You guys remember Pokemon, right? The anime, I mean. Sure you do.

Looking back, that was a fundamentally depressing show.

I mean, here you’ve got this ten year old kid setting off to see the world with only a backpack on his shoulder and a Pikachu at his side. As far as we know, Ash doesn’t have a single friend in the world when he leaves home. The only other kid his age in Pallet Town is Gary, who is a complete prick. Other than that, he is only known to interact with two other people: His mother, Delia, and Professor Oak. He has no siblings, and his dad has been alluded to but has never actually shown his face in the series, leading the viewer to believe that he’s something of a deadbeat.

Even still, Ash sets out on his journey to be the very best, like no one ever was. Very early on he meets a ginger named Misty and a guy without eyes named Brock. Misty’s wardrobe as a ten year old really raises some questions about the type of parenting she’s received up to this point. No mention is made of her parents, so it’s possible that she has been raised by her three older sisters, which would explain a lot. As for Brock, one has to wonder about his social life too. It says something when you’re fifteen years old and your best friends are ten year olds.

Regardless, Misty and Brock accompany Ash on his journey in order to live vicariously through him. Things are looking up for Ash. Five episodes in and he’s already gone from having no friends to having two.

But then his luck turns. Misty and Brock had no qualms about dropping everything and following Ash unconditionally. But after that, friends that stick with Ash are few and far between. He meets someone new in almost every episode, but after Brock no one sticks with him. They all leave him after only a day or two. “We’ll see you soon!”, they often say upon departing, but they never do. And it’s not like the Pokemon world is set in medieval times or anything. The technology they have available to them clearly surpasses anything we have here in 2011. They’ve got E-mail, Facebook, MSN, Skype, and who knows what else to keep in touch with each other, but they never choose to. That’s a sad existence, I think. Every day Ash makes a new friend, and every evening he loses that friend.

In spite of the mental toll that his lifestyle must inflict on him, Ash manages to acquire all eight badges and advance to the Pokemon League Championships.

Now, I remember watching this back in ’99. You know how kid’s shows are. The hero always prevails in the end, right?

Ash took down his first few opponents with ease. He ended up facing Gary in the fourth round, much to my surprise. Logic dictates that Ash should have fought his rival in the final. But regardless, Ash took out Gary in the most intense battle of the series to that point, seemingly giving him a clear path to the Championship.

His fifth round match was against this nobody named Ritchie. Ritchie took an early lead, leaving Ash with only one Pokemon. But no big deal, right? Ash had been in tougher jams before. He sent out his Charizard, who had a knack for disobeying Ash’s orders. Nevertheless, Charizard defeated Ritchie’s Charmander, setting up a one-on-one showdown between Ash’s Charizard and Ritchie’s Pikachu.

‘What beautiful character development’ I thought. ‘Charizard, who has been letting Ash down for ages now, will finally come through in Ash’s most desperate hour. Brilliant.’

And then the unthinkable happened:

With the match on the line, Charizard laid down on the ground and took a nap.

In one of the most emotional outpourings of the series, Ash begged and pleaded for Charizard to move. I begged and pleaded for Charizard to move. There was no way it could end like this. But it did.

“Charizard refuses to battle,” declared the referee. “Pikachu is the winner.”

Just like that, everything that Ash had been fighting for in the past 78 episodes was rendered meaningless. All of his hopes and dreams were dashed at the hands of one of his own Pokemon that he had previously rescued from the brink of death. Betrayal of the highest degree.

And so Ash returned home without completing his quest to be the very best. Eventually Brock and Misty, the two friends who it appeared would always be by Ash’s side, left him. Clearly they didn’t want to live vicariously through someone who wasn’t a winner.

This has since become a cycle of sorts.

Ash is defeated. His friends all abandon him. He meets new friends, a new rival, meets a ton of people who he’ll never see again, earns badges, enters the regional tournament, and then is defeated.

We’re nearly 700 episodes in now, and Ash still doesn’t have any true friends besides his Pikachu, he still doesn’t have a dad, he still hasn’t hit puberty yet, and worst of all, he still doesn’t have a shot in hell at ever being the very best.

Why? Because if Ash ever becomes the very best, the character arc is completed, and the show comes to an end. Thus, he can never win. He can never accomplish the one thing that he set out to do in episode one.

It’s a very sad show, I think.