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Characters / Pokémon Protagonists and Rivals

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The main characters of the series. The games revolve around their personal growth, their exploits and their (and by extension, your) relationship with Pokémon in general.

The protagonists are the player's avatar in the world of Pokémon. Generally they aren't the most verbose of people. But you can use this opportunity to play as them and gather together a team of Pokémon to conquer the game.

The rivals are kids just like you. The protagonists may have a history with them, or they may be some kid they just met, some friendly, especially in later generations, others not. Their personalities are varied, but they're all willing to challenge you to see how strong you've become over your journey.

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General Tropes

    General Player Tropes 
  • Adapted Out: While all of them have been major characters in Pokémon Adventures and other manga adaptations, a large swath of them haven't made it to the main anime, in no small part due to the refusal to retire Ash.
    • None of the Gold and Silver cast were able to take part in the anime adaptation of their own games' events. Ethan and Kris starred in a side story special under the names Jimmy and Marina, while Silver (under the name Kamon) got a cameo during the special's intro (Marina briefly showed up in an early Diamond and Pearl episode advertising the Pokétch); after Heart Gold and Soul Silver came out, Ethan got another cameo under the name Ethan during the Zoroark movienote .
    • Brendan has only had a few cameos in the introductions of movies, the last of which he shared with Lucas. Wally's gotten nothing.
    • Green, Calem, and all the protagonists from the fifth and seventh generations have so far failed to appear. Rival Hugh is also absent. (Lillie has been given the Adaptational Badass treatment, being an official Pokémon Trainer, effectively replacing Selene).
    • Several of the above have appeared in Pokémon Generations, including Ethan, Silver, Brendan, Hilbert and Calem (that said, these roles are severely downplayed — Generations replays game events with extra focus on the supporting cast, like Looker and Cynthia).
  • Animal Motifs: Many of them are strongly associated with a starter Pokémon or cover legendary, with design motifs from them are sometimes incorporated into their outfits. While the starter they choose is based on the player's choice, there are official artworks that take this concept and run with it. Most notably, Red and Blue are associated with Pikachu and Eevee, respectively.
  • Badass Adorable: The majority of the protagonists, male and female, are no older than kids. Generation V's and maybe X and Y's characters are in their teens. They defeat every single trainer in their region, including leaders of the evil teams, the Elite Four and the Champion, can capture Legendary Pokémon (many of which are basically gods), and become the best trainer in their region.
  • Child Prodigy: The oldest the protagonists get in the series is around 16 in Black and White. They take to Pokémon training instantly and extremely well. Their skill with Pokémon is so great that they are able to defeat adults who have years of experience on them. Many NPCs point out their high affinity for bonding with Pokémon.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Each of them can capture the World of Pokémon's equivalent to Eldritch Abominations (one Gen even allows you to capture the rough equivalent to God).
  • Disappeared Dad: The player character generally only has a mother as a regular figure at home; their dad (with the notable exception of Ruby, Sapphire, and their various remakes) is absent, usually without explanation. That said, the characters can be generally assumed to at least have dads.
    • In the Kanto games, examining a certain TV in Celadon Department store will cause the player character to indicate his dad likes sports games.
    • In the Sinnoh games, the player character's father was old friends with Tower Tycoon Palmer.
    • Black and White indicate that the television in the player character's room was bought by their dad.
    • In X and Y, Grace mentions running into the character's father with her Rhyhorn. He also gave the player a PC.
    • In the Alola games, the player character's father is still working in Kanto.
    • In Sword and Shield, Victor's bag is a hand-me-down from his father.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Zigzagged. Plot-critical NPCs seem aware of the fact that by the time you finish the game you've defeated the most powerful trainers in the region, saved the world from the local villainous team, and probably captured at least one Legendary Pokémon in the process. Normal NPCs on the other hand will continue to treat you like a random kid trainer.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: This can frequently pop up when playing as a certain gender. Green gets a ton of flirtatious responses from female NPCs due to FireRed and LeafGreen retaining plenty of dialogue from Red and Blue.
  • A Father to His Men: Throughout the games, one of the central themes is forming bonds with your Pokémon and taking good care of them. Generation II added the Friendship mechanic, as well as Pokémon that evolve through high friendship, and introduced the move Return, which gets stronger the more your Pokémon likes you. Generation VI expanded on it with the introduction of Pokémon-Amie, allowing you to increase the Affection of your Pokémon by playing with them, feeding them, and petting them. When a Pokémon's Affection is high enough, it may be able to do things like shake off a status ailment or survive an attack that would have knocked it out, out of love for you, its Trainer.
