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Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Ash Ketchum Failed His Torterra as a Pokémon Trainer

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - He definitely wasn't Pokémon Master material. (And still isn't.)

After waiting for most of World Turtle Day 2023 for The Pokémon Company International to do something for the special day, it really does seem like they went and celebrated World Turtle Day a whole month early in honour of Terapagos and its little buddy. Whatever, KoopaTV will still stick to what the calendar says, since World Turtle Day is very special, in honour of turtles, tortoises, and Koopas everywhere.

Turtles, despite their natural protection on their backs, are also common targets for harm. Mario has a big role to play in that. But for World Turtle Day 2023, I'm going to write about a different world like I said I would a month ago: The Pokémon world, and specifically Ash Ketchum's Torterra (once a Turtwig). His Torterra, as a Grotle and Torterra, were notoriously mishandled by the twerp, and I have a lot of issues with it.

If you observe Ash's usual battle style, he really likes trying to overpower his opponents with speed, momentum, and the occasional clever novel use of the environment or his Pokémon's sometimes overlooked traits. His Turtwig was notable for being able to run around, especially inspired by Gardenia's even faster Turtwig. But when his Turtwig evolved into Grotle in Aiding the Enemy, Grotle could no longer run around, and Ash was completely ignorant as to why. Ash failed to adapt his battling style to fit the reality of his newly evolved Pokémon and its different physical characteristics.

Brock Aiding the Enemy Pokémon anime Turtle evolves into Grotle body ten times heavier
The average weight of a Turtwig is 22.5 pounds.
The average weight of a Grotle is 213.8 pounds, or 9.5 times heavier.
(Technically, Grotle has five base speed faster than Turtwig.
It's also notable that Turtwig's 31 base speed makes it the slowest starter Pokémon; that 31 is also the lowest base stat out of any starter Pokémon for any stat.)

The twerp has some experience with very slow defensive Pokémon, namely his Torkoal he caught in Hoenn. (You'd think his Snorlax would qualify, but Snorlax definitely could run and dodge things if it wanted to.) However, Torkoal was treated as a comic relief failure, and Ash definitely did not use Torkoal to its potential, which is why Torkoal also has a very poor battling record. Yes, Ash figured out that Torkoal could tank hits with Iron Defense and then retaliate from afar with projectile Fire attacks, but he tended to fail Torkoal by relying on its Overheat and never switching out.

Ash's intelligent Sinnoh rival, Paul, had a Torterra as his strongest Pokémon. Not wanting to see yet another turtle or tortoise mishandled by the twerp, Paul's Torterra gave battle lessons to Ash's Grotle on how to tank hits and then patiently strike when the time was right. The twerp observed this turtle to turtle mentorship, and vowed to be a good Pokémon Trainer and help Grotle out with its battle style that was very distinct from his speedsters like Pikachu, Chimchar, Staravia, and Buizel.

Ash Ketchum Grotle Aiding the Enemy petting headpat very own battle style best it can be Pokémon Trainer anime
Ash did an awful job acknowledging and working on Grotle's own battle style.

Except Ash Ketchum reneged on his promise, instead focusing his training efforts on his other Pokémon. When he did use Grotle, it lost every important battle it was in except against Candice's Sneasel. When Grotle evolved into Torterra, Torterra lost every single important battle it participated in, with no exceptions. Ash could not handle Grotle or Torterra's defensive battling style and pretty much ignored what Paul's Torterra offered it. Instead, Ash had Grotle learn Rock Climb in The Lonely Snover (Grotle learned it because of his Ash-induced guilt of being slower than everyone else), which was a horrible mistake that was the cause of almost every loss Grotle or Torterra faced—Grotle didn't have major battles between evolving and learning Rock Climb. In the anime, Rock Climb is a move that was only ever seen on Ash's Grotle and Torterra. Rock Climb involves Grotle/Torterra creating a mountain out of nowhere underneath its target, and then running up the mountain with giant claws (Grotle/Torterra start at the bottom) and charging into its opponent. It is drastically faster than the turtle's normal running speed.

