Why You Won't See Ash Ketchum In 'Detective Pikachu'

Ash Ketchum famously declared that he would catch 'em all, but the one thing he won't catch is a front-row seat to the first live-action Pokémon movie.

Detective Pikachu director Rob Letterman confirmed that the TV series' famous protagonist won't be appearing in the film — which technically is in line with the premise of the video game upon which it's based, which features an entirely new lead character. But this decision will inevitably leave plenty of '90s kids who grew up on the series heartbroken. It must be even worse for the fans of Red.

Ash Can't Catch a Break

Pikachu may Pokémon's ubiquitous mascot whose face has been slathered on stuffed animals, video games, and even airlines, but kid trainer Ash Ketchum was the face of the franchise. At least in America, where the protagonist of the all-popular anime, Satoshi, was renamed to a tongue-in-cheek pun (get it, because he's gonna catch 'em all). For two decades, he, accompanied by his beloved Pikachu, sought to become a Pokémon Master across countless animated series and about 20 spin-off movies. But he won't even get a nod in the upcoming Detective Pikachu.

At this weekend's 2018 Pokemon World Championships in Nashville, Tennessee, Letterman said that this will be the first Pokémon movie that's not about Ash (via IGN):

"The Pokemon Company, they've already made many, many movies of Ash, and they came to Legendary with this idea of using a new character. So when I came onboard, I was pitched this character of Detective Pikachu, and I fell in love with the story behind it. It's a really great story. It was something with a lot of heart, and it was just very unique. And because there's already been so much work done with Ash, for the first live-action movie I thought it was a really good idea to try something new with a new character, but bake it into the universe of Pokémon."

Technically, the protagonist of Detective Pikachu (Tim Goodman, played by Justice Smith), isn't a new character. He's the protagonist of the Detective Pikachu video game — and like Ash, is really just a thinly veiled adaptation of the first-generation video game's protagonist, Red. So if it makes you Pokémon anime fans feel better, we're kind of getting a version of Ash on the big screen. He's even accompanied by a girl who is basically Misty from the TV series: Kathryn Newton's Lucy Stevens is a trainer who has a Psyduck as her partner Pokémon.

Bringing Pokémon to Life

Ash, Tim, Red — whatever human shows up in Detective Pikachu can never really be a huge cause for controversy. It's still the very premise of this movie, in which a talking Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds of all people, is solving mysteries in a hard-boiled noir film. The weirdest part: Pikachu will look "photorealistic." Letterman said that the Detective Pikachu team is working hard on the visual effects that will render the Pokémon as realistic as possible, which is apparently "how I wanted to see the Pokemon portrayed when I was a little kid," he said, adding:

"They're incredibly real, you should think of it as the way [Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy character] Rocket Raccoon sits in the movie as if he's really there. It's that technology. The same group of people that worked on that, or worked on Jungle Book. We've got the people on it that worked on Fantastic Beasts. They're technically, some of the most high-end visual effects in the world. It's completely photorealistic, like they are alive and in the movie."

Sure, Letterman, photorealistic Pokémon may be your childhood dream, but that sounds a lot like my childhood nightmare — Ryan Reynolds voice and all.