an inkling of this in FireRed and LeafGreen when Rocket Scientist Gideon says, “Giovanni’s kid has red hair.” An event with Celebi in HeartGold and SoulSilver transports the player back in time where they witness Giovanni abandoning Silver after his defeat to Red in the first generation of games. It explains why Silver has such a grudge against Team Rocket.
The anime series Pokemon Generations expands on this, as seen in the clip below.
Look, I know Generations and the games are necessarily the same canons as the one found in the main anime series. But it’s so clear that the Pokemon creators have already thought Giovanni’s backstory through — and it doesn’t include Ash Ketchum.
So to those who still champion this theory, please stop.
Theory #2: It’s Professor Oak
Yo, hold up. Just no. Please just no.
The age difference between Delia and Professor Oak… Just… I’m surprised people believed this one.
Theory #3: It’s Spencer Hale
Of all the theories, this one seems the most plausible, but I still have a hard time buying it.
Spencer Hale is the researcher who goes missing in the third Pokemon film. The reason this theory is the most plausible is that there’s a clear history between Ash’s mother and Spencer. It’s implied that they’re close friends. On top of that, they seem to be about the same age — both with young children — Ash and Molly.
But Hale is already married. He had a wife. Delia isn’t Molly’s mother (that’s, like, one of the main points of the film, actually, as Molly kidnaps Ash’s mother to force her to be her own “mama.”) If it were true that Hale was Delia’s mother, that would be some crazy wacky twist to the story.
It would also imply that Delia, Oak, and Hale are all in cahoots with each other, keeping a major secret of Ash. I don’t buy it.
Theory #4: It’s Ho-Oh
Whoever thought of this one has been reading too much Greek mythology. Or the Bible.
Ho-Oh did not… with Ash’s mom?
I know there’s a lot of weird crap in the Pokemon World, but I think anyone with their head screwed on correctly knows this isn’t the case.
Here’s what we do know
Like I said before, there is an answer, albeit a vague one.
PokéBeach conducted an interview with Masamitsu Hidaka, the original director of Pokémon until the Battle Frontier series, in 2008. Here’s what he had to say about the Ho-Oh theory:
What is Ho-Oh’s significance to Ash? Is Ho-Oh Ash’s father (as some fans have theorized)? This made him laugh even harder. Ho-Oh, he detailed, is just a plot device to get Ash moving (I suppose like the GS Ball) and to show that he is special. Ho-Oh started Ash on his journey and was one of the reasons he went to Hoenn, and it is never seen by anyone. So, Ho-Oh is just a device to show how special our main character is for having seen it three or so times. Nothing more.
But Hidaka had more to say about Ash’s father:
He explained Ash’s grandfather was a great Trainer who traveled the lands a long time ago, and Ash’s father followed in his footsteps and left. Then I asked if he would ever appear, and he responded that only if the writers felt a need to “grow” Ash as a character (personal note: we need some character development, please). He explained he was not a writer on the show and merely worked as the storyboard artist, so he had no control over what they put on the show. But, he said there is a possibility his father could appear one day. At least we know Ash has a father now, unlike other anime characters.
So there you have it. There is a backstory — but again, it’s vague.
The writers’ treatment of Ash’s dad leads me to believe that it’s just one of those things that fans aren’t meant to think too much about. It serves no purpose to the story.
Perhaps it could, someday, as Hidaka suggested. If Ash were to grow up — if he were to be given some depth at all — then that would be an interesting storyline to flesh out.
But it’s been 20 years and Ash is still 10 years old.