    Recovering from a burn: [Pokémon] blew on its burn and healed it so that [Trainer's name] wouldn't worry!
    Surviving an attack with 1 HP: [Pokémon] toughed it out to show its best side to [Trainer's name]!
    Avoiding an attack: [Pokémon] read [Trainer's name]'s mind and avoided the move!
  • Free-Range Children: No one seems to mind that you're just a child who goes through dangerous situations that involve crime organizations and/or Legendary Pokémon who are very dangerous to the health of your mother.
  • From Zero to Hero: Just a preteen/teenager from a small town, possibly having just moved there, who goes on to capture Olympus Mons, singlehandedly tear down the local evil organization, and become the strongest Trainer in the region, all without breaking a sweat.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: Although they have Canon Names, as protagonists, they can be named whatever the player wants. This applies to a few of the rival characters as well.
  • The Hero: As the player character, they're the ones who stop the evil teams from destroying/taking over the world.
  • Heroic Mime: As the player character they're usually completely silent besides answering yes or no questions with the occasional internal monologue when examining specific situations. Further Red doesn't speak a word when he appears as a Bonus Boss in later games. However starting in Gen III, the gender not picked would have lines as an NPC. The first scripted lines as a player are in Black 2 and White 2's PokéStar movies. Averted in X and Y going forward the dialogue trees are much more expressive than yes/no, and alter the NPC's immediate reactions (even if it doesn't have much of an impact on how the scene plays out) making it clear that the protagonist is talking, and specific about what they might say.
  • Iconic Item: Their hats. Super Smash Bros. even uses them as part of Pikachu's and Jigglypuff's Palette Swaps. Although all the protagonists aside from Red/Green, Hilda/Hilbert, and Kris are seen without it at some point where they temporarily change outfits in their respective games.
  • Kid Hero: Until the fourth generation, they were all preteens no older than 12, and while older in later titles (save for Sun and Moon where they're officially 11 again and for Sword and Shield where they're around their tweens), they still never go past their teens.
  • Minidress of Power: Green, Dawn, Serena, and Gloria all wear minidresses as part of their default outfits. Selene can also wear them via customization options.
  • Never Bareheaded: Throughout the first six generations, the protagonists are almost never seen without some sort of headgear (usually a hat, though May wears a bandanna and Nate and Rosa wear visors). The only exceptions are the Pokémon Contests in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, where Lucas, Dawn, Brendan, and May temporarily go bareheaded. From Sun and Moon onwards, you can ditch the hat.
  • Nice Guy: Or girl. All of the protagonists care deeply for their Pokémon and are on friendly terms with most of the supporting cast, often helping out people for little or no personal gain. That being said, Red apparently became fairly detached from his friends in between Gen 1/3 and 2/4 before eventually returning to public life, and the protagonists for Sun and Moon can optionally reply to several requests like a total arse.
  • Nice Hat: All main characters have a hat (Exceptions being May who wears a bandanna, and the visor-wearing Nate and Rosa, who don't wear hats per se, but nonetheless still sport headgear). While X and Y allows customizing your clothing, it does not allow you to remove your hat even though Calem and Serena appear hatless if they are NPCs. However, starting in Sun and Moon the protagonist can go hatless if they so desire.
  • Primary-Color Champion: Lucas in Gen 4, and more specifically his Platinum self, launched the trend for all the boys to be dressed primarily in blue with red as a secondary color, most likely so that their costumes can be adapted easier for the primarily blue-and-red Ash every time he travels to a new regionnote . The girls generally have more variety in color schemes, like Dawn playing Pink Girl, Blue Boy with Lucas. Before him the dominant colors in protag outfits were red, white, and black. Gen 2 and 3 also had a few splashes of yellow in everyone's outfits.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: The gender of your character typically doesn't affect the story.
  • Red Is Heroic: The signature color for the player characters, with almost every protagonist having worn red in their designs. Averted with Hilda and Rosa, whose outfits never feature the color. It's also Downplayed with Brendan, who only wears red in his Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire outfit before switching to orange and green for later titles.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In games that feature both protagonists, their families will be different depending on who you play as. It's most noticeable in the Hoenn games, where Brendan or May's father can be either Norman or Professor Birch. Oddly, despite May being Norman's child in the anime, along with Brendan making a few cameos, Birch never even hints at being a father.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Some of their outfits can get weird. For example, Brendan wears shorts over pants in Emerald. It's also possible to create hilariously mismatched outfits if you do desire via Character Customization from X and Y onwards.
