In the anime, traveling companions are the people who accompany Ash Ketchum throughout his travels in his journey to become a Pokémon Master. Traveling companions are for the most part temporary, only lasting until a region is finished, the exceptions being Brock who accompanied Ash in Kanto and again later on from Johto to Sinnoh, and Pikachu, who is a permanent member of Ash's roster of Pokemon. Each companion usually has one or more characteristics that fit them into one or more archetypes (see below).
To date, Ash has had eleven companions throughout the series, excluding those who have only accompanied him for a short time (Alexa, Korrina, etc.) and his Pokemon. For the purposes of this article, the term traveling companion - or more simply companion - only refers to human characters who travel with or have traveled with Ash at some point in the series.
Characteristics and "Types"
While each companion has their own individual traits, goals, character arcs and teams of Pokemon, they all fit within an archetype of some sort.
These companions are usually native to the region Ash travels to at the beginning of each series, accompanying him for reasons that in the beginning range from collecting on a debt (initially the case for Misty), seeing the world (May), sheer happenstance (Dawn and Iris), to personal and/or romantic interest (Serena) but that later shifts to achieving a personal goal (Misty sought to refine her talents as a Water Pokemon Trainer; May and Dawn wanted to become Pokemon Coordinators; Iris aimed become a Dragon Master; and Serena eventually decided on being a Pokemon Performer). In their first few episodes as a companion either they or Ash will serve as an audience surrogate for when either series basics like how to catch Pokemon or features of a new region need to be explained. They are usually involved in one of the series' two hallmark running gags where their bike is shocked and destroyed by Ash's Pikachu, but this was retired after Diamond and Pearl; from the Best Wishes! series onwards they themselves are the one shocked by Pikachu (though in the XY series Bonnie was the one shocked instead of Serena). This archetype is subverted in the Orange Islands with the male character Tracey Sketchit.
Occurring with less frequency than the others, these companions are the younger siblings of one of the other characters who so far has always been of the opposite gender. As their older sibling is usually around Ash's age, which is also the age that new Trainers get their first Pokemon, they are too young to have one themselves and so are often excited when the group encounters one. Each series to have this kind of companion always has an episode where they have an argument with their older sibling and refuse to speak to them for a time until they reconcile. Because they and their older sibling are traveling without their parents, the older sibling is usually responsible for them. Max and Bonnie are the only companions of this kind.
This archetype frequently overlaps with the regional girl and the cook. Despite being based off a game counterpart, when traveling with Ash the Gym Leader companion has either resigned from their position (in the cases of Brock and Cilan) or has yet to become one (Misty and Iris); in the latter case, this companion returns to their Gym's city to take up the position once done traveling with Ash. This makes Clemont unique in that he is the only one of Ash's traveling companions to still serve as the acting Gym Leader while on the road.
In addition to the above, companions usually serve one or more important functions within the group.
Predominantly a male character, this companion usually takes charge over providing the group with their daily meals. Their cooking is always well-loved by the other characters and their Pokemon. For a long time this role belonged to Brock and was one of his most defining characteristics, but after his departure at the end of Diamond and Pearl this role transferred to Cilan when Ash went to Unova in the Best Wishes! series and became Clemont's in XY.
So far, the only series in which there was no cooking companion was in the Original Series when Ash, Misty and Tracey Sketchit traversed the Orange Islands.
One companion in Ash's group will always provide the group with directions on how to get to their next destination. The group is usually lost without them.
This companion will usually break up any squabbles, petty arguments and disagreements between Ash and someone else (usually the regional girl). This used to be Brock during the first and third to fifth regions, but was Tracey in the Orange Islands and Cilan in Unova.
- Main article: Misty (anime)
The first of Ash's companions, Misty first met Ash in the very first episode of the series. She initially joined him because Pikachu destroyed her bike with an Electric attack and in the beginning only traveled with Ash until he could pay her back. She is the second-longest-serving companion of Ash's behind Brock, traveling with him throughout Kanto, the Orange Islands and finally Johto before settling into her role as the Gym Leader of Cerulean City. She is credited with initiating the running gag of pulling Brock away by the ear, which transferred to Max in Hoenn and later to Brock's Croagunk in Sinnoh.
- Main article: Brock (anime)
Ash's second companion joined him in his travels after giving him his very first Gym Badge. Unlike Misty, Brock gave up the position before traveling with Ash. His dream was to become the world's greatest Pokemon Breeder before deciding to become a Pokemon Doctor. He has departed Ash's company not once but twice, the first time to work with Professor Felina Ivy (which ended badly) and the second to fulfill his Pokemon Doctor aspirations. He is Ash's longest-serving human companion, traveling with him in Kanto and then rejoining him in Johto and lasting until the end of Sinnoh. Brock's most famous gag in the series is being prevented by another character from flirting with a girl after he makes an awkward attempt to woo them. He hails from Pewter City.
- Main article: Tracey Sketchit
The third of Ash's companions joined him after Brock's first departure when the latter decided he wanted to be Professor Ivy's assistant. After helping Ash and Misty defeat a bunch of thugs abusing an infant Lapras, he invited himself along when he found out Ash personally knew Professor Oak, who he admires. Tracey is a former Pokemon Watcher who would stop the group so he could draw Pokemon he saw in the wild. After traveling with Ash in the Orange Islands, Tracey departed Ash's company to be Professor Oak's assistant. He is the only one of Ash's companions to have a last name.
