Ash Ketchum, the hero of the "Pokémon" animated series, has finally become a Pokémon Master after more than 20 years of adventures.
Joined by his iconic partner Pikachu, Ash left home in the very first episode of "Pokémon" with the dream of becoming a master Pokémon trainer. The series debuted in Japan in 1997 and arrived in the United States a year later. For more than 1,000 episodes and 22 feature films, the "Pokémon" animated series has followed Ash's travels around the fictional world as he encounters hundreds of Pokémon and battles his fellow trainers.
To become a Pokémon Master, trainers must win a tournament against the toughest competition in their region, called the Pokémon League. After coming up short in six different Pokémon League tournaments, Ash captured his first championship in the Alola region against a rival trainer named Gladion.
Surprisingly, it wasn't Ash's Pikachu that won the final battle. He used Lycanroc, a wolf Pokémon, to defeat Gladion's Lycanroc in a fight that came down to the last hit. The episode aired in Japan on September 15, but hasn't officially been translated to English.
"Pokémon" has only continued to grow in popularity in the last two decades, and Ash's journey has touched millions of people around the world. While his failure to win the Pokémon League had become a running joke among fans through the years, Ash's victory sparked celebration around social media.
Pokémon director and composer Junichi Masuda retweeted messages of support from multiple countries including Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Australia. Fans said that Ash's persistence through the years should serve as a reminder that success can be a long journey.
Despite being on the air for more than two decades, Ash hasn't really aged since the start of the series — he's been 10 years old since 1997.
It's unclear if the next season of the "Pokémon" anime will replace Ash with a different protagonist, but the Pokémon champion will still have plenty to do on his own adventures — after all, he's still gotta catch 'em all.