  • Saving the World: From Generation III and onward, but replace "world" with "all of existence". May and Brendan are the first ones to do it.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: In Crystal, FireRed and LeafGreen and Pokémon Sun and Moon the character you don't choose never shows up.
  • Spanner in the Works: The protagonist in every game is this to the villainous team in some form, eventually leading to defeating them. Hilbert/Hilda from the first Unova games takes the cake since their first interactions with N set off is the first of several things that dismantles Ghetsis' plans.
  • Static Role, Exchangeable Character: Except the games with Schrödinger's Player Character, the other player character appears as an NPC but there's no major change to the story.
  • Theme Naming: Most trainers have a "version" name taken directly from the title of the games, a pre-release/promotional name that relates to their version name, and a in-game NPC name. The version names are always used in the Adventures manga, and while most other cross-canon counterparts get the NPC name, generally accepted as the overall Canon Name.
    • The Promotional Names tend to follow a theme based on the game they appear in, with the exception of Gen I.
      • Satoshi (Ash) and Shigeru (Gary): Based on creative directors at Nintendo: series creator Satoshi Tajiri, and father of most other names in the Nintendo canon Shigeru Miyamoto. Early Installment Weirdness used these promo names across many spinoffs and canons, including the 20+ year running main anime making them the most recognizable names in the franchise.
      • In the Let's Go remake of Gen I, the new protagonists' names are Chase and Elaine, with the Rival as Trace. All related to hunting, following, or rather "going."
      • Orlando and Anna: Based on Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.
      • Blair and Whitlea: Meaning roughly Black field and White field.
      • Xavier and Yvonne: Common French names that start with the letters X and Y. They also mean "the new house" and "yew" respectively, corresponding to the fact they just moved to Kalos and the fact that they face a Legendary duo that embodies life and death (which is what the yew is said to symbolize).
      • Elio and Selene: Based on Helios and Selene the Greek sun and moon gods. Updated to Ray and Ailey in the promos for Ultra. Their names relate to light, specifically "beam of light" and "light" in Irish respectively.
      • Victor and Gloria: More obviously glorious victory. A gallant sense of winning appropriate for a region based on the UK, for sword and shield evoking knightly medieval/fantasy weaponry. Alternatively, their names are quoted from the lyrics to the UK's national anthem.
    • Starting from the fourth generation, the Canon Names all follow a seemingly random theme, which is consistent across all languages:
      • Red and Blue (Green), another Early Installment Weirdness for Gen I. The Version names are used as the canon NPC names for the original Hero and Rival whenever they appear as a Bonus Boss. The originally planned female trainer appears as an in-game NPC in Let's Go as Green (Blue) as a nod to how she would've appeared in Gen I proper all along.
      • Ethan and Lyra: Their names are based off of something relating to sound or music, especially string instruments in the case of Lyra.
      • Lucas and Dawn: Names related to light.
      • Hilbert and Hilda: Both their names mean "fight" or "battle".
      • Rosa and Nate: Similarly to the heroes of HGSS, their names also relate to sound, their names sounding like "resonate" when said together.
      • Calem and Serena: "Calm" and "Serene".
      • Kai and Lana: Hawaiian for "Ocean" and "Afloat" respectively, fitting both the abundant water of Gen VII and the Hawaiian Fantasy Counter Part Culture. However these names were only discovered in unused data, and have not seen official use yet. Interestingly enough the female trainer's promo name Mizuki (Selene) has seen official use.
  • To Be a Master: Their main motive. Red is one in Generation II, its remakes, and subsequent titles.
  • Unique Protagonist Asset:
    • The player characters universally have a greater affinity for Pokémon than basically everyone else on the planet, and can train Pokémon to reach heights of power even beyond trainers who have been working with Pokémon for decades.
    • They are also among the few people to ever be gifted the Pokédex. This gives some some amount of In-Universe Stat-O-Vision as they can analyze monsters they've never seen before, and get even more detailed readouts of monsters they own.
    • Player Characters and Rivals also have access to Starter Pokémon, which come in elements that can have dramatic influence on your progress through the early Gyms (i.e. you can pick a starter that has a type advantage against the first gym leader in no less than five generations' worth of games), while locals are stuck running around with Normal, Flying, and Bug-type Com Mons.
  • Virtual Paper Doll: From Gen VI onwards the player character becomes customizable with a wide array of clothes and hair styles. Typically the female player character has a larger selection available, but each successive generation has shortened this gap by giving the male more options to choose from.

