The tag line for Pokémon (at least the first two generation of games) is "gotta catch 'em all". In the animé, Ash makes it clear from his first appearance that he wants to be a Pokémon master and it certainly sounds like catching them all is the way to do it. But he so rarely does. As of this writing, 930 episodes have aired and he has only owned about 80 species out of 721.

This is in sharp contrast to Red from Pokémon Origins who is constantly catching Pokémon and by the end manages to complete his Pokédex to get all 150.

So if Ash wants to be a Pokémon master, why does he so rarely try to catch Pokémon? Doesn't he want to catch 'em all?

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    Because he's a schmuck. Also, he's got hundreds of episodes to fill. – Valorum Aug 13 '16 at 0:26
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    When you catch a herd of Tauros you've probably given up hope... – Durakken Aug 13 '16 at 0:28
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    It seems as if Ash takes a pretty personalized approach with his Pokemon. He generally is friends with most of them (or tries to be). When they don't want to battle with him anymore, he often lets them go their own way. I'd say that Ash generally sees Pokemon as battle partners or as individuals, rather than as pets (as some people seem to). So I don't know whether the idea of catching hundreds of random Pokemon to which he has no connection would necessarily sit well with him. – Adamant Aug 13 '16 at 1:16
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    @Adamant I think you meant to click "answer this question" (not "comment") ;) – RedCaio Aug 13 '16 at 1:36
  • @RedCaio - Thanks. I don't consider that to have enough evidence to stand as an answer, though. – Adamant Aug 13 '16 at 1:36

Because he doesn't need to.

In the games, the in-universe reason for catching every type of Pokemon is to complete the Pokedex, to help the regional professor with their research (the out-of-universe reason is, of course, sheer completionism). The Pokedex does not contain complete information on a Pokemon species until you catch at least one Pokemon of that species. This is the same reason that Red, in Pokemon Origins, catches all 150 - because Oak asked him to, for research purposes.

In the anime, the Pokedex is already complete. Every single time Ash encounters a new Pokemon (with a few exceptions), the Pokedex lights up, shows its picture, and rattles off a short expository explanation. There's no reason for Ash to go around capturing one of every Pokemon, because neither he, nor Oak, nor anyone else I can think of in the anime, needs one of every Pokemon.

Doesn't becoming a Pokémon master mean catching them all?

No. I'm not sure whether the anime actually has a defined criteria for what constitutes a Pokemon Master, or whether it's just some vaguely-defined goal for the writers to dangle in front of Ash so they can justify the series going on and on and on. [I'll look it up later.] My best guess would be that to become a Pokemon Master, you have to have won a regional league, something Ash has systematically tried and failed to do in every single region so far (other than the Orange Islands, which apparently don't count).

The point is, in neither the games nor the anime does capturing all (now 800+) Pokemon make you a Pokemon Master. In the games, all you get is a lousy Diploma and a sense of completionism. In the anime, it's a completely impractical and pointless goal that, in spite of the series' tagline, isn't really worth pursuing at all.


Bearing in mind that the game came before the anime, and the secondary object of the game was to try and obtain at least one of each pokemon, in order to fill the pokedex. This was an attempt to make the gameplay longer, as the primary objective could be completed without getting all the pokemon. The tagline was kept for the anime, however Ash is more along the line of completing the primary objective.

  • And the primary objective is, what, to beat the Elite Four? That isn't Ash's goal in the animé. – Thunderforge Aug 21 '16 at 0:27
  • Ash says repeatedly through the show that his primary goal is to become a "Pokemon Master". – phantom42 Aug 21 '16 at 6:08
  • Which is what I had asked in the question. Doesn't becoming a Pokémon master mean catching them all? – Thunderforge Aug 22 '16 at 15:35
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    The Primary Main Objective is to Destroy The Evil Power! – Layna Apr 24 '17 at 8:37

To catch all 721 Pokémons (although there should be many more species which aren't shown on-screen), you need 721 Poké Balls. There are several problems with this:

  • Storage. Even if a Poké Ball can be shrinked to ping pong ball size, just think about packing hundreds of ping pong balls in your travel backpack.

  • Search. Searching for a Pokémon among hundreds of Poké Ball can be tedious.

  • Cost. I don't know the cost of a Poké Ball, but it shouldn't be free. Other than that, you need foods and medical services for your Pokémons. Cost is definitely going to go up with more Pokémons.

Plus, based on your strategies, not all Pokémons can be useful to you. Also, it's always best to master and train few Pokémons than wasting time with lots of Pokémons, if you want to achieve your goals.

When you live in a world full of Pokémons, your perception would be different. Wherever you go, you find Pokémons, a lots of Pokémons like you find insects, information everyday. Why would you wanna catch em' all?

  • 2
    "Storage. Even if a Poké Ball can be shrinked to ping pong ball size, just think about packing hundreds of ping pong balls in your travel backpack." Any Pokemon past the 6 he carries with him are magically transported back to Professor Oak (in the show, or Bill's PC in the games). Packing and carrying PokeBalls full of Pokemon is not an issue. Similarly, since someone/something else is taking care of the stored Pokemon, there appears to be no financial cost to caring for the stored Pokemon. – phantom42 Apr 24 '17 at 12:38
  • @phantom42 I am talking about empty Poké Balls. If he carries only 6 Poké Balls and all full, where would he capture new ones if he doesn't carry empty balls? – Baby Yoda Apr 24 '17 at 16:10
  • Still illogical. There is no feasible way he is going to encounter 721 unique Pokemon between now and the next time he visits a town. At most, he'll need a few dozen, not hundreds. And even with 20 years of episodes, he's only caught/acquired a few dozen. Even when he was "young" during the Kanto/Orange era, and tried to catch everything he could, he only had 14 Pokemon. Pokeball supply and space for them is not a major concern. – phantom42 Apr 24 '17 at 16:18
  • Well, Ash did catch 30 Tauros from the Safari Zone and they all got sent back to Professor Oak. Oh, you don't remember that episode? Unfortunately, it was banned outside of Japan due to guns pointed at the heroes and fired at Team Rocket. – Thunderforge Apr 26 '17 at 0:45
  • Safari Zone is a unique situation - you can't bring your own pokeballs in, and have to use the provided ones. – phantom42 Apr 26 '17 at 13:15

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