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Pokémon Story Arc and Filler Guide: You Don’t Gotta Watch ‘Em All

Ash and Pikachu

Pokémon is a worldwide cultural phenomenon. While it all began with a video game, many fans started with the anime series. Sure, the series is aimed at children, but it’s also goofy fun for adults.

On 30 July 2021, the series will have 1,162 episodes, divided amongst 24 seasons. That’s a lot of story arcs, which is why this guide exists. Here is the best guide for Pokémon story arcs and filler episodes.

Brief Pokémon History

Ash and Pikachu

There would be no Pokémon anime without the video games. Created by Satoshi Tajiri, Pocket Monsters: Red and Green was released in Japan in February 1996. They are known as Pokémon: Red and Blue outside of Japan. The first Pokémon trading cards arrived shortly afterward in October 1996.

The first chapter of the Pokémon Adventures SPECIAL manga was published in March 1997. The first anime episode would air a month later.

Note: We have a separate watch guide for the Pokémon movies.

Red? Satoshi? Ash?

Pokémon naming screen: Pokémon anime watch guide

In the first game, the player character is Red (unless you rename him ‘My butt’ or something equally charming). Red is also the protagonist of the Red, Green & Blue arc of the manga. Unlike the anime, the main manga character changes with each new region.

The anime named its main character Satoshi in Japanese. He became Ash Ketchum in English, German, Italian, Spanish, etc. Since most of you reading this right now were not raised in Japan, we’ll call him Ash.

Story Arcs in Brief

Misty in Season 1, Pokémon

Indigo League: 82 episodes, 1997-1999

Orange League (Adventures in the Orange Islands): 36 episodes, 1999

Johto League: 158 episodes

  •  includes Johto Journeys (1999-2000), Johto League Champions (2000-2001), Master Quest (2001-2002)

Hoenn League: 132 episodes

  • includes Advanced (2002-2003), Advanced Challenge (2003-2004), first half of Advanced Battle (2004-2005)

Kanto Battle Frontier: 61 episodes

  • second half of Advanced Battle (2005), Battle Frontier (2005-2006)

Diamond & Pearl: 191 episodes

  • includes Diamond & Pearl (2006-2007), D&P: Battle Dimension (2007-2008), D&P: Galactic Battles (2008-2009), D&P: Sinnoh League Victors (2010)Dawn swaps places with a princess, Pokémon

Best Wishes!: 88 episodes

Best Wishes 2: 24 episodes

  • Black & White: Rival Destinies (2011-2012)

Best Wishes 2: Episode N, 14 episodes

  • BW: Adventures in Unova (2012-2013)

Best Wishes: Decolora Adventure, 23 episodes

  • BW: Adventures in Unova and Beyond (2013)

XY: 98 episodes

  • Includes XY (2013-2014), XY Kalos Quest (2014-2015)

Serena, Pokémon XY

XY&Z: 49 episodes, 2015-2016

Sun & Moon: 146 episodes

  • includes Sun & Moon (2016-2017), Ultra Adventures (2017-2018), Ultra Legends (2018-2019)

Pocket Monsters: 72 episodes

  • includes Pokémon Journeys (2019-2020), Pokémon Master Journeys (2020- current)

Story Arcs in Detail

Pokemon Ash Pikachu Shock

Indigo League: Pikachu electrocutes Ash. Ash ‘borrows’ Misty’s bike. We meet Officer Jenny and Nurse Joy. Team Rocket attacks. Ash challenges Brock at Pewter City. Misty’s sisters run the Cerulean Gym. The Squirtle Squad has the best sunglasses. The St. Anne sinks. Misty enters a beauty contest against Jessie and James. ‘Ashley’ makes her first appearance. Ash battles various gym leaders.

Team Rocket leader Giovanni uses Mewtwo to defeat Gary. We also find out how Meowth learned to speak. In the Pokémon League tournament, Ash loses to Richie.

Orange League: Professor Oak asks Ash to bring back a GS Ball from Professor Ivy. Ash enters the Orange League, starting on Mikan Island. Other fruity islands include Sunburst, Navel, Grapefruit, Moro, Murcott, Mandarin, Trovita, Kumquat, Rind, and Pummelo. Ash becomes the Orange League Champion. (Yes, he won before Alola!)

Note: No games feature the Orange Islands, although it could be a reference to the Kanto Region’s Sevii Islands.

Johto:

Ash, Brock and Misty enter the Johto League. Ash battles gym leaders. The Squirtle Squad returns. Ash encounters the legendary Pokémon Articuno. Olivine gym leader is sus.

Ash faces Misty in the Whirl Cup. Richie returns. The heroes fight their way out of an underwater Team Rocket base. Ash battles Olivine City Gym Leader Jasmine (for real this time). Jessie and James renew their contracts with Team Rocket. Ash gets turned into a Pikachu (he got better). The Johto League begins. Ash defeats Gary.

Johto: Ash turns into a Pikachu

Hoenn: May joins Ash. May has a little brother Max. Brock returns. May decides to compete in Pokémon Contests. Team Aqua and Team Magma are introduced. Pikachu becomes ill after battling Mauville City Gym Leader Wattson.

Misty visits Ash and Brock. Ash qualifies for the Hoenn League. They all go to the Grand Festival. Tyson defeats Ash in the Hoenn League Championships.

Kanto Battle Frontier:

Ash returns to Pallet Town, and visits Viridian City. May wins the Saffron City Pokémon Contest. Ash wins at the Battle Arena, Battle Dome, Battle Pike, Battle Palace, and Battle Tower.

