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During the course of the anime, many characters have appeared in opposition to Ash. Similar to games in virtually every region Ash meets a new rival and battle it several times during the course of the region.
Often an anime establishes three types of rivals in these areas:
Main Rival: Rival that usually wins the most battles and is finally defeated in battle in the main competition of the anime. Their attitudes are more rude and they usually stay one step ahead of Ash. Examples of this are Gary, Paul and Trip.
Ash's current rival: Trip
Friendly Rival: character who generally tend to have attitudes more generally friendly and tend to be in the same level of battles of the protagonist. Examples are Barry, Morrison and Bianca.
League Rival: character who often appears to meet Ash soon after the final battle against the main rival at the Pokémon League, every battle so far resulted in defeat for Ash. Their example is Tobias, Harrison and Tyson.
The initial phase of anime stabilized only as Gary Oak rival for much of its course, but as the story continued in Johto way more characters entered. Misty also acted like rivals in many episodes, but it followed different goals.
- Main article: Gary Oak
Gary is the first rival of Ash (and possibly the biggest one so far). He is the grandson of Professor Oak and began his journey along with his Squirtle, with a few appearances in the Kanto region he is eventually defeated in the league and finished in the top 32.
During the Orange League saga he goes in search of training, after rediscovering Ash, he defeats Ash's Pikachu with his powerful Eevee (which later evolved into Umbreon ) and go to the Johto region.
They eventually battle for the Silver Conference where Ash is victorious after a tough battle because of this Gary decides to become a Pokémon researcher.
He makes brief appearances during the Battle Frontier saga of the anime, where he defeats Ash's Pikachu again with his newly acquired Electivire and continues its journey to the Sinnoh region, where it creates a kind of rivalry with the Pokémon Hunter J and tries to help by a order in the plans of Team Galactic.
As of Showdown at the Po-ké Corral, Gary has more than 200 Pokémon in his collection including more than one of the same species.
- Main article: Ritchie
Ritchie is a character that first appeared during the Indigo League arc, he and Ash team up to defeat the Rockets after they steal many Pokémon from trainers of the competition. They quickly become friends and soon after find out that it would face too, because the interference of Team Rocket and lack of control of his Charizard, Ash ends up being defeated in battle.
He appears again in the arch of Whirl Island where they both try to save a baby Lugia and a relative of the Team Rocket members.
His most recent appearance is in three episodes in Pokémon: Chronicles
- Main article: Casey
Casey is a beginner trainer from New Bark Town who first appeared in the early phase in Johto. In her first fight, it is completely defeated by Ash using only his Charizard.
Once again, she battles against Ash and his Pikachu where she put up a good fight only to be stopped by the actions of Team Rocket.
Both also competed in the Bug-Catching Contest where Ash wins the competition, yet it's he gives to her his newly captured Beedrill.
- Main article: Harrison
Native to the region of Hoenn, Harrison helped Ash to rescue the flame of the Silver Conference that was with a wild Sneasel. After rescuing the flame, he captures the Sneasel with the help of his Blaziken.
He have a hard battle against Ash where he can able to beat Ash's Charizard despite the disadvantage of type with Blaziken, but he loses the next match against Jon Dickson.
After this, he decides goes to the Kanto region.
Although the saga Advance Generation anime has never created a rival to Ash himself, many characters during the course of the series acted as his rivals at some points.
- Main article: May
Although May has never been specifically treated as a rival in the anime, it has much in common with their counterparts of the games and manga, where she is the main rival of the male character in the game (or manga).
As in the games, her starter Pokémon has an advantage of the type of Ash's starter in the Hoenn region (Treecko), she also had several battles against Ash and is more notable for her last fight against Ash in Battle Frontier saga. She also competes in another kind of competition as opposed to Ash, similar to Sapphire in manga (but the manga is the opposite: Ruby is the Coordinator of the saga while Sapphire is the trainer who battles for badges).
- Main article: Morrison
Morrison first appears just before the Pokémon League in Hoenn region, he battles with his Beldum against Ash and Pikachu which results in a tie.
Shortly thereafter, Beldum evolves into a Metang in the competition.
He battles with Ash, in the beginning he battled in order to lose on purpose, but after Ash revolts, they battle at the same level.
- Main article: Rafe
Rafe is one of the main characters in Destiny Deoxys, much like other rivals, he acts in rude way to Ash. Them face off in a Tag Battle in Battle Tower of Larousse City, where he is victorious.
During the crisis in the city, he and Ash put their differences aside and join to help the city.
- Main article: Tyson
Tyson is a veteran trainer Ash and his friends find during the festivities for the start of the competition in Ever Grande City. His main Pokémon is a powerful Meowth that he found abandoned after a wild brawl against a Persian.
He battles against Ash for the eighth position in the championship and wins after a tough battle. Then it is shown that he proved to be the winner of the competition.
Diamond & Pearl
Diamond & Pearl is, so far, the series which introduced the largest amount of rivals. In addition to Ash's rivals, some of Dawn's battled against Ash as well at one point or another.
- Main article: Paul
Paul is an experienced Trainer from Veilstone City. Much of his rivalry with Ash was due to a disagreement over which Pokémon training method was correct. While Paul would focus on strengthening his Pokémon through heavy training sessions, Ash believed that developing a bond with his Pokémon was the best way to achieve good results. This caused many arguments between them throughout the series.
Paul is also the original Trainer of Ash's Infernape, who was released when it was a Chimchar after failing to meet Paul's expectations during the Hearthome City Tag Battle Competition.
