Ash Ketchum battled many different trainers in the Pokemon anime, but he missed some of the most important ones from the video games. This is despite the fact that Pokemon Journeys had the opportunity to introduce lots of classic characters into the anime as part of the World Coronation Series, but they never appeared, and Ash has retired as the protagonist of the series.
The Pokemon anime has adapted many entries in the video game series, with its own take on the source material that allowed it to expand on the characters and storylines in a way that couldn’t be done in handheld games. This meant that people important to a Pokemon trainer’s journey, such as the Gym Leaders in each region, appeared, but not every character made it into the show.
Janine From Pokemon Gold & Silver
It’s odd to think that Ash never battled one of the Gym Leaders in the Kanto region. This is because Janine was introduced in Pokemon Gold & Silver, as she’s Koga’s sister, and took over his Gym when he was promoted to the Elite Four. The player battles Janine while returning to Kanto in Pokemon Gold & Silver, but Ash never has a reason to return to Fuschia City and fight its Gym again, so he never encounters Janine.
AZ From Pokemon X & Y
AZ is a major part of the backstory in Pokemon X & Y, having been a king in ancient times who created an ultimate weapon that ended a war. The story of AZ, his beloved Pokemon who died, and the discovery of his ultimate weapon in modern times are central to Pokemon X & Y, yet he doesn’t appear in the Pokemon anime. This is likely because his story has some darker elements that the writers of the Pokemon anime wanted to avoid in the show, such as the mention of war and death.
Phoebe & Most of the Hoenn Elite Four From Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire
The Elite Fours in the various games have had an unusual amount of representation, with some being prominent parts of the story and others never appearing at all. In the case of the Hoenn Elite Four, only Drake appears in the Pokemon anime, where he acts as a powerful opponent for Ash to overcome. Meanwhile, Glacia, Phoebe, and Sidney never appeared at all, not even as guest-of-the-week characters, like many other Elite Four members.
Silver From Pokemon Gold & Silver
The Pokemon Rivals have also had spotty appearances, with some being major characters (like Barry and Serena) and some never appearing. The most notable absentee is Silver from Pokemon Gold & Silver, who has one of the best character arcs in the series, is tied to one of its major antagonists (as he’s Giovanni’s son), and is extremely popular with the fans. Silver was likely skipped because Gary Oak was still a big part of the series during the Johto arc, and the anime writers felt that Ash didn’t need another Rival.
Grimsley & Most of the Unova Elite Four From Pokemon Black & White
Like the Hoenn Elite Four, the Unova Elite Four are also sorely underrepresented in the Pokemon anime, with Caitlin being the only one to show up. This means Grimsley, Marshal, and Shauntal never appeared in the Pokemon anime. What makes this surprising is that Grimsely appeared in a later game, as he shows up in Pokemon Sun & Moon while on vacation, which would have been the perfect opportunity to introduce him, but he still never showed up in the Pokemon anime.
Zinnia From Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire
Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire featured the Delta Episode, where a meteor containing Deoxys is about to crash into the world, and the player needs to team up with Mega Rayquaza to stop it. One of the most important characters during the Delta Episode is Zinnia, who was key to introducing the concept of the Pokemon multiverse. Zinnia would have been a great trainer to be the focus of one of the movies when Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire were released, yet she never appeared in the show or the films.
Half of the Elite Four From Pokemon Gold & Silver
The Elite Four that’s faced in Pokemon Gold & Silver contains Bruno and Koga, who both appeared in the Pokemon anime’s early season. This meant that the brand-new members of the Elite Four during this time, Will and Karen, were never given a reason to appear in the series and rarely appeared in the spin-off games. It’s unclear why Will and Karen have been given the short end of the stick, as they could have made for awesome opponents during the World Coronation Series.
Nessa & Most of the Important Trainers From Pokemon Sword & Shield
Several important Pokemon Sword & Shield characters never appeared in the anime. This was due to the series changing format, with Ash traveling the world rather than sticking to one region. Pokemon Sword & Shield also added a lot of characters in their two DLC expansions, so they were introduced in the middle of a separate storyline. As such, Nessa, Gordie, Kabu, and Melony never appeared, nor did Avery, Klara, Mustard, and Peony from the DLC. If Ash had a more conventional journey through the Galar region, then these characters would almost certainly have shown up and battled him at some point.
The Team Rocket Executives From Pokemon Gold & Silver
Team Rocket is severely weakened in Pokemon Gold & Silver due to the absence of their leader, as Giovanni had gone into exile to train following his defeat at the hands of Red. This led to several high-ranking Team Rocket Executives trying to contact him in Pokemon Gold & Silver, where they act as recurring foes in the game. Giovanni never went into hiding in the Pokemon anime, so the Team Rocket Executives never became part of the series.
Red From Pokemon Red & Blue
Red is the protagonist of Pokemon Red & Blue, and he shows up as the ultimate opponent in Pokemon Gold & Silver, with one of the strongest teams in the series to date. Shockingly, the Pokemon anime never found a way to introduce Red, even if it was just for a one-off battle, using the older version of the character from Pokemon Sun & Moon to explain any timeline differences.
It might have been difficult to explain Red’s presence in the Pokemon anime, but it wouldn’t have mattered in the final episode. The perfect way to end Ash’s journey would have been in a battle against the character who inspired him, one who is still popular with the fans to this day, and is one of the most feared opponents in the series. As it stands, the Pokemon anime dropped the ball, and Red never showed up.