Meanwhile, May wins ribbons in Kanto Pokémon Contests. May competes with Drew, Harley, and Solidad in the Kanto Grand Festival. Harley crossplays as May. Ash loses at the Battle Pyramid. After a re-match, Ash becomes a Master of the Battle Frontier. Ash and May tie in a Pokémon Contest.

Kanto Battle Frontier: Harley crossplays, Pokémon

Diamond & Pearl: Dawn meets Professor Rowan in Sinnoh. She wants to be a Pokémon Coordinator. Ash arrives in Sinnoh. Dawn finds Ash’s lost Pikachu. Ash reunites with Brock, and meets Dawn. Ash has a new rival, Paul. Dawn also has a rival, Zoey. Jessie (disguised as Jessilina) competes in some of the Pokémon Contests.

‘J,’ a mysterious Pokémon Hunter, steals Pikachu and Meowth. Hoenn Region Champion Wallace creates the Wallace Cup. May visits Sinnoh. Dawn defeats May to win the cup.

The gang attends Pokémon Academy. Team Galactic hopes to capture legendary Pokémon. Jessie and James increasingly switch between old-fashioned disguises and schemes; competing in contests; and actually helping Ash.

Dawn, Nando, Kenny, Ursula, Zoey, and Jessie compete in the Sinnoh Grand Festival. Zoey barely beats Dawn in the final. Ash gets his final Sinnoh League badge. In the final battle, Ash loses to Tobias.

Best Wishes:

Ash heads for Unova. He meets Professor Juniper. Iris joins Ash. Ash earns more badges. Cilan also joins Ash. The Battle Subway is introduced. (The Unova Region is loosely based on New York City).

Pokemon: Black & White

Rival Destinies: Ash goes after the remaining five Unova badges. The Pokémon World Tournament Junior Cup begins. Giovanni unleashes Tornadus, Thundurus, and Landorus to destroy Unova.

Adventures in Unova: Ash prepares for the Unova League tournament. He makes it to the Top 8. The mysterious boy ‘N’ joins the group. The good guys battle Team Plasma. Team Plasma’s Colress has a device to control Pokémon. Team Plasma is defeated.

Adventures in Unova and Beyond: The group has adventures on a cruise to the Decolore Islands.

XY: Ash arrives in the Kalos Region. He travels with Clemont and Bonnie, and meets Alexa. He reunites with childhood friend Serena. Professor Sycamore has a summer camp. Serena wants to be a Pokémon Performer.

XY&Z: An unknown Pokémon gets nicknamed ‘Squishy.’ Team Rocket wants to capture Squishy. Team Flare searches for the Zygarde Core. Team Rocket is also searching for a core. Ash and Greninja are linked by a mysterious power. Squishy is Zygarde.

Sun & Moon:

Ash travels to the Alola region, which is a Pokémon-ified version of Hawaii. Ash enrolls in the local school.

A new Pokémon nicknamed Nebby is found. An Ultra Wormhole opens, and an Ultra Beast emerges. Lillie’s mother is taken into the wormhole, and the gang goes on a rescue mission. The Ultra Guardians are created. Brock and Misty visit Alola. The Alola Pokémon League debuts. Ash wins the championship, and the fandom rejoices. He battles Professor Kukui, and wins.

Pocket Monsters: The current series. It’s unique in that Ash travels to all eight regions of the Pokémon games. Also, Ash’s new companion Goh is a shout out to Pokémon Go.

Filler Episodes By Season

Meowth, filler episode, Sun & Moon, Pokémon

Pokémon is based on a video game, rather than a manga or a light novel. Therefore, the usual ‘not manga canon’ filler rules don’t apply. However, if we include episodes which don’t advance the plot, the list grows:

Indigo League: 8-9, 19, 32-33, 37-39, 44, 46, 49, 51, 54, 57, 59, 62, 64-67, 69-70

Orange Islands: 84-89, 93, 95-97, 100, 103, 105, 116, 118

Johto: 119, 123-124, 129, 131, 133-136, 144-146, 148-149, 151-152, 158-159

Johto League Champions: 160, 162-164, 166, 168-169, 173-176, 180-182, 184, 186-189, 191, 193-194, 196-203, 207-208, 210

Jessie, DJ Mary and Professor Oak: Will The Real Oak Please Stand Up? episode

Master Quest: 214-215, 225, 228-230, 235-242, 244-245, 251, 255, 257

Advanced: 278-280, 290, 295, 298, 306, 311, 314-315

Advanced Challenge: 318, 322, 326, 329, 333-334, 336, 344-345, 355, 357-358, 361, 363

Advanced Battle: 371, 373, 375-376, 378, 381, 405-406, 408-410, 413-414, 420

Battle Frontier: 433-434, 436, 441, 444, 451-453, 456, 467

Diamond and Pearl: 483-484, 499, 502-503, 515-518

Diamond and Pearl: Battle Dimension: 529, 562

Diamond and Pearl: Galactic Battles: 574-583, 593, 606-607, 616

Diamond and Pearl: Sinnoh League Victors: 631, 657

Black & White: 675, 678-679, 684, 702-704

Black & White: Rival Destinies: 715, 737, 744, 747-748

Black & White: Adventures in Unova: 774, 776, 778, 781

Black & White: Adventures in Unova and Beyond: 782, 787, 799

XY: 805-807, 809, 817, 819, 836, 839, 841

XY: Kalos Quest: 862, 873-874, 877, 880, 886-889

XYZ: 899, 902, 908, 914-915, 938

Team Rocket does a Hokusai impression, Pokémon Sun & Moon filler episode

Sun & Moon: 943, 948, 955, 960-961

Sun & Moon – Ultra Adventures: 989, 1002, 1014, 1017, 1024

Sun & Moon – Ultra Legends: 1044, 1057

Pokémon Journeys: None so far

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