    General Rival Tropes 

  • The Ace: They stay competitive with the player character who always becomes the best trainer in the region. They're at least equal to Elite Four Members, if not the Champion, in power by the end of the game.
  • Anime Hair: In contrast to the player character's hat, they tend to have instantly recognizable hairstyles.
  • Character Development: They get it more than any other NPC. Usually their repeated losses to the player character make them reevaluate their motives or methods by the end of the game.
  • Characterization Marches On: Word of God is that due to technical limitations of older games, early rivals were written as jerks because dialogue was really the only thing that they could give them to stand out and the rest the player would fill in with their imagination. As graphics and character acting have gotten more detailed and expressive, rivals have gotten friendlier since having a fully rendered jerk might be off putting. Seen most directly in the evolution from Blue to Trace in the Let's Go remakes: Oak states that Blue lost to Red because he used his Pokémon as tools and had forgotten to treat them with trust and love, but Trace lost to Chase/Elaine because his kind heart causes him to hold back in battle instead of going all out.
  • Child Prodigy: They seem to be the only NPCs to level grind to keep up with the player character.
  • Deuteragonist: In most cases, their Character Development parallels the player's own journey and how they've grown through battling and interacting with them.
  • Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors: The rival will typically pick whichever starter holds an elemental advantage to what you picked.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: If they don't start off as True Companions to the player, they will be by the end of the game.
  • Free-Range Children: The same as the protagonist.
  • Friendly Rival: From Generations III through VI, all rivals are pleasant fellows who are good friends with you, even if they sometimes overlap with Vitriolic Best Buds. Generations VII and VIII have a mix of friendly rivals (Hau, Hop, Marnie) and not-so-friendly (Gladion, Bede, Klara, Avery).
  • Guest-Star Party Member: If you get dragged into a two-on-two Multi Battle, chances are high they're gonna be the ones who have your back.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: Although they have Canon Names, a few of them can be named by the player.
  • Leitmotif: Most get their own theme, as well as their own battle theme if standalone, often reflecting their personality.
  • Privileged Rival: Several rivals' parents are superstars in the Pokémon World, researchers, mob bosses, Gym Leaders, Frontier Brains, etc.
  • Recurring Boss: They must be fought several times throughout the games' main story. Most games also offer a way to fight them repeatedly after the story is over.
  • The Rival: To the protagonist.
  • Signature Mon: With a few exceptions, their preferred Pokémon is the starter that is strong against the one the player character chose. Aside from the starters, some rivals will also use a Pokémon from an elemental group depending on your choice of starter.
    • In Red and Blue, Blue can have Exeggutor, Arcanine and Gyarados, (statistically the strongest Pokémon of their types in Generation 1) but he will use the corresponding starter in one of them in the Generation I games. In Yellow, Blue's Eeveelution depends on the number of times Red has defeated him at the early part of the game.
    • Cheren uses the elemental monkey that shares the same type as the protagonist's starter, Bianca uses the one that's strong against it, and Hugh uses the one that's weak to it.
    • Calem/Serena uses the Eeveelution that is in disadvantage against the protagonist's starter (although Jolteon is neutral against Fennekin and its line), while Hau uses the Eeveelution that has the advantage over it (unlike Blue and Calem/Serena, he can have a Leafeon rather than a Jolteon).
    • The type of Gladion's signature Mon, Silvally, can be either Fire, Water or Grass and it will be in advantage over the protagonist's starter.
  • To Be a Master: Their main motive is to either become masters via the Pokémon League, complete the Pokédex or just become stronger than the protagonist.


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