- Main article: May (anime)
May was the fourth companion to join Ash's company when he traveled to Hoenn. The daughter of Petalburg City Gym Leader Norman, she is a tomboyish, determined girl whose team of Pokemon has many similarities with Ash's. Throughout their travels together May's relationship with Ash was that of mentor and student: Since May was a new Trainer, Ash would often show her the ropes of how to do certain things like how to catch a wild Pokemon. While others expected her to take the Pokemon League challenge and earn badges, she instead decided to become a Pokemon Coordinator. When she and Ash parted ways, she decided to head to Johto to compete in Pokemon Contests there.
- Main article: Max
Ash's fifth companion was May's younger brother. Max is very studious regarding Pokemon and often has an encyclopedic knowledge of them. He asked to join him and May on their travels since he knew Ash from watching him during the Johto League Silver Conference. He served as the group's navigator during their journey.
- Main article: Dawn (anime)
Dawn is a Pokemon Coordinator from Sinnoh and the sixth companion to travel with Ash. Unlike the others, she had no reason to travel with him, but chose to regardless. Her maxim is "No need to worry!" which usually makes others including her mother worry all the more. She is the only companion to trade Pokemon with Ash, trading her Buizel for his Aipom which is currently in training. Like May, she left Ash to compete in Pokémon Contests in the Johto region.
- Main article: Iris (anime)
Iris is an aspiring Dragon Master hailing from Unova's Village of Dragons and the seventh person to join Ash on his travels. They first met when Ash mistook her for a wild Pokemon and tried to catch her. She often annoys Ash by calling him a "little kid", despite the fact that Ash has traveled for much longer and achieved more than her. Her Dragonite struck up a rivalry with Ash's Charizard. Her main partner is the Tusk Pokemon Axew who dreams of evolving into a Haxorus.
- Main article: Cilan (anime)
Ash's eighth traveling companion joined him in a much similar manner to Brock. He asked to travel with Ash after giving him the Trio Badge for beating all three Striaton City Gym Leaders. He is an A-class Pokemon Connoisseur who is very adept at his evaluations, though he maintains to be a connoisseur in a variety of other things. When the group arrived back in Kanto, he and Iris parted ways with Ash to travel in Johto.
Clemont and Bonnie
As these two both joined Ash at the same time, they are simultaneously counted as the ninth and tenth companions to travel with him.
- Main article: Clemont (anime)
The older of the two siblings, Clemont is the Gym Leader of Lumiose City. He is an inventor whose inventions often backfire and explode, often ruining the group's hair in the process. He joined Ash after the Garchomp incident after being impressed by both the latter's selflessness in how far he would go to help a Pokemon in its time of need, and his bravery in the physical courage exhibited in doing so. (To help Professor Sycamore's Garchomp, Ash climbed all the way to the top of Prism Tower and lept off the edge to catch Pikachu when the latter fell). His maxim is "Science brings forth the future ("The future is now thanks to science") ! Citronic/Clemontic Gear on!". He is also an excellent cook according to Bonnie.
- Main article: Bonnie (anime)
An enthusiastic and energetic girl, Clemont's younger sister Bonnie often comments on how cute or cool something is, usually a Pokemon. She is often seen with Clemont's Dedenne as its keeper. A running gag in the XY series is Bonnie proposing to a female character asking them to look after her brother (meaning marry him). She does this because she insists it is her duty to find him a wife since he is too shy to do it himself.
- Main article: Serena (anime)
Serena is a fashionable girl from Vaniville Town who knew Ash from childhood. He found her scared and alone in a forest after she got separated from the rest of their group and injured her knee, which he bandaged before helping her up and leading her out of the forest by the hand, which impressed and initially sparked her romantic interest in him. After helping him earn his first Kalos badge from the Santalune City Gym, she became the eleventh companion to join Ash on his travels while being the first to both seek him out and be asked by Ash himself to join them. She is fashionable and skilled at baking and serves as the group's navigator. For a while, Serena didn't know what her goal was until eventually discovering Pokemon Performances from Shauna, she decided to become a Performer and compete for the title of Kalos Queen.
- Misty is the only one of the regional girl companions to not sport any headwear.
- Two of Ash's companions have served as inspiration for Ash in order to for him to overcome a difficult Gym Battle; Dawn and her Pokemon inspired Ash's Counter Shield which helped him beat Fantina; and Serena reminded Ash of his fighting spirit during his Gym Battle against Viola and helped him perfect the rhythmic battle style for his Gym Battle against Korrina. Furthermore, during the latter battle, Ash looked to Serena to inspire him when said battle style began to fail. Also, both Dawn and Serena cheered enthusiastically for Ash during his Gym battles.
- Serena breaks a number of molds regarding the regional girl: She does not argue with nor insult Ash and is the first companion of this type to avoid being shocked in some form by Pikachu. She is also the first companion to justifiably be shipped with Ash since her crush on him is canonical. She is also the first companion to change her appearance in the midst of traveling with Ash; previous companions have changed their wardrobe after departing Ash's company.
- All of Ash's traveling companions have been held captive by villainous organizations.
- Misty, Tracey, May, Max, Serena, and Bonnie have been held captive by Team Rocket so they wouldn't get in their way.
- Brock and Dawn have been held captive by Team Rocket and Team Galactic so they wouldn't get in their way. Also, they mark the first male and female traveling companions to be held hostage for a Pokémon by a villainous organization which was also done by Team Galactic.
- Iris and Cilan are the only traveling companions to not been held captive by Team Rocket for any reason, but they have been held captive by Team Plasma so they wouldn't get in their way.
- Clemont has been held captive by Team Rocket so he wouldn't get in their way. Also, he marks the first traveling companion to be used for a villainous organization's scheme which was done by Team Flare.
- Team Aqua and Team Magma are the only villainous organizations to not have a traveling companion of Ash's held captive or as a hostage for any reason.