Pokemon’s Sarah Natochenny Opens Up About Recording Ash’s Championship-Winning Episode, And I’m Not Crying, You Are

 Ash and Pikachu with the trophy in Pokemon.
Ash and Pikachu with the trophy in Pokemon.

If you know me, you know I'm a massive fan of Pokémon. While there are plenty of great anime to check out, either from the best of 2023 or beyond, Pokémon has been a standout in my life for a long time. I got the chance to sit down with Ash Ketchum's primary English voice actor, Sarah Natochenny, who played the role for 17 years.

From the Pokémon films to the many regions that Ash traveled to throughout the show, Natochenny experienced them all through the voiceover booth – that is, until the last days of voicing the character when it was announced in 2022 that Ash Ketchum's story would come to an end, and a new protagonist would enter the Pokémon franchise.

In 2022, Ash, for the first time, won the world championship for the Pokémon League in the franchise. For any anime, the episode premieres first in Japan before being dubbed into various languages for an international audience. Natochenny spoke to CinemaBlend about her time recording those lines for the character after discovering Ash won and how she began to cry during certain moments:

I remember finding out that Ash won the world championship. I was at a convention and I found out in the morning on Twitter, and I was really excited. I'm like oh my goodness, we get to live through this moment together. That's so cool. And then I go to the convention and everybody's like, "So what do you think is going to happen to him? Do you think they're going to write him off the show?" And I'm like, "What do you mean? That's ridiculous." And as the day went on I slowly realized that the fans might be right, that might actually happen…I ran the whole gamut of emotions recording the winning episode. I was crying through those moments where he's like, "I won." So, that was really fun to do. Yeah, I think I went through all of it.

I Rewatched The First Pokémon Movie And I Genuinely Felt Like A Kid Again

The Pokemon in Pokemon: The First Movie.
The Pokemon in Pokemon: The First Movie.

I decided to rewatch the first Pokémon movie again and it honestly made me feel like a little kid once more.

As someone who has voiced Ash for nearly two decades, Natochenny's feelings are understandable. With any anime, whether the popular Attack on Titan or the classic One Piece (which was adapted into a Netflix series), leaving behind a character who you've voiced for years is an emotional process.

The voice actress went on to say that she would count down the episodes she had left of the show, and how it's sometimes still "unbelievable" that she's not working on Pokémon every week now:

Leading up to it, I remember being like 'Okay, three more episodes left, two more episodes left, one more episode left.' I remember there being little moments in the script where I'm like 'Oh my God, I may never say that again.' I'm such a sentimental person. So, it was really hard… it's still kind of unbelievable that I'm not working every week on this show that I've been working on my entire adult life. But change is good, and I'm doing other stuff, so I'm filling my time which is really nice.

Sarah Natochenny has voiced roles in anime such as Tokyo Revengers and Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V, and works as an actress and film editor. She recently made her L.A. stage debut, Short Plays by Shel Silverstein & Ethan Coen, so it's clear she's been busy. She even holds a role in the new series, titled Pokémon Horizons: The Series, where she voices Caterpie.

Even so, I'm sure people like me, who grew up with Natochenny's voice as our favorite Pokémon trainer, will never forget Ash, his excellent companions, and all the adventures he went on.