Despite his starter Pokémon being a Turtwig, which evolved into a Torterra before its introduction, Paul's main Pokémon is an Electivire that he trained since it was an Elekid and was used in the last battle against Ash in the Lily of the Valley Conference.
| Hometown: Veilstone City
| Episodes Present
| DP002-DP003, DP006, DP015-DP016, DP040, DP046, DP050-DP052, DP064, DP067, DP074, DP077-DP078,|
DP081, DP100, DP118, DP127-DP128, DP131-DP132, DP155, DP163, DP182-DP189, M13
| Given Away
- Main article: Barry
Barry is a hyperactive Trainer and a fan of Paul. Ash first met him in Hearthome City, where they had their first battle which ended in a defeat for him. Like Dawn and Kenny, Barry is from Twinleaf Town. He is the son of Palmer, one of the Sinnoh Frontier Brains.
He battled Paul during the Lily of the Valley Conference, but lost to him.
- Main article: Conway
Conway is a knowledgeable Trainer who was Dawn's tag partner during the Hearthome City Tag Battle Competition. Thanks to his experience and strategies, they both reached the finals of the tournament, where they faced Ash and Paul but lost to them after the evolution of Paul's Elekid.
He appeared again during the four-part Pokémon Summer Academy arc.
His latest appearance was at the Lily of the Valley Conference, where he battled Ash once again. He was able to trick Ash with his strategies, but lost after a hard battle.
- Main article: Nando
Nando is a collected Trainer and Coordinator who enjoys music. When Ash first met him, he was questioning whether he should challenge Gyms or compete in Contests. He decided to do both after having a battle with Ash and Dawn.
He was the first opponent Ash faced in the Lily of the Valley Conference, and although he battled well, he was eventually defeated.
- Main article: Tobias
Tobias is a very powerful Trainer who competed in the Lily of the Valley Conference. Very little is known about him except he managed to obtain the eight required Badges to enter the Sinnoh League using just his Darkrai.
He faced Ash in the semifinals of the competition. During the battle, his Darkrai managed to defeat three of Ash's Pokémon before being knocked out by Ash's Sceptile. Tobias then sent out Latios, who defeated Ash's other two Pokémon until it drew against Pikachu. After that, Tobias won his next match and became the Champion of the competition.
Best Wishes/Black & White
Similar to the original series (in the Kanto region, specifically) is the first time that Ash's rival is mainly a beginner trainer. From Minccino-Neat and Tidy!, is also introduced one of these two rivals presents in games Black and White.
- Main article: Trip
Trip is the main rival of Best Wishes, despite being a rookie trainer, he defeats Ash's Pikachu in his first battle, much of this is due to the effect caused by Zekrom into Pikachu.
He battles Ash again in A Rival Battle for Club Champ! in a battle 5x5, he lost only two Pokémon into battle and win several Ash's Pokémon with one blow.
He reappears again in the arc in the town of Castellia.
Trip is a fan of Alder, which he watched a Pokémon battle when he was younger and had contact with his idol, which inspired him to train hard and strong following with the intention of facing his idol.
- Main article: Bianca
Bianca is a beginner trainer who first appeared in Minccino-Neat and Tidy!, she is sent by Professor Juniper to deliver a badge case to Ash. She quickly becomes friends with the characters and joins the group in Emolga the Irresistible!, later she made an attempt to capture one wild Emolga and leaves the group in the next episode to try to win more badges.
She reappears in the arc of Club Battle's tournament, as one of the participants, but is defeated in his first match. She appears again in several episodes during the Ash's journey in Unova region.
- Main article: Stephan
Stephan is a trainer Ash and his friends meet during the trip to find Nimbasa City. His main Pokémon is a Zebstrika that first appeared as a Blitzle. He reappears in the arc of the Club Battle's tournament, as one of the participants.
Stephan proves to be itself a powerful Trainer who thanks to his hard training and dedication to their Pokémon can win the Clubsplosion tournament after defeating powerful trainers including the former champion of competition.
- Main article: Cameron (Unova)
Kotetsu has made his first appearance in Goodbye, Junior Cup - Hello Adventure!, trying to participate in the World Tournament Junior Cup. However, he arrives late for the competition, after he reunites with Ash and his friends again when they took their leave to Dawn believing he had the necessary requirements to participate in the Pokémon League. In The Road to Humilau! he battled Marlon in a Gym battle.
His main Pokémon is a Riolu that usually follows him outide its Pokéball.
- Main article: Virgil
Virgil is a rescue worker, a job which he carries out together with his father Jeff and his older brother Davey. He owns an Eevee and all of its evolutions. He intends to enter the Unova League, making him another one of Ash's many rivals.
- Gary and Paul notably are the only ones Ash's rivals that appeared in a movie in person: Gary appears in a flashback of his fight against Giovanni and Mewtwo in the first movie and Paul walking into a location appears similar statues of Dialga and Palkia present in the city of Solaceon during the credits in the thirteenth movie.
- However, most rivals of Ash in the Sinnoh region appear in static images during the credits of the thirteenth film.
- With his flashback in The Dream Continues! and Let's Join Hands, Gary is only rival to have appeared in all series of anime so far.
- Similar to that, disregarding the counterparts of the main games, Gary and Ritchie are the only rivals who appeared in one game in the series himself and also the manga-based anime.
- All main rivals battled Ash's Pikachu in their first battle against Ash.