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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
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Because he doesn't need to.

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

In the anime, the Pokédex is already complete. Every single time Ash encounters a new Pokémon (with a few exceptions), the Pokédex 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 Pokémon, because neither he nor Oak needs one of every Pokémon.

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

No. The anime has never actually defined what you have to do to become a Pokémon Master, and likely never will, so that the writers can justify the series going on and on forever. It's worth noting that in the anime canon, many legendary Pokémon are one-of-a-kind, and some are so critical to their ecosystems that capturing them would have dire consequences. So "catching 'em all" is something only one person could ever do, and that person would devastate large areas in the process.

In summary, in neither the games nor the anime does capturing all 898 Pokémon (as of Gen VIII) make you a Pokémon 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.

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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 Pokémon, in order to fill the Pokédex: this was an attempt to make the gameplay longer, as the primary objective could be completed without getting all the Pokémon. The tagline was kept for the anime, however Ash is more along the line of completing the primary objective.

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  • 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
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    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
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    @Thunderforge What? Isn't beating the Elite Four always the goal? Beat all gym leaders, then whoever is at the top of the food chain? – kutschkem Sep 30 '20 at 15:58
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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?

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    "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? – user931 Apr 24 '17 at 16:10
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    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
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    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
0

If becoming a Pokémon Master is the main goal, Ash must become very knowledgeable and experienced in battling and raising the Pokémon he chooses. He doesn’t need every Pokémon or to beat the Elite Four to be considered a master of his craft. He must be able to deal with type weaknesses and be able to overcome challenges, as well as have a great team that trusts him fully.

If he has a Pokémon, such as Charizard, who doesn’t respect him, he isn’t a master. If he is able to command respect and walk through the world confidently and capably, he will have achieved his goal.

He isn’t usually very capable, and doesn’t make smart choices with types when initiating battles often. Although he does get better, and he is special in that he has had many encounters with legendary Pokémon that respect him, he hasn’t quite achieved his goal of being a ‘Pokémon Master’ yet.

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