The fundamental problem is that it's stupid to go from a level, flat field to a scenario where you literally give your opponent the high ground. Everyone knows the high ground is better than the low ground, and Rock Climb generates a high ground for the enemy. After defeating Candice's Snover, Ash's Grotle proceeds to blindly Rock Climb on ICE right towards Candice's Abomasnow, which Wood Hammers it for a KO. After Ash made a terrible choice to try to have Grotle fight against Paul's Honchkrow and lose (at least without Rock Climbing), he had Grotle Rock Climb to Palmer's Rhyperior, which smashed Grotle with a Rock Wrecker as Grotle was trying to charge Rhyperior off the mountain. In Ash's fight with Elite 4 member Bertha, Torterra still lost, but at least Rock Climb wasn't a direct reason for that. However, in Ash's battle against gym leader Volkner, he had Torterra charge into Volkner's Electivire with Rock Climb, only for Torterra to be punched in the face on its way up with a super-effective Ice Punch. Does this look like the fighting style of what should be a defensive and patient tank? (If this embed gets taken down, it's footage of Ash demanding that Torterra Rock Climb into Electivire.)

Torterra's last attempt at redemption was trying to defeat Paul's juggernaut Drapion, who was a better tank than Torterra was. Again, Torterra tried charging into Drapion with a failed Rock Climb that was intercepted by Drapion, which gave Drapion an easy opportunity to pummel Torterra and defeat him. And that's it for Torterra's non-Team Rocket battling history.

Ash wouldn't have another defensive Pokémon that he put effort into until his Goodra in Kalos, though Goodra wasn't a mainstay on his team. Goodra spammed projectile attacks like Ice Beam and Dragon Pulse, and pummeled approaches against it with powerful Bide attacks, while being able to heal with Rain Dance. Grotle and Torterra should have been able to have that battle style like that, with projectile attacks like Razor Leaf/Leaf Storm and Energy Ball, and a healing move with Synthesis. Except Ash removed the likes of Bite, which would've been a decent move for Torterra to deal with/punish up-close opponents (similar to how Paul's Torterra uses Crunch), with the likes of Rock Climb, which exists solely for a rushdown battle style similar to all of Ash's other Pokémon. Rushing down your opponent with a speedy charge is antithetical to the battle style that Grotle/Torterra are physically built for, and that's why the turtle lost over and over again, unlike the likes of Paul and his Torterra. Their success comes from the fact that both the trainer and his Pokémon are disciplined and understand what they're good and bad at—while Ash Ketchum has no clue, and his poor Grotle/Torterra were equally confused and were trying to be something they're not, just to please their pathetic trainer.

The fault lies with Ash Ketchum, and he failed his Grotle and then Torterra as a Pokémon Trainer by disregarding his own words about how he would understand and perfect that battling style. It's tough to say that he actually became any wiser over the years. A true Pokémon Master should be able to bring out the potential of any Pokémon, but Ash has a rigid speedster rushdown archetype that he is comfortable with. He's no master. That's another reason why it's good that he got cancelled.

As a noted Turtwig enthusiast, Ludwig has very distinct opinions and temperament related to the treatment of the Turtwig evolutionary family, and he is upset that Ash Ketchum failed both Torkoal and Torterra, two beautiful shelled creatures. Squirtle did fair better, though Squirtle was also considered a mobile speedster, which inspired its Super Smash Bros. characteristics. Squirtle was then taken off of Ash's team by giving him and his squad to the likes of Officer Jenny, and Ludwig also believes that giving your Pokémon to the cops is another very bad thing to do. All in all, you should learn what NOT to do with turtles from Ash Ketchum as you shellebrate World Turtle Day 2023.

Last year's World Turtle Day article is here about a very mad turtle.


  1. Ash was never the best trainer. I don't think he ever really did much with his herd of Tauros. It's funny that Squirtle went with officer Jenny considering he was literally a criminal of sorts in his episode debut. Squirtle Squad forever, those shades they all had were awesome.

    1. He did a fair amount with... one Tauros. Alternatively, maybe he kept swapping between Tauros every time.

  2. Now let's hope that if a Girafarig or a Farigiraf gets a trainer in the new anime, the giraffe will not be let down.

    1. Well, World Giraffe Day is on June 21, so you have time to make your point.


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